CAIRO - Mobilizing their efforts against government's plans to legalize same-sex marriages, British Roman Catholic groups are planning a string of new grassroots protests against the endeavor, sending petitions and open letters to rally supporters against the law.
There are independent things going on, there isn't anything coordinated on a national basis [but] you will see lots of smaller initiatives, a spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, told The Daily Telegraph on Monday, January 14.There are local initiatives flowing on from the bishops' call for people to make their views known to their MPs.
Gathering at a Sunday mass in London, worshippers added their signatures to new petitions against Prime Minister David Cameron's plans to legalize same-sex marriage.
An online campaign was also launched by a British charity to encourage Catholics to lobby their MPs against the plans.
This comes after the two most senior Catholic active clerics in England and Wales, Archbishops Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Peter Smith of Southwark, issued a call for opponents to lobby their MPs clearly, calmly and forcefully.
Moreover, the think-tank Catholic Voices sent out a message to its supporters calling on them to write to their MPs.
There is little time now to waste: the Bill is expected to come before Parliament on 28 January, it said.
Protests are also planned in the run-up to the publication of the government's equal marriage bill, due at the end of this month.
Despite growing opposition from religious groups and his own party, Cameron has fast-tracked plans to legalize same-sex marriages in Britain.
In December, Cameron reiterated support for allowing churches and religious organizations to host same-sex weddings despite opposition from the Church of England and the Catholic hierarchy.
Under the plans, same-sex couples would be allowed to marry in register offices and venues such as hotels, but not in churches, synagogues and other religious premises.
Ministers argue that the change will therefore affect civil rather than religious marriage.
Opponents warn that the legalizing same-sex marriages would undermine the nature of marriage.
The opposition echoes similar uproar in France over government plans to legalize same-sex marriage.
On Sunday, some 800,000 French people converged on the Eiffel Tower for a mass protest by Christians and Muslims against President Francois Hollande's plans.
Priests, bishops and abbots have also signed an open letter, warning of threats posed by the new law on religious freedoms.
"After centuries of persecution, Catholics have, in recent times, been able to be members of the professions and participate fully in the life of this country, read the letter, signed by more than 1,000 priests - a quarter of all Catholic clergy in England and Wales.
Legislation for same-sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship.
It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time.
In an attempt to assure Catholic priests, a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport insisted that the new law would protect religious freedoms.
We have been very clear that our plans for equal marriage will fully protect the freedom of religions bodies to preach, teach and put into practice their beliefs about marriage, he told The Daily Telegraph.
But the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Philip Egan, one of the signatories, disagrees.
"I am very anxious that when we are preaching in Church or teaching in our Catholic schools or witnessing to the Christian faith of what marriage is that we are not going to be able to do it, that we could be arrested for being bigots or homophobes," he said.
Last month, the umbrella Muslim Council of Britain has called on the British government to exempt Muslims and other religious groups from conducting same-sex weddings under the new legislation.
The Muslim criticism comes after the Church of England attacked the government's lack of consultation over the controversial plans.
Same-sex relationship and marriage are totally prohibited in Islam, Christianity and all divine religions.
Islam teaches that believers should neither do the obscene acts, nor in any way indulge in their propagation.The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin, but considers homosexual intercourse as sinful.