I have today sent the following letter to Winston McKenzie, the UKIP candidate in the Croydon North by-election (due on Thursday):
I am writing in relation to a misleading statement you have made in the course of your campaign in the Croydon North by-election.
Amongst your tweets opposing same-sex marriage, you sent the following on 17 November:
“Why should churches be forced to go against their religion to marry same-sex couples? Other parties back it. VOTE UKIP + SAY NO GAY MARRIAGE”
The government’s proposal to give legal recognition to same-sex marriage includes an offer only of civil ceremonies, not religious ones. The Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Parties have policies of allowing faith groups to host same-sex marriage ceremonies if they choose to do so. However, no party of which I am aware wishes to force religious groups to host same-sex marriage ceremonies if they do not believe in them.
I am aware that certain groups, of which UKIP is one, have argued that giving legal recognition to same-sex marriage will lead to churches being forced to host them. I have long pointed out there is no evidence for this and that almost nobody wants it. However, it is one thing to argue that this will happen. It is quite another to state – untruthfully – that other parties want it to happen.
Your tweet refers to churches being forced to marry same-sex couples and then states “Other parties back it”. This is not true. It is a lie.
Will you please withdraw this comment and acknowledge that you have misled the voters of Croydon North and the public generally?
(c) Symon Hill is associate director of Ekklesia. His book, The No-Nonsense Guide to Religion, can be ordered at http://www.newint.org/books/no-nonsense-guides/religion .
For links to more of Symon's writing, please visit http://www.symonhill.wordpress.com .