Anti-same sex marriage stance by Christian group comes under fire

A Christian organisation has been criticised for displaying material opposing same sex marriage in a Lerwick youth club.

New Life Shetland is an evan­gelical group that regularly meets in the Sandveien Neighbourhood Cen­tre. However, the centre is primarily a base for youth clubs, with young people using the facility most days of the year.

Last week, Saul Day, who has been employed as a youth worker for six years, found postcards on display in the hall. The cards were titled “Speak now or forever hold your peace”. But Mr Day was surprised to find they were urging people to sign a petition opposing same sex marriage.

“We are deeply concerned about the implications of what will be taught in schools if marriage is redefined”, the postcards read.

“We are also concerned that the definition of marriage may be rewritten further so that, for exam­ple, polygamy may be legalised at some future point.”

It goes on, “Our chief concern is the general welfare of people in Scotland. In addition, we do not wish to see the rights of conscience eroded for those who disagree with homosexual marriage”.

Mr Day decided to remove the material, as he felt it was inapprop­riate within the youth club.

He stressed that New Life was “welcome to use the neighbourhood centre”, and acknowledged the “fantastic community work” the group had been involved in.

However, he said, “this does not change the fact that certain views which were being suggested on the group’s information board
are conflicting to that of what youth services promote: a dedication to the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans­gender (LGBT) young people in Shetland”.

In a letter to this newspaper Mr Day went on: “say, hypothetically, that there is a young youth club member belonging to the LGBT community. Say, for instance, this particular young person is finding it difficult to accept who they are, or is finding the social challenges that are often associated with a young person ‘coming out’ difficult to cope with.

“What if they, curiously, like I, were to pick up one of these peti­tions? What frame of mind would this produce as a result of reading it? How would they react, and what emotions would be resonated?

“The content of the petition and its controvertible message is most certainly not acceptable in this kind of setting, and should not
be on display in any youth club, especially one that is overseen by a local authority that lawfully must adhere to the equal rights measures stringently in place for young people.

“The fundamental aim of youth work is to aid and enhance the personal, social and educational development of young people … A youth club is not a place where they should feel challenged in any way by the contentious aspects of someone’s beliefs.”

Pastor Jamie Tonge is the senior minister at New Life Shetland. He told The Shetland Times the material in question was on display for the group, on its own notice board. “Whatever is there is to do with us, it’s not to do with anybody else,” he said.

Mr Tonge stressed the postcards represented the group’s views on marriage; they were not intended to make a comment on individuals’ sexuality. “The information is solely to do with gay marriage and it is not a response to gay lifestyle,” he said.
“We are not homophobic at all.”

While Mr Tonge did acknow­ledge the concerns about the appropriateness of the venue for displaying such material, he said he would prefer to discuss those concerns in person.

“We would happily speak to the youth workers if they came to us,” he said.

Mr Day has reported the post­cards to a member of the neigh­bourhood centre committee, and the committee will discuss whether it is appropriate for such material to be on display within the centre.  


Add Your Comment
  • Tom Miller

    • September 14th, 2013 10:02

    Whether one sides with the religious conservatives who oppose marriage equality or the gay activists and their allies who support it, all of us can benefit from forgiveness and reconciliation. All of us want to be happy, no one wants to suffer, if you act with that in mind, it will be a good start.

  • Tom Miller

    • September 14th, 2013 10:05

    It seems that “culture war” is being waged; “culture peace” is better. It is a paradox that the religious right is fanning the flames of this war considering that traditional marriage according to the good book includes the ability to marry your slaves, treating your wife as property, and polygamy. The phrase “I support traditional marriage” is just a euphamism for treating gay people as second class citizens.

  • Harry Dent

    • September 14th, 2013 10:31

    I support Mr Dey’s stance 100%

    As an aside, I always find it mildly amusing to see Christian fundamentalists opposing polygamy, considering that the majority of their biblical heroes had several or, in some cases, hundreds of wives, not to mention the concubines.

    Presumably God’s opinion changed at some point, so marriage clearly cannot be the eternal unchangeable institution they imagine it to be.

  • George Gillon

    • September 14th, 2013 10:46

    Yesterday we had accusations of ‘racism’ over harmless dolls, today ‘homophobia’ by a christian group, watch out Shetland, next the UAF will be kicking down the doors of the SIC!!!

  • Thelma Marl

    • September 14th, 2013 11:38

    Isn’t it about time that the Christian Right accepted that their view is only one view, and when they use the bible to support their views they are on very shaky ground. When are they going to get their heads around the fact that they are entitled to their views, but so are other people. They should stop trying to force them down the throats of others while trying to segregate and marginalise anyone who disagrees with them. Perhaps they should reflect more on the reasons for their actions and on the principle that God is love. Or, put another way, in a nutshell, PLEASE GET A LIFE.

  • ian tinkler

    • September 14th, 2013 12:04

    Why must religious groups of nearly every type always display a lack of tolerance, compassion and understanding towards all but their own? Hush up and protect paedophile priests and assorted bigoted, blinkered monsters. Persecute minorities and kill infidels with crusades, holy wars, Jihad, fatwas and all the hatred of closed minded zealots. Thank God, how ironic! Most sane minded people are becoming more agnostic and secular by the day. Chosen people, master ace? Where is the difference?

  • Joe Johnson

    • September 14th, 2013 15:02

    Why did Mr.Day write to the Shetland Times instead of speaking to the Pastor himself about this issue. Surely if you have a issue about something you should discuss with the person involved rather then broadcasting it to everyone.

  • Margaret Gear

    • September 14th, 2013 19:10

    Well done to Saul Day for acting quickly and with complete integrity. As the leaflets had been on public display in the youth club I feel that Saul had to make a public statement to reassure young people and their parents that the youth club does not accept homophobia, and will act to protect young people from this.
    Margaret Gear

  • magnus hughson

    • September 15th, 2013 1:23

    Joe, since they were “broadcasting it to everyone” by dishing out fliers and petitions about this issue, surely it’s entirely fair for it to be public?

  • Saul Day

    • September 15th, 2013 13:01

    Thank you all for your comments. I’ve been overwhelmed by all the support I’ve received the past couple of days for my decision to address this issue publicly. As Margaret Gear and Magnus Hughson rightly pointed out; this campaign, given its placing, was a public matter – therefore I felt obliged to voice my opinion and concerns. I have since discussed the petition’s suitability with a member of the religious group, and they were understanding of my decision to take action in this way.

  • Ali Inkster

    • September 15th, 2013 16:44

    What I don’t understand in all this is why a gay would want to be a Christian, the bible is quite clear in its condemnation of homosexuality, so why would you want anything to do with a club that thinks you are going to burn in hell for being who you are. Each to their own I say and as long as neither party attacks the other everything is hunky dory. Gay folk need to realise that a book written 1500+/- years ago is just a collection of fairytales (pardon the pun) and modern laws make pretty much everything in it illegal, so why worry what it says it’s too late to edit it now. And religious folk need to realise not everyone believes as they do, but not to worry because if they are right then their vengeful God will sort the blasphemous out when they pop their clogs. We all have our little peculiarities which is what makes the world such an interesting place. Let’s just leave folks alone to live their the lives as they wish we only get one shot at it (except for the Buddhists) so let’s try and make the best of it without spoiling it for anyone else.

  • Carl Lanning

    • September 16th, 2013 10:18

    people seem to be talking about Christians as closed minded bigots, with no real standing within the “real” world.

    it seems to me that things need to be put in perspective a little. yes the bible does not look on the act of homosexuality in a good light, but this does not mean the Christians as a whole hate gay people.

    everyone wants to talk of all the wrong that the church has done, and yes, in a lot of places we have a lot to answer for.
    but while you would not condem a gay person for their sexuality, why condem someone else for a faith choice.

    there are many Christians that put themselves and there lives on the line to help people in every walk of life.

    I myself have been involved within prison ministry, meeting with people who may also be condemned by their actions by others. there are Christian groups who help build schools and hospitals in Africa. Christian groups that help prostitutes and drug addicts, help to feed the homeless etc. while these things are done on a basis of faith, we do not preach to these people, if they ask, we will answer, its more about showing the love of god through action.

    I could go on about all the social action groups that the modern church is involved in, but the point is, that, mistake or not, why would you profess anger against bigotry to one group, while showing it to another???

  • Matthew Laurenson

    • September 16th, 2013 11:19

    After reading post after post of what could justifiably be called “Christian bashing”, I thought I’d write a short encouragement to the church which meets at Sandveien Community Centre. I have heard of all the sterling social action they have been involved in, including compassion ministry work among those struggling with drugs, debt and general life issues. Do not let the mantra being brandished on this thread discourage you from continuing in your good work in the community of Sandveien, and further afield.

    To address the comments posted in the thread so far, I would like to reply with the following: I personally know many who are involved with the New Life church, and have laughed at some of what I’d like to call “Christian-phobia” posted above. It would be funny, but frankly its a bit disturbing, to see this church accused of being “homophobic, “closed minded zealots”, and showing “a lack of tolerance, compassion and understanding towards all but their own.”

    These accusations do not reflect the work and the character of the church at New Life, and I would like to think that some of those who have made these accusations would apologise, if they took the time to find out about all the tireless volunteer effort that has gone into making Sanveien a safer, more caring place by those at New Life.

    To get to the issue in hand, which is a very sensitive, emotive subject. I would like to state, as a Christian, that anyone who is gay, or unsure of their sexuality, is welcome to Church, just as much as anyone else. I would like to argue that the accusations of “intolerance” here are misplaced.

    The proposed changes to legislation to re-define marriage in Scotland have divided opinion, not only between secular/religious, but also across a spectrum of communities, including the gay community. In an article written on the 10th June 2013 on the BBC website, gay people themselves spoke out saying that the proposed changes in the law were not required for them, which shows that there are a variety of opinions in this debate.

    Politics in our country was built upon the premise of free speech, and perhaps one of the best summary statements I could find to back this up, attributed to the French writer Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

    Recently we have seen a growing intolerance towards the “traditional” view of marriage, defined as “the union between one man, and one woman, to the exclusion of all others”. This of course is all part of social change and of course the opinions of all should be tolerated, and heard. I think all would agree that the only voices that should not be tolerated should be those who incite violence, hatred, etc etc.

    Surely, no one in their right mind here is saying that New Life was breaking the law, or indeed inciting hatred by encouraging members to encourage the government to maintain the current definition of marriage? A church which is inclusive, open and socially involved should be allowed to hold a certain opinion on the changes to the law, without being branded with all the accusations, and frankly hurtful comments above.

    Are we really saying here that as a society, we will strive to be tolerant towards all, except those who stand by traditional, western European, Christian principles? If so then this becomes a much wider debate, not only about same-sex marriage, but about tolerance in general.

    Whether you approve of or oppose the same sex marriage bill, surely everyone should be allowed to express an opinion, and not face censorship. If New Life had been posting material inciting hatred then I would understand the tone of the posts on this thread, but as all they are posting is legitemate, mainstream Christian position on current affairs, to be branded as “intolerant” is perhaps ironic.

    Since all the people at New Life have done here is promote fairly mainstream Christian views (which have underpinned western society for centuries), as a reputable church which is known for its extensive social action, I would encourage all those who oppose their views, to “defend their right to say it” as Voltaire put it, not censor certain opinions out of the public arena. If you have any disagreements with what I have just posted, feel free, they will be not only tolerated but welcomed.

  • ian tinkler

    • September 16th, 2013 12:14

    Carl Lanning, I am not, and I do not think many rational people condemn all Christians, but however there are Christians whom distort the teachings in the Bible to pedal their own bigoted views. The same is true of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and nearly all religions. This filth of humanity results in sectarianism, homophobia, racism, genocide and self-serving elitism, intolerance and hatred. Just look at the history of European Christianity, The Inquisition, and the rape of the Incas, the Crusades, burning heretics at the stake, the tolerance of the Nazis by the RC Church and The genocides in Bosnia; the list goes on and on. Now look at Islam: Jihad, Fatwas, just the same hatreds and prejudices, stoking war, intolerance and genocide. Now we have a petite minded self-anointed pastor posting his personal bile for children to read, need I say more.

  • David Spence

    • September 16th, 2013 13:02

    It doesn’t matter how you express marriage (as far as I am aware is the union of a man and women for the purpose of love but also procreation) you are going to get those in society lambasting you as homophobic for describing a social action that has been around for centuries, this of ‘ Marriage ‘.

    It seems very much one sided this debate on ‘ forcing people ‘ to accept a minorities view and opinion on how society should act in regards to marriage and the ‘ true meaning ‘ of what this is.

    If you object or don’t agree with their agenda, you are being homophobic, no matter how much you have the right to defend the principle of what marriage is……just in case you forgot…..the union of a Man and Women.

    It is quite simple, despite our democracy, freedom of expression/speech. If you, in the slightest way, object or voice your opinion on what the ‘ true meaning of marriage is ‘ you are classified as being homopohobic……god forbid the pc lobby should get onboard lol

    Put in short (no thanks to pc) ‘ See things our way or you will be branded homophobic ‘……..what a wonderful example of our democracy lol

  • Carl Lanning

    • September 16th, 2013 15:24

    ian tinkler, your comment “Now we have a petite minded self-anointed pastor posting his personal bile for children to read” seems to indicate that you either have a personal issue with Jamie, or a personal issue with believers as a whole!

    I agree, that there are many people who use “faith” as a tool for power as well as other horrible things, but putting a small town pastor up against some of the most horrible crimes in humanity is very silly, uncalled for and plain childish.

    all that happened, was that a leaflet, that may of caused offence, was removed from a youth club!!!!!

    are the islands so starved of news that this has to be made into such an issue?
    nobody was killed, nobody died, get over it people!

  • Joe Johnson

    • September 16th, 2013 15:54

    Let me make one thing clear, I don’t hate homosexuals. I’m not homophobic. I have friends who are gay, but I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. I’m have the rights to my opinion and as Matthew Laurenson has said in his post, opinion is divided on this subject, even in the gay community.

  • ian tinkler

    • September 16th, 2013 16:33

    “Now we have a petite minded self-anointed pastor posting his personal bile for children to read” Carl is this not a matter of fact? Was his view not eposted where children could view?

  • ian tinkler

    • September 16th, 2013 17:52

    Everybody has a right to their opinion Joe whatever that may be. It only becomes unpleasant when under the guise of religion that opinion is forced on children. Hitler and Goebbels were past masters at that. That started with a few leaflets, perhaps in youth centres!

  • Carl Lanning

    • September 16th, 2013 21:39

    oh dear ian, you should really do your research, i think you will find that hitler was an atheist. he followed the teachings of Friedrich Nietzsche who believed that without religion or any kind of guiding morality, you could do whatever you wanted, like kill millions of jews. hitler quoted Nietzsche,s ideals on a regular basis.

    its clear you are just gunning for a fight and have no desire to reason in anyway, so i wish you well with you own “personal bile” that you seem famous for on this site.

    i will pray for you

  • ian tinkler

    • September 17th, 2013 13:54

    Carl, I never intimated Hitler as religious, just that he perverted the young to further his corrupt beliefs. An apt analogy there, is it not? I see that devoid of rational argument, you resort to insults, how very pious and Christian of you. Now go pray, be just as sanctimonious as you wish, good luck.


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