FREEDOM of belief is not a right which exists only within church walls, yet this is the extent to which some of your correspondents would permit it to be supported ("Gay marriage bill faces delay", The Herald, July 19, and Letters Special, July 19).

Redefining marriage within the context of our present equality regime will pose considerable threats to church celebrants but it will pose immediate restrictions on belief and expression across society; particularly in the public sector where there is a duty to promote the Government understanding of equality.

Redefining marriage will ensure that those who wish to maintain the very reasonable understanding that marriage is a union of man and woman could be compelled to act contrary to their conscience or face punitive action in their workplaces. Surely Government jobs should be open to all members of society, not only those who support same-sex marriage.

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John Deighan,

Parliamentary Officer,

Catholic Parliamentary Office,

5 St Vincent Place, Glasgow.

I HAVE been following with interest the debate on Cardinal Keith O'Brien's call for a referendum on same-sex marriage ("Cardinal calls for gay marriage referendum", The Herald, July 16) .

The Cardinal should be the first to acknowledge that referendums are not generally the best way of making decisions, especially those relating to truth or morality. The Roman Catholic Church does not ever hold them. Perhaps the church's stance is only to be put to a vote when it suits it?

Rev James A I MacEwan,

The Manse, Nethy Bridge.

I AM intrigued by Cardinal O'Brien's call for a referendum on same-sex marriage. This request is apparently based on a campaign numbering 27,000 signatories which wishes to deny a few gay people in a same-sex relationship being accorded a church blessing. Considering the current drift from most church doors any form of rejection, especially to perceived transgressors, only inflames controversy. Does this merit a special referendum and the public purse costs involved? I think not, especially when there are many social, environmental and economic questions to be addressed. It appears one person's priority is countered by another's indifference.

Allan C Steele,

22 Forres Avenue, Giffnock.