Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said that Christians and Jewish people who oppose homosexual relationships on biblical grounds were applying double standards unless they also believed in some of the more obscure commands in the Old Testament.
He told a debate on gay marriage in London that religious texts had to be reinterpreted for new generations meaning, he argued, that same sex couples should be allowed to marry.
The debate, co-hosted by the religious campaign group Catholic Voices and the British Humanist Association also heard claims that David Cameron’s plans to legalise gay marriage had more to do with “elitism” and “snobbery” than equality.
Dr Romain, the minister of Maidenhead Synagogue, is a leading figure in the liberal-leaning Reform Judaism which has publicly given its support to same-sex marriage.
He told the debate that Christians could not take references in the Old Testament to homosexuality as an “abomination” literally unless they also practised circumcision or adhered to the Jewish food laws.
“No Christian or secularist can quote those passages – or certainly not with any credibility,” he said.
“For if they do suddenly start getting pious about verses in the Bible – by which I mean the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament – then they can only do so if they adhere to other verses in it such as circumcising all your male children, as it also commands; abstaining from pork or prawns, as it also commands; not wearing garments in which wool and linen is mixed, as it also commands.
“If you don’t keep up these, but do object to homosexuality, then you are just doing a pick and mix job, and are driven not by religious beliefs but by gay prejudice."
He added: “If you take this approach to scripture you should also not object to stoning rebellious children or nailing your slave’s ear to the door post.”
He also rejected arguments that same-sex marriage would undermine the institution of marriage and family life as an unrealistic “Armageddon scenario”.
But Brendan O’Neill, editor of the website Spiked, argued that the plans to introduce gay marriage had little in common with civil rights movements and more to do with political positioning.
“I do think the remarkable ease with which gay marriage has moved up the political agenda is very revealing,” he said.
“What it shows is that this is an issue which the political elite feels very comfortable with, in fact which the political elite finds very useful.
“And that is because, for all the gay-marriage activists’ rather desperate claims to be like the oppressed blacks of the past, this is in fact a very elitist campaign.
“It is underpinned by an aloof and disdainful political outlook.”
He added that supporters of the change too often looked down on opponents as “knuckle draggers”.
By John Bingham