Rights, the Church and ‘prostitution’

What is all the fuss about the Holy Synod’s opposition to the cohabitation bill? After all, the Church has clearly stated that any relationship which it has not sanctified is tantamount to «prostitution.» And to be fair to the bishops, according to Christian teachings in general, erotic encounters outside marriage are regarded as forms of prostitution. The term may be harsh, but it is not new. Either way, the fact that prenuptial relations or civil weddings are seen in this manner by many priests, it has not stopped many people from opting for them. The question here is not about morality. For the Holy Synod, couples who live together outside marriage are immoral, whether they have a legal contract or not. If there are some outside the Church who find this moral code narrow-minded or anachronistic it doesn’t really matter because they have no say in the issue anyway. The cohabitation bill is not about morals. It is about the law and the law is about democracy and the civil liberties of Greeks. The freedom to enter into a contract should be free of moral considerations and accepted by the state. And if one segment of society views certain contracts as «prostitution,» then they have every right to say so. The fact that someone disagrees with a contract and calls it different names should not make it illegal. The question about the cohabitation law, therefore, has nothing to do with the position of the Church, which has been the same for centuries. The question is about what position the state will adopt a common social practice. The question is whether and how far the state will allow thousands of citizens to enter into a contract and enjoy the same civil rights as those who go to a priest or a mayor. Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis’s draft law is half a step in the right direction. The cohabitation law must cover all consenting adults who decide to live together. Even if they are of the same sex. We may not like it, we may consider it a sin, but this is irrelevant to equality before the law. Even divine law provides for man’s freedom to «live in a state of sin.» Is it the duty of secular law to place obstacles before this? The Holy Synod has done well to express its views. Like everyone else, it too is judged by what it says. The question is what will the state do? Will it succumb to those who want to quash the cohabitation bill, or will it liberate the process for those who do not want to endure the formality of a religious ceremony?

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