More than 1,000 Catholic priests have written a frantic letter arguing that same-sex marriage laws in Britain would "severely" limit their freedom to promote and practice their faith, the Daily Telegraph reports. "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," they write. But if enacted, same-sex marriage will restrict "the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship."
The letter was signed by 1,054 priests and 13 other senior Catholic figures—nearly a quarter of Catholic priests in England and Wales—as the debate over gay marriage heats up in Britain. The letter even compares Prime Minister David Cameron to Henry VIII, who broke with the Catholic Church in order to divorce Katherine of Aragon in the 1500s. Henry VIII wanted to "redefine what was marriage," they write, which launched an upheaval in England and made life "very difficult" for Catholics. But British officials maintain that freedom of speech will be respected in schools, and one blogger has already returned fire: "Gee, we thought that marriage was a millennia-old institution that gays are only now trying to change," writes Dan Avery at Queerty. "Thanks for debunking your own argument, fellas."