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CHURCH leaders have called for an investigation after they were sent intimidating letters which ordered them to conduct same sex marriage ceremonies.

Essex County Council wrongly sent the letters to free churches in Colchester demanding they are licensed to perform the marriages.

It said “with immediate effect” churches “must be licensed” to conduct gay marriages.

But the law states churches do not have to perform same-sex weddings and forbids any attempt to force them to do so.

The council has already issued an apology, but Peter Shirtcliffe, pastor of Prettygate Baptist Church, Colchester, said sending the letter, which was from the Colchester Registry Office, showed no understanding of the law.

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