The Church of Scotland is looking at whether it can continue to offer marriages if same-sex legislation leads to expensive court challenges.
MSPs were told there are deep concerns in the Kirk about the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill currently going through Holyrood.
Rev Alan Hamilton, convener of the Kirk’s legal questions committee, said the Bill could be an “invitation” to take religious bodies through the court system.
“We are voluntary bodies. We rely upon the donations of our members, and the thought of years of exhausting legal challenge, which is also incredibly expensive, is really very concerning,” he told Holyrood’s equal opportunities committee.
“That is why the General Assembly of 2013 in May of this year instructed my committee, together with other councils and committees of the Church of Scotland, to consider whether in fact – and I’m saying this colloquially, this is not the terms of the deliverance of the General Assembly – whether it’s worth the Church of Scotland continuing to offer marriages in Scotland.
“It gives us considerable problems internally;. We’re deeply concerned about the threat externally.”
The Church of Scotland called for freedom of religious belief and practice to be respected when the Scottish Government published its proposal in June.
Religious bodies who wish to perform same-sex marriages will have to opt in, the Government said when it lodged the Bill in June. It said protection will also be in place for individual celebrants who consider such ceremonies to be contrary to their faith.
Mr Hamilton appeared before the committee with representatives of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, the Free Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and lobby group Scotland for Marriage, who all have concerns about the Bill.