Search This Blog

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Gutless grovellers bow to religion again

More kowtowing to religious sensibilities comes to us today from Wales. You'll recall that we reported earlier in July on a column by journalist Dan O'Neill in the South Wales Echo, in which he suggested that Jesus could well have been gay.

Oh, dear, the frothing Christians – well half a dozen of them, at any rate – were out in their . . . well, their half-dozens, and Stephen Green of Christian Voice was among them.

First, the "offending" bit, in which O'Neill was merely speculating on what the likes of Stephen Green might make of the character of Jesus we infer from the Gospels (but doesn't, of course, we assume):

This Jesus feller swans around all day with a dozen other blokes. No women. Mark that, no women. And he wanders off into the mountains now and again to spend quality time with his, uh, favourites (Mark.9:2). He picks up small boys and girls and puts his hands upon them (Mark 10:16) And he was seen in a garden when one of his mates came up and kissed him (Matthew,26:48). Suspicious, eh?

That has now been removed from the online version of the column, and a grovelling apology from the lily-livered owners has been printed, saying:

It has come to our attention that in an article on Wednesday, July 16, headlined "If God considers gays and abomination why did he create them?", our columnist Dan O’Neill offended a number of Christians. We would like to apologise for any offence caused to those people who believe the article insulted the Christian faith, Jesus Christ and the Holy Bible.

It's not surprising, really, but no less annoying for that.
Hat tip: the Cynical Dragon and MediaWatchWatch.

UPDATE: Since writing this piece I came across this one, written last year by the Echo's editor, no less (different editor back then, though, my fellow blogger, Monitor, over at MediaWatchWatch tells me, but it's someone in seniority talking on the paper's behalf, nonetheless), who writes about O'Neil's treatment of a story about the National Eisteddfod. And he writes thus:

A light-hearted columnist like Dan SHOULD be able to poke fun at something like the Eisteddfod. Just like he should any other subject be it Christianity, Islam, politics, sex, the colour of your socks.

As long as he is acting within the law he, and every other writer, should be allowed the freedom to write and to provoke discussion.

So we are left to assume he was not "acting within the law" on the question of the "gay Jesus", then, Mr Editor. Or perhaps you're not in agreement with your predecessor here and are more likely to cave in to religious bullying.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Sikh equality, and find inequality

That bangle wrangle is not over yet. It's being hotly debated. You'll remember from our story of yesterday, "So it's any bling goes at school today", that 14-year-old Sarika Watkins-Singh of Cwmbach near Aberdare in South Wales won her case after her school had told her not to break its jewellery rules.

The rules say only ear studs and watches. Now you may agree or disagree with school rules, but that's not the argument. The argument is about applying them fairly.

In the case of Watkins-Singh, they are now not. On religious grounds alone, she got to wear her kara, the slim bracelet that Sikhs feel they have to wear.

Now we know the redtops are scurrilous rags, so we have to be careful citing the Daily Star, but today it quotes the deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Martin Ward, who, it says, "blasted the judgment".

Ward said, "The purpose of uniform is to create a community ethos and no individual pupils should be able to go their own way."

The Star also quotes a lawyer, Caroline Newman, as saying, "A time is coming where Muslim girls will be allowed to wear a full burka as part of their uniform, though it might have to be in a colour to match." They describe her, in redtop fashion, as a "discrimination guru" and quote her as adding, "This decision brings us one step closer to that day. It could open the floodgates [to] more religious clothing, jewellery and symbols to be allowed as long as they don’t incite racial hatred and are proportionate."

Finally, it presents us with Mohammed Shafiq of the Muslim Ramadan Foundation, saying, "This is a victory for citizens of all faiths."

It's a victory for total bollocks, that's what it is.

Tributes planned to that bloody woman

That bloody woman in Northern Ireland is to get tributes paid to her. But they may not be of the sort she'd like. She's a viciously homophobic pillock, and these tributes are going to be paid at a Gay Pride march in the Foyle region.

It's a six-day festival from 18 to 24 August, but mischievous organisers couldn't resist having Iris Robinson as a theme. We're not sure yet what they'll do with her image, but it could be interesting.

Robinson is the chair of the Assembly's Health Committee and also an MP in the UK Parliament, who infamously told gays they should visit a psychiatrist, and that homosexuality was an abomination. And she's refused so far to take back a word of it. She's also says gays are like paedophiles.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Religion good, atheism bad

A council in England has banned its staff from looking at atheist websites.

But religious ones are OK.

It's also banned them from looking at websites "that promote witchcraft, the paranormal, sexual deviancy and criminal activity", according to the BBC.

But religious ones are OK.

Now, Britain's National Secular Society is considering legal action, saying Birmingham City Council's policy is discriminatory.

Damn right it is. If you're going to ban staff from looking at any sites that aren't to do with their jobs, that's one thing. But to allow religious ones but not atheist ones is quite another.

Not surprisingly, the council has so far declined to comment. Well, who wouldn't so decline? How do you square that one?

"The authority's Bluecoat Software computer system allows staff to look at websites relating to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions," says the BBC, "but blocks sites to do with 'witchcraft or Satanism' and 'occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism'."

NSS president Terry Sanderson is quoted as saying, "It is discriminatory not only against atheists but they also are banning access to sites to do with witchcraft. Witchcraft these days is called Wicca, which is an actual legitimate and recognised religion. We feel very strongly that people who don't believe should not be denied the access that people who do believe have got."

So it's any bling goes at school today

The High Court has effectively said that, if a school has a jewellery policy, it must waive it if the jewellery is considered of religious significance.

We reported in June on the case of the 14-year-old Sikh girl, Sakira Watkins-Singh, at Aberdare in South Wales, who was told she could wear only a watch and/or an ear stud. That was school policy. We said that there could be no objection to the wearing of the bracelet this girl wore – the kara – if school jewellery policy allowed it. The fact that it was of religious significance, in those circumstances, should have had no bearing.

But the school's policy is for watches and ear studs only, so it was logical either to ban the kara or allow any jewellery (any, that is, that didn't compromise health and safety).

But now the High Court has ruled that it's OK. The judge ruled that the school had discriminated under race-relations and equality laws. How a religious symbol is a race thing when Sikhism accepts converts is anyone's guess. But, then, as we know, Sikhs are allowed not to wear motorbike helmets because they've got several yards of cloth tied round their heads, for religious reasons, because it holds the hair they never cut, for religious reasons..

And now the good news – we think

Never let it be said that we don't report good news from religious circles. We're happy to announce that the largest Catholic adoption agency in England and Wales, the Catholic Children's Society, have said they will implement an adoption policy that won't discriminate against gay couples.

They seem at pains, however, to stress that the criteria for being able to adopt are still going to be tough. But let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that, should a same-sex couple make the grade and tick all the right boxes, they will be allowed to adopt, and that this is not just a way of remaining within Britain's Sexual Orientation Regulations, which would forbid discrimination, while not actually allowing a gay couple to adopt.

The Catholic News Agency tells us that the decision, "made by the Catholic Children’s Society of Arundel and Brighton, Portsmouth and Southwark (A&BSP) means the society will not turn away any homosexual couples who present themselves as potential adopters".

Terry Connor, the society's chief executive, has said that such a course offered the "only transparent, straightforward and guaranteed way of preserving our full range of much-needed services for some of the most vulnerable children in the country".

But he says that, should a same-sex couple come along merely to test the system, they would not get very far. "We do not know whether we will actually be asked to consider same-sex couples for the placing of children because, statistically, very few same-sex couples go for adoption anyway.

"We have to give an interview to same-sex couples asking to be considered for adoption. But we are not anticipating we are going to get lots of same-sex couples. It is much more likely that they will go to their local authority because it is the local authority which makes decisions about matching children with approved adopters, not the society.

"We need to make it very clear that the assessment of any adopters is very thorough. It is not about finding children for adults, but it is about finding families for very difficult children.”

Which sounds a bit like "You'd be better off going somewhere else" – but, as I say, let's give them the benefit of the doubt.

Monday, 28 July 2008

"Nazi" or not, a sex kink is OK

So, Max Mosley, the son of the former Blackshirt leader, Oswald Mosley, has won the right, in principle, for everyone to have a private sex life. As Mr Justice Eady's summing up made clear at the High Court in the case against the News of the World newspaper, there was no evidence of a "Nazi" theme during the five hour SM bondage orgy indulged in by Max Mosley and five so-called "hookers". But so what if there had been? It strikes me (no pun intended), that whatever goes on privately behind locked doors, between informed consenting adults – even public figures – it is solely a matter for them, unless it has a direct bearing on their public role.

As the Operation Spanner boys maintain, sado-masochists have every right to privacy and freedom, even if they do want to be tied up, slapped, whipped, or have steel bolts driven through their scrotums. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but the key words here are "private", "consent" and "adults". Since the ruling – an all too rare example of European Human Rights Laws leading to a sensible legal outcome – the News of the World and others, like former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, have been squealing about "press freedom", claiming that by curbing its prurient intrusions into the bedrooms (or private torture chambers) of public figures, the court has dealt a death-blow to our democratic freedoms, or at least those who valiantly seek to defend them.

Of course, this is complete eye-wash. Modern red-top newspapers cannot legitimately claim to be part of the noble "Fourth Estate" that seeks to defend freedom, democracy and truth in this country. They are produced to entertain people and deliver huge readerships to capitalists in exchange for their advertising revenue. Not only are these papers full of bingo, celebrity nonsense, sport and pictures of topless girls, even their news stories are written to a strict "info-tainment" formula, often being compared to the scripts from Hollywood films (stories about "Home Alone" kids, for example, or "Rambo" gun killers on the loose).

Although Judge Eady, presiding over the case, accepted that the News of the World genuinely believed there was a Nazi theme to all the shenanigans (hence his decision not to grant exemplary – i.e. punitive – damages against the paper), the gross intrusion into Max Mosley's private life and its false allegations of a "sick" Nazi theme to all the spanking and wanking had little to do with lofty notions about the public interest, it was just a cynical ploy designed to sell more newspapers. It insults our intelligence to pretend otherwise.

Ironically, the News of the World's Nazi orgy story relied on exactly the same kind of furtive frisson amongst its readership that Mr Mosley was falsely alleged to be guilty of. Publishers of history books and the kind of penny dreadful thrillers you see in airport bookshops will tell you that a swastika on the cover can send sales skyrocketing. However much we may fear or loathe it, Nazism, or rather, the Nazi aesthetic, still holds a fascination and allure for many people, all the more potent for its transgressive and forbidden qualities. Why should this be?

Because of the evils perpetrated by the Nazi regime it is inevitable that powerful feelings surround any Nazi cultural artefacts (the flags, the songs, the posters and so on). The Bolsheviks had already learned how to manipulate modern media for political ends by the time Hitler rose to power, but the Nazis were even more skilled in creating a strong, dynamic and alluring aesthetic. The mass rallies and night-time rituals of allegiance, the uniforms, the strict discipline and hierarchy, the military music, phallic salutes and shrill speeches – all brilliantly committed to film by Leni Riefenstahl - were designed to attract, inspire and brain-wash. After the humiliations and privations of the 1920s, it is hardly surprising that a whole generation of Germans, particularly German men (at whom the bulk of this propaganda was directed), responded to the Nazis' clarion call to build a newly virile and conquering Fatherland.

Mercifully, Nazism was eventually defeated, both militarily and politically, but that doesn't mean that its artefacts, or its overall aesthetic, have lost their power to enthrall. As I have already mentioned, for many there is still a furtive frisson in flirting with the Nazi aesthetic which is all the more potent for its transgressive and forbidden qualities (certain songs and images are still banned in Germany and Austria, for example). And where transgression and the forbidden exist, sexual fetishism is never too far behind. The Nazi propaganda machine's appeal to sadism and masochism, together with its barely concealed homoeroticism, means that the Nazi aesthetic inevitably pervades a sub-strata of the gay leather and SM scene, occasionally spilling over into the straight sex scene too (mostly in the commercial sector, i.e. prostitution). Anyone in a leather coat or tall boots is bound to attract their fair share of drooling admirers and there's no denying that the black SS uniforms manufactured by the Hugo Boss company were hot – they were purposely designed to flatter the masculine physique and emphasise male power.

This need not concern us too much. Several years ago, I met a man in a London gay bar who was quite up front about what he called his "Nazi fetish" and who seemed well connected to that part of the SM sub-scene in which this fetish is indulged. Although my tastes are somewhat more conventional and "vanilla" I was interested to learn more about this hidden scene he belonged to and a long discussion ensued. He can only have been in his early 30s, was intelligent and uncommonly handsome - not at all what you might expect. He also held down a responsible job in the public sector and was perfectly level-headed in every way. He told me that there are several private clubs, necessarily clandestine, in which men like himself can act out sexual fantasies involving Nazi uniforms and paraphernalia, but they live in constant fear of being exposed.

Having already "come out" as gay at work, he had been bounced into coming out a second time, this time as a "Nazi fetishist" when a would-be blackmailer threatened to distribute images from his fetish website amongst his work colleagues. In the event, he proudly showed the website to his immediate colleagues anyway, who apparently took this revelation in their chuckling stride and respected his right to a private fantasy life.

When I asked him if he was genuinely some kind of fascist or racist, he told me he had no time whatsoever for right-wing politics. In fact, he was a Labour supporter and through his job, actively committed to opposing racism. He was also very scornful of some of the other Nazi fetishists he had encountered who did engage with the far-Right, apparently oblivious to, or unfazed by, the far-Right's trenchant and sometimes violent hostility to homosexuals. The majority, however, like himself, managed to detach the fetishised Nazi aesthetic they embraced, from the Nazi ideology they rejected (I know of one Jewish gay masochist who has also managed to do this). They see themselves as part of a long tradition of homosexual flirtation with Nazi iconography and fantasy, whilst remaining acutely aware of what actually happened to thousands of homosexuals in the concentration camps. They are not alone. Famously, the erotic photo-realist drawings of Tom of Finland draw upon Nazi iconography even when his fantasy males are not adorned with SS breeches and fascist insignia, although he did draw a series of overtly fetishistic Nazi-themed fantasies. These were inspired from his youth when he encountered sex-hungry German soldiers in Helsinki during the Second World War.

There are many within the gay community, particularly the left-wing gay community, who find such engagement with the Nazi aesthetic distasteful and unacceptable. Presumably, they think that to admit the erotic charge within Nazism is to rehabilitate it and to some extent, they have a valid point. When I wrote for the left-leaning London newspaper Capital Gay in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it often carried stories about gay men whose fetish for Nazi insignia or roleplay had caused a furore, or tipped over into something more sinister. One London nightclub had a doorman in a stormtrooper uniform guarding the entrance, until someone complained, while another club was taken to task for having German eagle insignia in the entrance lobby, though the swastika part had been concealed with gaffer tape. Leigh Bowery, the flamboyant nightclub host and avant-garde performance artist caused outrage when he incorporated a Nazi-themed medical examination into his live stage act.

On another occasion, Peter Tatchell warned the Earl's Court leather and SM community of a German man (called Max, coincidentally), whose reported Nazi roleplay had allegedly crossed the consensual line on several occasions to become violent assault. Another man who approached two men wearing SS uniforms in a bar to voice his distaste for their attire was beaten up for his trouble. A gay murderer was found to have a stash of Nazi paraphernalia and was only apprehended by police when he was found in possession of a swastika flag he had stolen from one of his victims – who, by coincidence, also shared this dark fetish.

Some of the examples above serve to remind us that Nazi fetishism and sexual roleplay cannot always be neatly filed into the category of "harmless transgressive fun". But equally, we shouldn't join the ranks of the hysterics who think that just because someone gets off on a Nazi-themed fetish they are necessarily goggle-eyed Fascists (a famous newsreader, with impeccable liberal credentials, is rumoured to own a wardrobe full of Nazi uniforms, though precisely for what purpose is unknown). Twenty years ago, the ill-fated GLC-funded Lesbian & Gay Centre in London's Cowcross Street, was embroiled in a row about leather SM enthusiasts using its facilities, after a group of lesbian militants claimed that wearing leather uniforms was "fascistic" per se and should be banned. What these women seemed to forget, however, was that while Fascism undeniably incorporates some sado-masochistic elements, sado-masochism predates Fascist ideology and exists independently of it. Not only that, but banning people, ideas and behaviour one happens to disagree with can also be construed as "fascistic".

There are parallels here with the hysteria over Prince Harry's fancy dress faux pas, when he donned a (rather tatty and unconvincing) Nazi uniform for a party. Believe me, the real Nazis we have to worry about are not to be found in private sex dungeons, dodgy gay bars, or at fancy dress parties. The real ones are nasty little "chavs" in designer track-suits who live on council estates, or twisted losers like David Copeland who bombed Soho's Admiral Duncan gay bar in 1999. To dress up as an SS man, whether for a party, a military re-enactment, or for kinky sex, is simply to dress up as an historical figure and should be no more concerning than someone dressing up as a Crusader, a Roundhead, or a Suffragette – though it would be undeniably tasteless to do so in Golders Green High Street. As Mr Justice Eady ruled in the Mosley case, fetishists do have a right to demand that their privacy is respected, but they, in turn, must respect the sensibilities of others and use their discretion accordingly.

The American gay writer and cultural critic, John Rechy, once said of sado-masochistic sex within the gay community: "I have no doubt that sado-masochism is the fascist side of the homosexual experience . . . it is the most depleting, the most self-hating, by definition. I think that every time homosexuals are involved in a sado-masochistic relationship they are doing a kind of Black Mass to heterosexual oppression. We imitate the kind of oppression they have made us feel, and we pay homage to them".

Rechy was writing in the 1970s, but in 2008 I think we can allow ourselves to frame sado-masochism and even Nazi fetishism, for those so inclined, in a more positive and libertarian way.

In the same way that some gay men re-appropriated the word "queer" in the early 1990s, emptying it of negative connotations and filling it with positive meanings instead, it could be argued that those gay men who have appropriated the Nazi aesthetic have emptied it of its murderous anti-gay hostility and in using it for their own playful sexual pleasures are taking ultimate revenge on a loathsome political regime that brutally murdered 50,000 homosexuals. The signifiers of enslavement, fear and death, have thus been appropriated and refashioned for enjoyment, albeit enjoyment of a darker kind. If Adolf Hitler had a grave he would probably be spinning inside it, knowing that the signifiers of pure Aryan manhood have been subverted by the deviants he sought to eradicate. Looked at from this perspective, Nazi sex fetishism within a small sub-strata of the gay leather and SM communities (and beyond) doesn't represent a worrying revival of Nazi ideology, it represents its final defeat.

Oi! Where's our dosh?

Parishioners in the Liverpool area are asking where the hundreds of thousands of pounds they've donated to the Catholic Church for repairs to a building has disappeared to.

According to Liverpool's Daily Post, a pressure group called SOUL (Save Our Unique Landmark) was set up to save "the renowned SS Peter and Paul’s church in Wirral", but it has now "called for an investigation into church leaders by the Charity Commission. The campaigners say they have donated hundreds of thousands of pounds through Gift Aid – which allows the church to reclaim tax on the money – but that money has not been spent as they believed it would be, such as on routine maintenance."

Catholic authorities are refusing to say where the money has gone, saying there's nothing to add to the bishop's announcement that the church will be closed, but the Charity Commission has said it will investigate.

SOUL says the building has been left without key repairs being carried out for at least ten years, as Catholic authorities prepared to find a way to close it.

SOUL's chairman Frank McGowan has written to the Charity Commission, saying, “We the parishioners accept that the Trustees may decide to change their policy in regard to the maintenance and repair of a building that is under their care in the trust.

“However, we do not accept that, when such a decision impinges on the interests of our parishioners, the Trustees have a right to keep such a decision secret.”

If any decency is to be shown at all, the church should either be preserved with the money, as an interesting building, or the money should be given back. When you give under the impression that your dosh is going to pay for A, you don't want to find suddenly that it's going to pay for B.

How mumbo-jumbo wastes money

The Australian taxpayer has had to stump up A$2.4 million for the dubious privilege of having a geezer in a white frock go there to spout shite. And that's on top of the genuine cost of the visit.

What happened was this: the church waited so long to tell the state government that its World Youth Day pilgrim numbers had changed that the government was "forced to install far more showers and smoke alarms than needed in schools intended to house them", according to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald.

It continues:

The equipment was installed in as many as 412 schools – more than four times the necessary number – because the church waited until last month to tell the Government it would not need many of the schools requested.

As much as A$3.2 million may have been spent on the project.

Presumably, the Vatican is happy to let this go at a time when Pope Ratzo has been going on about world poverty. If the damned visit hadn't gone ahead in the first place, A$3.2 million could have helped a lot of people, both in Oz and elsewhere.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Killing is justified, say UK Muslim students

A report says nearly a third of Muslims on campuses of British universities believe it's OK to kill in the name of religion.

According to a report in the Observer today, student groups say the poll's methodology is "deeply flawed".

The poll is called "Islam on Campus", and was conducted by YouGov for the think tank the Centre for Social Cohesion. The poll showed that "32 per cent of Muslim students polled said killing in the name of religion was justified", compared with 2 per cent of non-Muslims.

And a third of those polled are said to be in favour of a worldwide Islamic caliphate, and 54 per cent supported the idea of having their own political party at Westminster.

"Just under a quarter did not believe men and women were equal in the eyes of Allah, while 25 per cent said they had little or no respect for homosexuals," says the Observer story.

"These findings are deeply alarming," said the report's co-author, Hannah Stuart. "Students in higher education are the future leaders of their communities. Yet significant numbers of them appear to hold beliefs which contravene liberal democratic values."

Then let us be warned. If we're not careful, do we stand to reap the "benefits" of their education, or is their possible influence being overplayed?

The story goes on to tell us that Ed Husain, author of The Islamist and a former member of the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has been banned from most campuses, has claimed that universities are a fertile breeding ground for extremists. And in 2005, Professor Anthony Glees of Brunel University said that he had identified "extremist and/or terror groups" at 30 universities. "But his claims", says the Observer, "were largely dismissed by many academics and the NUS [National Union of Students]."

Hannah Stuart reckons the the report's findings show there are signs of growing religious segregation on campuses. "These results are deeply embarrassing for those who have said that there is no extremism in British universities," she tells the paper.

Reckoning time for Stephen

It's been seven months since Stephen "Birdshit" Green's Christian Voice lost its blasphemy case against the BBC for its screening of Jerry Springer: the Opera in 2005. But now the BBC is claiming its pound of flesh.

The BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, and the show's producer, Jonathan Thoday, were awarded £90,000 in costs. But Green is unable to pay, and is facing bankruptcy.

"They are demanding their pound of flesh," Green says. "There's no commercial sense in pursuing someone worth a fraction of the money owed, so I can think of nothing but spite driving them on. Thompson earns 20 times what I'm worth in a year."

The BBC has now served a statutory demand for the money, which is likely to bring Green to the bankruptcy courts.

"Whatever happens is in the hands of the Lord," Green philosophises.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

You know where you can shove your condoms, Vatican tells dissident group

A dissident Catholic group told the Vatican it should reverse the Catholic Church's stance on condom use because it's been catastrophic, but the Vatican has, predictably, dismissed the allegation.

The group – made up of people from Britain, France and Canada, among others – sent an open letter to Pope Ratzinger on the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's encyclical, Humanae Vitae ("On the regulation of birth").

The signatories say the effects of ban by the Vatican on artificial birth control had been "catastrophic", especially in poor countries of the world.

The letter criticises a stance it says "puts the lives of women in danger and exposes millions of people to the risk of contracting the AIDS virus".

But a spokesman for Ratzo, Father Federico Lombardi, dismissed the letter as "paid-for propaganda in favour of the use of contraceptives" and said the groups, who were "well known" to the Vatican for their views that ran contrary to church teachings, represented "nothing new".

"In addition the harshest accusation, that the Catholic position causes the spread of AIDS, and thus pain and death while obstructing enlightened health policies, is manifestly unfounded," Lombardi has told Vatican Radio.

"The spread of AIDS is completely independent from the religious faith of populations and of the influence of the clergy, while polices against AIDS based on the distribution of condoms have largely failed," Lombardi said.

This is in spite of evidence that condoms can be a protection against the passing-on of infectious diseases (as well as sperm), and in spite of the fact that those Catholics who obey the Vatican will not be using condoms. So how can it be independent from religious faith?

And "paid-for propaganda"? Is he really saying that commercial condom manufacturers are sponsoring this letter? Even if that were so, how would he know?

Friday, 25 July 2008

Treat Muslims better, UK told

Some "energetic measures" are needed to deal with negative public attitudes towards Muslims in Britain, according to the nine-member UN Human Rights Committee. It's concerned that "negative public attitudes" towards Muslims continue to be allowed.

According to a story published today in the UK's Telegraph's online edition, these energetic measures should be taken to eliminate "this phenomenon and ensure that authors of such acts of discrimination on the basis of religion are adequately deterred and sanctioned".

This is a committee of legal experts from Britain and Ireland and several other countries, including from Europe and South America.

One way to prevent a negative attitude towards Muslims – one that is not evident against other religious groups, note, or, if so, in a much smaller degree – is for the Muslims themselves to stop coming over as a whingeing, whining bunch of humourless pillocks. Well, it's usually those who claim to be their leaders who are guilty of this (we rarely know what the ordinary Muslim thinks), and you can see several stories on this blog (type "Muslim" into the blog's search box at the top) and others that show Muslims complaining about things we take for granted, and often getting their way.

No wonder there's resentment among the indigenous community when stories appear concerning Muslims, whether they're about cartoons, pictures of animals, ads for swimwear, medications, Christians being turfed out of a "Muslim area" or demands to put an end to perceived insults to Islam. And they're just a few. And not all of them are sourced from the likes of the Daily Mail.

If they accepted the norms and traditions of their host countries more willingly they might face negativity only from racists and similar nutters, and not those who, like us, are concerned only with their constant religious demands.

How dare you think for yourself?

Catholics don't like it when people think for themselves. They like it even less, it seems, when legislative bodies think for themselves, as instanced by this story in the online EWTN News, a Catholic outlet.

This audacious comment came during an international meeting with the heads of various religious communities, when Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of something called, pompously, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said Europe is "moving backwards in the area of religion because legislative bodies on the continent are increasingly moving further away from Christian principles".

The cardinal said that "laws being passed in almost every country in Europe do not coincide with Christian principles", and therefore religious "superiors have a clear challenge, and at the same time an inescapable task: to root out the subtle forms of internal secularization that have become present in our surroundings".

He these forms of internal secularisation, he says, include "language that has lost its religious content".

The church and society "need people capable of giving themselves totally to God and to others out of love of God", and therefore "consecrated persons can and should respond in a credible way to religious indifference, to the loss of the sense of the transcendent and of eschatological hope", averred the French cardinal.

Merde, Cardinal!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

"Civil rights" group derides free expression

The latest to jump on the bandwagon of trying to outlaw criticism is a "civil rights" group in Spain, which, according to a story on the Catholic News Agency website, has filed a complaint because participants in Gay Pride "insulted" the Pope and cardinals and wore clerical-type garb.

The story tells us that has filed a complaint with the Spanish Attorney General because gays incited religious hatred on 5 July. It continues:

The gay pride parade, which took place in Madrid, is renowned not only for its graphic and violent displays of homosexual sex, but also for its open aggression against the Catholic faith. Many participants dress up in clerical or religious garb combined with sexual objects, and others carry signs that insult the Pope, the bishops and Catholics in general.

Aw, did little Catholics feel hurt, then? Is your ickle churchy-wurchy being cwiticised by those big bad perverts? Are they making fun, then? Diddums!

Archbishop of Cant confirms it: No poofters!

It reminds one of that old Monty Python sketch with a load of Aussies sitting around shouting, "No poofters!" It's a cry that seems to be coming from all over the Anglican Church at the moment. The Pythons said it with an element of harmless fun, but the Archbishop of Cant, Rowan Williams, is serious.

We shouldn't be surprised, of course. He's trying to save the church of which he is head from schism, and already a quarter of the world's bishops – mainly from African countries, where homophobia is rife – have refused to attend the current Lambeth Conference, the church's ten-yearly powwow.

Apart from that, they believe that sex – a natural phenomenon among animals – is strictly for people who have undergone either a legal or spiritual (preferably both) ceremony, the mumbo-jumbo. That was convenient, because they could allow married people who had merely undergone a civil ceremony to play a part in the clergy and the episcopate if that person wished to join.

Now, two gays can undergo a ceremony, and in some places, such as California, they can even call it "marriage". Not so convenient.

So what does Williams mean when he says, "I do not believe that sex outside marriage is as God purposes it"? What of sex within a California marriage, for instance? That's called marriage, Dr Williams. Sorry, but you can't hide behind the not-married thing any more (any more than you can with civil partnerships here in Blighty, which is why I made the point about civil marriages above, but we'll let that pass for the moment).

So you somehow know that two people of the same sex married in California, to stick with our example, are not married in the eyes of God? How do you know that?

He made his remarks as the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement distributed copies at the conference of Williams's 1989 essay "The Body's Grace", in which he adopted a liberal stance towards same-sex love, arguing that the Bible didn't necessarily legislate only for "reproductive sex".

It's a bloody mess, Archbishop. Admit it: you don't know whether you're coming or going.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Bring on Brian 2

While there are those who'd like the bizarre ban on The Life of Brian lifted in the mid-Wales town of Aberystwyth lifted (see "Bring on Brian" earlier this week), there is one who doesn't, even in these post-blasphemy-laws times.

He's the Rev. Stuart Bell, rector of St Michael's Church in the town, who thinks the new mayor, Sue Jones-Davies, who as an actor played the part of Judith Iscariot in the Monty Python classic, has better things to do than worry about a banned film.

Stuart Bell obviously cares little about freedom of expression, and people's freedom to see a movie in a cinema in their town if they so choose.

Aberystwyth Today tells us that Bell thinks it an unpleasant film, yet he hasn't seen it!

“If it was an unpleasant film 30 years ago, then it remains an unpleasant film 30 years later," he's quoted as saying. “I have not seen the film, nor have I any wish to do so. And I would have thought there are many issues of more importance to the people of Aberystwyth for the mayor to consider than having a ban on this film removed.”

She's done the considering, Mr Bell. All that's needed is for her to give the nod to a flunky and the relevant letter will go off to the council that imposed the ban in the first place.

Holy gristle!

The name of Allah has been found in a piece of gristle, it's being claimed.

The BBC news website tells us that it was found in a restaurant in Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria, where the name of Muhammad was also found lurking in the nosh.

They were allegedly found by a diner in Birnin Kebbi. Now they're flocking in their thousands to see it.

It's not the first time, though. Take a look here and here for Allah-related food (tropical fish and tomato respectively), and this story about the face of Jesus found in a chapati.

And I'm not sure where the featured picture on this blog entry came from. I've been saving it. It's the inside of a toilet. I hate to think what's forming that image there, but it sure looks like Jesus (assuming anyone knows what Jesus looked like, of course, even assuming he existed at all).

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Protest by "miserable, glum weirdos" doesn't set Wales ablaze

Stephen "Birdshit" Green's Christian Voice are not happy bunnies at the moment, and have been protesting at the offices of a Wales newspaper, the South Wales Echo.

They were a bit miffed about a column by Dan O'Neil, which posed the question, "If God considers gays an abomination, why did he create them?" The column was published on 16 July, and in it O'Neil said:

Our Carmarthen-based zealot was at it again this week. Outraged at the appearance in Britain of Gene Robinson, the American bishop blanked by the CoE because he’s openly gay (as opposed to being secretly gay like dozens of his peers) the Prophet Green of Christian Voice thundered: “It is a sad day when you get a bishop in a church preaching something that God himself called an abomination.”

He then wonders how Green might have wondered about Jesus's own behaviour, and spoofs him as saying, “This Jesus feller swans around all day with a dozen other blokes. No women. Mark that, no women. And he wanders off into the mountains now and again to spend quality time with his, uh, favourites (Mark.9:2). He picks up small boys and girls and puts his hands upon them (Mark 10:16) And he was seen in a garden when one of his mates came up and kissed him (Matthew,26:48). Suspicious, eh?"

A post today by the  Welsh blogger the Cynical Dragon informs us:

Word has reached me (not the "word" by the way, I'm still a committed atheist) that the offices of the South Wales Echo have been invaded by a crack detachment of the South Wales God Squad. Thomson House's foyer this morning was the scene of ugly demonstrations (well the leaflets and message were pretty dreadful) complaining about the blasphemy in [. . .] the Echo.

After being asked to leave the building, the Christian Voice Six apparently sang hymns outside. The Cynical Dragon has a couple of updates, the last of which says he or she walked past the office later and four miserable-looking evangelists were still there.

"Why are fundamentalists such a bunch of miserable, glum weirdos?" he/she asks.

Why indeed?
Hat tip MediaWatchWatch

It's the leaders you have to watch

The UK gay-equality lobby group Stonewall reckons religious folk aren't as homophobic as their press image implies. It's the leaders who are the bigots.

"Love Thy Neighbour, a report published by the gay equality group, interviewed followers of Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Hindu faiths," says a story in the online Pink News.

Stonewall's chief executive Ben Summerskill is quoted as saying, "Witnessing the saddening divisions in the Church of England demonstrated at this week's Lambeth Conference, it's telling that so many people of faith say they actually live, work and socialise with lesbian and gay people, and that significantly reduces negative ideas about difference.

"Many Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus are clearly markedly more moderate than we are often allowed to believe.

"The stark conclusion to draw when it comes to religion and homosexuality is that it may be time to start listening to the voices of the many people of faith in Britain which have until now not been heard enough."

It would be a start. But, to take one example, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Organisation has been around for decades and has done some sterling work, but we still have a quarter of the world's bishops boycotting Lambeth this month because they have a problem with other people's sexuality and pretend that their invisible friend doesn't like some aspects of it.

And that is not said as criticism of LGCM – far from it – but as a reminder, should we need it, that there are many of those who strive for and achieve leadership positions in the major religious organisations who are also pillocks.

Remember – a few rules

We'd like to remind you of our commenting terms. We've had a couple of comments that have caused us some concern recently, and we'd prefer not to have a repeat performance. So here's a reiteration of our commenting terms, reproduced from the small blurb above the comments area. You can also find them in the sidebar.

We welcome lively and challenging comments. However, please try to stay on topic, be polite and do not use abusive, racist or sexist language, and do not incite your readers to violence or other antisocial behaviour, or your comment will be deleted. Blatant commercial advertising will be removed. Comments should not be construed as necessarily the policy or opinion of the Pink Triangle Trust.

Monday, 21 July 2008

That bloody woman again!

That bloody woman in Northern Ireland has been at it again. Iris Robinson (pictured), who's an MP and a member of the province's own Assembly, caused outrage recently when she suggested that gay people ought to visit a psychiatrist friend of hers who would make them straight.

Yes, just as the Pope might get himself a boyfriend and open a condom factory, Mrs Robinson.

Today's issue of Pink News cites an interview in the Belfast Telegraph, which says it's now emerged that she said some pretty horrible things during committee proceedings in the Commons last month, comparing gays to child abusers.

She is quoted as having said, "There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children. There must be sufficient confidence that the community has the best possible protection against such perverts."

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, Robinson reiterated her views and said she was following Scriptures. "Can you think of anything more vile than man and man or woman and woman and sexually abusing children?" she told the paper. "What I say I base on biblical pronouncements, based on God’s word. I am amazed that people are surprised when I quote from scriptures. It shows the churches either aren’t preaching God’s word or are watering it down.

"I cannot think of anything more sickening than a child being abused. It is comparable to the act of homosexuality. I think they are all comparable. I feel totally repulsed by both."
UPDATE: Robinson went on to claim that Hansard – the official parliamentary record – misquoted her.

Bring on Brian

It's hard to believe, I know, but the Monty Python film The Life of Brian is still banned in the mid-Wales town of Aberystwyth. But now the new mayor – who played the part of Brian's girlfriend Judith Iscariot in the movie – wants the ban lifted.

According to the BBC news website, a number of areas in Wales banned the film 30 years ago, because they thought it was blasphemous.

"Given what's on TV now I think it's amazing a ban in Aberystwyth still exists," Sue Jones-Davies (pictured in the role) tells the BBC. "I think it should be lifted.

"I would like to think that any religion would have the generosity to see the film for what it is," she adds, "which is a comedy. I was surprised at the outrage it caused at the time, but I did not expect or appreciate the impact and never thought it would turn out to be so popular."

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Censorship by religion

Another example of how religion seeks to censor the arts comes in this story in the Belfast Telegraph, which tells us that there may not be a sequel to the first of the films based on Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials.

"Sources in the film industry said that plans for a sequel to The Golden Compass [based on Northern Lights] appeared to have been put on ice following the fervent Christian protests surrounding the first film, which led to boycotts and box office disappointment in the United States," says the story.

Atheist Pullman says he's not aware of any imminent plans to film the sequel, The Subtle Knife, although he feels people would wish to see one, and he certainly would.

But the film sank in the States when Christian bigots organised boycotts, and made only $70 million (£30 million), although it took a disproprtionate $300 million internationally.

You can see a trailer for The Golden Compass in the YouTube video below.

You'll learn about Islam whether you want to or not

Talking of having things shoved down your throat, as we did yesterday over the Dudley mosque, it now seems likely that kids in all state schools in England will be taught Islamic traditions as part of their citizenship classes.

Now we all realise the role religion has played in the shaping of human society, for better or worse or bits in between, and that's why it's important to learn about religions (as opposed to having compulsory talking-to-invisible-people rituals). But this, according to some critics, is holding up Islam above other religions.

A story in Britain's Daily Mail tells us that the idea, announced by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, is to curb extremism. "Other plans announced by Miss Blears also drew criticism," the story says, "including a state-funded panel of Islamic scholars and theologians to provide community leadership.

It goes on: "Prominent Muslims said this scheme was naïve because Government endorsement would erode the credibility of those taking part, especially among the young and disaffected." For that, read, "We don't want state educators teaching it, because that might be too objective."

David Conway, senior research fellow at the Civitas think-tank, said: "Some will see this as another sign of a creeping process of Islamisation – an insidious process which plays down the Christian basis of our culture and encourages children to learn more and more about Islam's contribution.

"Muslims are still a relatively small minority in Britain and, while I have nothing against children in our multi-religious society learning about each other's faiths, for one particular faith to be privileged in mainstream schools seems to me pointless, and won't make for greater harmony.

"I fear it will play into the hands of the small minority who want to see the Islamisation of Europe, and believe they will triumph through sheer numbers."

Friday, 18 July 2008

You're having a mosque whether you want one or not

People wrote letters complaining and the local council decided against it. But the politically correct Planning Inspectorate (possibly, but we don't know, bowing to some political pressure) has decided that the good people of Dudley are to have a huge £18 million mosque, whether they want it or not.

And it's to be on land that had been earmarked for employment purposes, too.

The BBC tells us that the West Midlands town's Muslim population appealed against the council's decision to turn down the huge building (pictured as an artist's impression), and won.

Religion wins out again – and gets to erect an out-of-character building to boot. If Muslims see so much as a mere image they don't like – even on a postcard used for advertising purposes by a police force – they complain, and get their way. Residents complain about what they probably perceive is going to be an eyesore in architectural terms, and one many of them will have to pass each day, and they get nowhere.

"The council received hundreds of letters from residents opposing the mosque," says the BBC, which continues, "A statement issued by the council said: 'The planning inspectorate has today allowed the appeal by Dudley Muslim Association over its application for a mosque and community centre in Hall Street, Dudley.' "

Stick your arse in the air five times and day and develop a disliking for pork and poofs, and who knows what you can achieve?

Christian registrar: the pressure mounts

I knew this one would run and run. The Christian registrar in Islington, Lillian Ladele, now has a Commons Early Day Motion (EDM) in her honour. In short, it calls for a recognition that she's a bigot. All right, it doesn't say that exactly – but it amounts to the same thing.

Islington Council, you may remember, has said it will appeal against the ruling of an employment tribunal that found that Ladele was right to refuse to register civil partnerships because it went against her religion (see also here and here).

The wording of the EDM is this:

That this House notes that an Islington registrar has won an industrial tribunal case giving her the right to refuse to officiate at civil partnership ceremonies for homosexual and lesbian couples on the grounds of her religious beliefs; further notes that civil partnerships are legally not the same as Christian marriage; further notes that the Holy Scriptures are entirely silent on the question of civil partnerships; notes with concern that the case could set a precedent for any public servant refusing to treat all members of the public equally because of self-defined religious beliefs; believes that no public servant should be allowed to discriminate on this arbitrary basis; and, should this case not be reversed on appeal, calls on the Government to clarify and, if necessary, amend the law to guard the public against discrimination and prejudice by public servants in the future.

It's been put by Diane Abbot, the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, and has been signed by five others. Early Day Motions are rarely debated on the floor, and remain open for signatures for the rest of the parliamentary session.

So don't hold your breath, but it's a sign that the pressure is mounting for a clarification of conflicting laws that seem to forbid discrimination in goods and services to people on the grounds of (inter alia) sexuality and yet allow just that on religious grounds.

Ms Ladele hasn't won yet. Not quite.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Discrimination: it's still an issue

Since our story earlier today about Stephen Price (pictured) and his award from an employment tribunal, we've had a statement from Federico Podeschi, managing director of the LGBT Excellence Centre Wales, who represented Stephen Price. Federico has today left this as a comment on the story we linked to, but since that story was published some weeks ago, we've decided to publish it here, where it'll get a better airing. Here it is:

We are extremely delighted by the Employment Tribunal’s decision to uphold Stephen’s case. Stephen, as well as many other service users of our Helpline, is a clear example of how you can still be discriminated against simply for being gay.

This case particularly showed that, regardless of whether people want to “come out” or not, simply ignoring that people can be gay, lesbian, or bisexual, as well as heterosexual, is not acceptable. It also shows that once a grievance is raised, employers have a responsibility to investigate it as a potential case of unlawful discrimination or harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The Presbyterian Church of Wales failed to both acknowledge Stephen’s claim and to investigate his allegations accurately. The Employment Tribunal’s judgement described some of the behaviour that Stephen had to endure as grotesque and inappropriate. This should be a reminder that people can still carry prejudice and bias regardless of having a religious background or faith. Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is unlawful and must be addressed. It is as simple as that.

We urge people to contact us to tell us their experience and to get advice and representation if they feel that they have been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Only through raising the issues that people still face, can we really raise awareness around what still goes on in the discrimination closet!

Thanks, Federico!

The Price of bigotry

We reported in June how a 25-year-old man was teased and humiliated for being gay, and his boss even sent him a toilet roll holder with fairies on it as a gift.

"Stephen Price's ordeal began almost as soon as he began working at the Coleg Trefeca centre with, 40-year-old Mair Jones, his manager," this Pink News story tells us.

The centre is a 37-bed retreat run by the Presbyterian Church in Wales and used by church groups from all over the country.

Well we're happy to report that a tribunal has now awarded Price £11,924 for constructive dismissal. The tribunal judge, Dr Rachel Davies, said, "He started as a cheerful and enthusiastic young man and there is no evidence of a vindictive side to his nature nor that his claims were fabricated. Mair Jones treated him less favourably than if he were a heterosexual man. She subjected him to considerable harassment.

"We are satisfied this came within the most serious category. We have found that Mr Price suffered grotesquely discriminatory conduct on the part of Mair Jones for 10 weeks followed by seriously incompetent discrimination on the part of the church."
Hat tip: Freethinker

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Islington will appeal against Christian bigot

Islington Council's said it will appeal against the ruling of an employment tribunal that found that Christian bigot Lillian Ladele (pictured) was right to refuse to register civil partnerships because it went against her religion (see also here and here).

The online Pink News tells us that the decision was taken after "careful consideration of the legal ruling made by the London Central Employment Tribunal".

Forty-seven-year-old Ladele initially swapped with colleagues in order to avoid having to join same-sex couples, but there were complaints, which led to an internal inquiry. She complained she was being discriminated against on the grounds of her religion.

Pink News quotes the gay rights lobby group Stonewall as saying it will "seek to intervene formally in any appeal process if the opportunity arises".

Let battle commence

Well, there promises to be a battle as the ten-yearly shindig that is the Lambeth Conference gets going today, and there's already a war between the Episcopals on the one hand, who dared to consecrate a gay bishop (after he'd been elected, moreover, which is what happens in the States) and the bigots who have set up their own organisation.

This is the conference at which the world's Anglican bishops get together to reinforce their prejudices, while some, no doubt, look for ways to reconcile differences.

But a quarter of the world's bishops aren't attending, because they have a thing about gays. Those who are attending will have the subject of sexuality not far from their lips, because, if one subject will dominate this decade, that will be it.

And the Archbishop of Cant, Rowan Williams, has launched the party with a published letter to Muslims, which says, according to a story in the UK's Daily Telegraph, that some Christian doctrines are offensive to their superstition (well, the Telegraph doesn't use that word).

Well diddums, then! Of course they are. Some aspects of Islam are offensive to Christians. Some aspects of both (and all the other) religions are offensive to right-thinking people. That's what religion is about: difference; we're right; our god is the true god; your religion has false prophets; you're talking bollocks.

If any religion is right, it can be only one religion. If one is right, the others are wrong. That's an irrefutable point of pure logic. Get used to it, guys.

He takes as one example the Trinity. "Discussing differences between the religions," says the Telegraph, "Dr Williams acknowledges that Christian belief in the Trinity is 'difficult, sometimes offensive, to Muslims'."

It goes on to explain that the Trinity is the Christian doctrine that states God exists as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and this conflicts with Islamic teaching that there is one all-powerful god.

Well tough shit, Archbishop! Let it go. You'll never agree, anyway.

Glass houses, stones and Lillian Ladele

It really doesn’t matter that Lillian Ladele had a baby “out of wedlock”, while “living in sin” some 27 years ago. It really doesn’t matter. It’s not the sort of thing this blog and many others of a similar flavour would want to report.

But what makes Lillian Ladele different (see here and here) is that she has refused to do the job the local taxpayers reward her for doing, but instead kicked up a fuss about same-sex unions and how they were sinful and how her Christian beliefs could not permit her to join two people of the same gender in civil matrimony. You’d think, therefore, that these fundamental Christian beliefs would have ensured she was “married in the sight of God” before she opened her legs.

Her revelation comes in an interview with yesterday’s Daily Mail, reported in Pink News.

“The revelation”, says Pink News, “has led to accusations that she was not properly cross-examined at the tribunal about the nature of her religious faith – details of her extra-marital sexual activities only came to light at the weekend.”

It then quotes the judment of the tribunal she won, when she claimed Islington Council had discriminated against her on the grounds of her superstition – sorry, religious faith – thus:

Ms Ladele is a Christian. Her unchallenged evidence was that she holds the orthodox Christian view that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others and that marriage is the God-ordained place for sexual relations.

She could not reconcile her faith with taking an active part in enabling same-sex unions to be formed.

She told us that she believed this to be contrary to God’s instructions that sexual relations belong exclusively between a man and a woman within marriage.

As I say, it really doesn’t matter that a woman is not married when she first has sex or subsequently gives birth to a baby; and, thankfully, we live in an age when it matters only to religious fruitcakes.

But what does 47-year-old Ladele say? Not “Oh, I wasn’t religious back then” or “The Word of God hadn’t yet been revealed to me” but “I would never claim to be perfect.”

Well, nor would any of us, but you’d expect one of the basic religious so-called morals – that sex is for wedlock – to be intact in someone as morally upstanding as Lillian Ladele. Before people start preaching their perceptions of God’s ideas of perfection, they should just think of a well-known saying that involves glass houses and stones.

And may those who are without “sin” cast the first of the latter.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

You can annoy Catholics after all

In a blow for common sense and against censorship, a court in Australia has overruled a new state law in New South Wales that said you couldn't annoy Catholics.

The law would have allowed police to fine people protesting over the nutty Vatican's nutty stance on issues such as women's rights over their fertility and anyone's rights over what he or she does with his or her choice portions and dangly bits.

The ruling, says this BBC story, comes at the opening day of World Youth Day, which Pope Ratzo will be attending later this week.

The challenge to the law was brought by a coalition of protest groups.

Activists say they plan to hold a rally on Saturday at which they will demonstrate against the Church's stand on homosexuality and birth control, by handing out condoms and wearing provocative T-shirts.

Civil liberty groups had denounced the New South Wales state law – which threatened fines of up to A$5,500 (£2,680) against anyone causing "annoyance" to pilgrims – as unnecessary and repugnant.

Quite right. There are, one assumes, laws to deal with unruly behaviour that don't involve blatant censorship. No one's suggesting that the world and its uncle should gather in NSW and heckle every Catholic, but there must be a right to protest when huge swathes of people can see the Catholic Church for the evil that it is capable of.

Anyway, once such a law is put in place, it's anyone's guess as to how the police will interpret it, and, once the event is over, it's too late to seek redress against them, because the damage to free speech will have been done.

Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition

How do you get kids to come to your church event? You offer them a real semiautomatic assault rifle, that's how.

Well, that would have happened at an Oklahoma City church, but it has now called off plans to give away a rifle at its weekend gathering of teenagers, the church's pastor has said.

The KFI AM 640 radio station's website tells us, "Plans called for Windsor Hills Baptist to give away the weapon as a way of encouraging attendance at the gathering but plans changed when one the event's organizers was unable to attend, KOCO 5, Oklahoma City, reported Sunday."

When an event organiser was unable to attend, note, not that these are lethal weapons (go and shoot up a celebration of Holy Communion and you could call them weapons of Mass destruction – maybe not!).

The story goes on:

The church's pastor, Bob Ross, said officials anticipated hundreds of teenagers from as far away as Canada would attend.

"We have 21 hours of preaching and teaching throughout the week," Ross told KOCO 5.

The church Web site featured a video showing the shooting competition from last year's conference. A gun was given away last year, but this year organizers decided to highlight the giveaway in promotions for the conference.

Ross told the TV station the church was not "putting a weapon in the hand of somebody that doesn't respect it who are then going to go out and kill."

The gun giveaway has been taken down from the Web site, but Ross said the church will give the gun away next year.

Oh, goody! They'll get their guns after all.

Perhaps the Church Lads' Brigade can order a ton of semtex while you're at it. And how about some 44mm ground-to-air missiles for the church bazaar? Popping those helium-filled balloons is a hoot! And if you don't want yours you can always take it to the bring-and-buy sale and come away with an AK-47 Kalashnikov instead.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Tutu good!

It shouldn't surprise us that South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu (pictured) supports gay rights and freedoms, but it's nice to acknowledge it, simply because he's one of the more acceptable and likable faces of Christianity.

He's now pleaded with the Anglican Communion to "show unity as it tries to reconcile the views of liberals and evangelicals over homosexuality", according to an article today in the online Pink News.

The story quotes Tutu as telling Sky News, "The Anglican church prides itself – and this is one of its greatest attributes – it prides itself on being the church that is comprehensive, meaning that it includes all kinds of points of view."

Seventy-six-year-old Tutu, a veteran of South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle and the winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, said he felt the church should move together on the topic of homosexuality.

His words come as the Anglican Church continues to tear itself apart with wholesome Christian love we have become so familiar with in this worldwide organisation, because some of its number have a thing about sexuality.

I'd consecrate a gay bishop, but . . .

Just when you think you've stumbled on a Christian who really has no problem whatever with gay priests and bishops, he goes and spoils it. Well, to a large extent, anyway.

First the good news: the Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, says he'd have no problem consecrating a gay bishop, such as the one whose consecration has sparked hissy homophobic fits in the Anglican Church, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

According to the BBC news website, Morgan says, "If I thought that a person who had been nominated was an excellent candidate in every other way and that he was in a faithful relationship – for me personally that would not present a problem."

Then there's the rub: "But of course it might present a problem for my church and I would have to alert the electoral college to that."

Whatever happened to unqualified acceptance? And what would happen if his church said don't do it?

"Anglican conservatives set up a splinter movement earlier this month, in rejection of the acceptance of gay bishops," the Beeb reminds us. "Members of the Global Anglican Future Conference movement established the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans."

How politicians win votes

In a grubby, calculating move not to upset Catholics before the Glasgow East by-election, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has delayed today's planned vote on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

He must think the Catholics in Glasgow East are pretty thick and stupid if he expects them to believe that merely postponing this vote means it won't happen at all. Unfortunately, there are all too many who do believe that politicians really have their best interests at heart, and that's why they continue to get away with it.

Brown knows there are Labour voters who may think twice about voting Labour if this thing – which he has declared himself in favour of – goes ahead. Brown postpones vote. Labour voters vote Labour. Brown's Labour colleague wins the seat. Brown then craps on the people he duped.

Fortunately, there are newspapers willing to show up the evil shananigans and outright deceit that politicans are capable of, such as the Scotsman, which published a story last Friday headlined "Brown delays embryo bill 'in bid to sway Catholic votes in by-election' ".

In a surprise announcement, the government said that a crucial vote on the embryology bill due to take place on Monday would now be delayed until the autumn.

This will help keep the issue – and the threat of changes to the abortion laws – off the agenda before voters go to the polls on 24 July. It also allows the legions of Labour MPs ordered to campaign in Glasgow to avoid having to make a speedy return to London.

Glasgow East, says the Scotsman, has "the fifth-highest number of Catholics in Scotland, with more than a third of its voters – some 23,185 adults – declaring themselves Catholics in the last census".

On the other hand, it could be true that Labour feels that there are so many clauses to debate that it's being put back for purely practical reasons.

Harriet Harman, the Leader of the House, has said that, because of the shortage of time left before the summer recess and the number of MPs who wished to speak and propose amendments to the Bill, it had been decided that "as much time as possible needs to be found for it".

And did they now know that a lot of MPs would wish to take part in such a controversial matter? Did they not know how many clauses there would be to deal with?

Meanwhile, poor old Opus Dei Catholic Ruth Kelly connived to get out of voting on this (see our link in the first paragraph), and now the poor dear will have to think of something else that she will just happen to have to attend rather than a whipped vote.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

More taxpayers' money spent on Muslims

Another public body – funded by the taxpayer – is to be set up by the UK government for Muslims. This one aims to try to stop Muslims from blowing us up, suggesting that police methods of prevention and detection have failed.

This idea will be announced this week by Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, as part of a strategy called Prevent, which was set up after the 7/7 bombings.

According to the Sunday Times, this new "board of imams" will attempt to "refute the ideology of violent extremists". Quite how it will do that, considering that refute means not just to repudiate, but to prove wrong, is anyone's guess. How do you "refute" an ideology? Or is this just sloppy writing on the part of the Times Whitehall editor, Marie Woolf?

Anyway, this committee "will issue pronouncements on areas such as wearing the hijab and the treatment of wives and is part of a government strategy to counter radicalism". The Sunday Times story continues:

[The committee] will rule on interpretation of the Koran and promote the moderate strain of Islam practised by most British Muslims. It will also comment on controversial issues affecting Muslims living in Britain, including whether or not they should serve in the armed forces.

And is this going to be then enshrined in public policy, something dredged up out of a book of desiccated scriptures? It goes on:

The government is concerned that extremist leaders who preach jihad have been able to radicalise young Muslims, partly because of the failure of leading Islamic figures to challenge them.

A committee of Muslim young people will try to ensure the policies are relevant to them and do not inadvertently lead to further radicalisation. The government also plans to support Muslim women by providing discussion groups and work placements.

Something called the Muslim Public Affairs Committee "questioned whether the board would address issues relevant to Muslims’ lives".

"To be successful," says a committee spokeswoman, "this initiative must have credibility with the Muslim community as a whole. What matters is what happens at the grass roots in someone's local mosque."

If Muslims wish to set up committees to regulate life in their communities, they're at liberty to do so, provided nothing that comes of their deliberations is expected to be legally binding. All sorts of organisations have their committees, with the power to recommend, decide, reprimand, hire, fire, kick arse. But Muslim committees should be paid for out of participants' pockets.

If the country can't handle those who want to bomb the hell out of us, what are the police and intelligence services doing? If such a committee can really prevent young people from being radicalised, why is it being suggested it rule on women's fashion and how men treat their wives?

And do they really think this is some sort of hearts-and-minds measure that will change the ideology of someone who's so Allah-soaked that he's willing to give his life in order to take those of others? That's a pretty unfaltering commitment.

Strikes me as just another way of seeming to be doing something instead of stopping kowtowing to religionists now, and imposing that clichéd "zero tolerance" of dubious activities. If religion didn't automatically and seemingly without exception receive such a good government ear and were not treated with such unwarranted reverence, what people do in its name might be treated with more suspicion by the public at large.

Instead, when journalism comes good for a change and creates something like Undercover Mosque, the police decide that's racist and seek to prosecute the programme makers. In that case, fortunately, the police were left with egg on their silly faces and had to issue a grovelling apology.

The religious control of marriage

"The point of civil ceremonies always was to end religious control of marriage." Thus speaks the Observer today in examining the case of Lilian Ladele, the homophobic Christian registrar who didn't want to marry gay people, so she stamped her feet and had a tantrum and won her right at an employment tribunal not to do the deed.

But it doesn't stop our religion-soaked, PC-pressured authorities and other officialdom from coming down on the side of religious nutcases. They clearly want it both ways. Civil ceremonies are there to end the religious control of marriage, so what do they do? They reintroduce the idea of the religious control of marriage.

"Did Lillian Ladele, the devout Islington registrar whose refusal to conduct gay marriages has, astonishingly, been endorsed by an employment tribunal, ever wonder if she was in the right job?" asks the Observer (emphasis mine).

Guided by Christian beliefs so powerful they will not countenance, even outside the church, the union of two women or of two men, Ms Ladele must have had cause to wonder, throughout her career, about the fitness of all the other unchaste sinners over whose civil unions she has presided. Yet not until partnerships for gay people were added to the town hall's repertoire did she decide that these ceremonies were incompatible with holy writ.

The implications of this judgment, says the paper, could be serious and troubling if it is upheld on appeal.

Employees flourishing their religious convictions will be able to challenge almost any job description, whether these involve an aversion to pork, to certain clothes, to abortion pills, to gay people or to working on holy days.

If we're not careful we'll be heading for a theocracy by the back door, as religion has to be consulted before decisions are made in the secular world, affecting people of religion and no religion alike.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

This is what happens to dead atheists

Have you ever wondered what will happen to you if you're an atheist? A dead one, I mean. I came across this YouTube video (see below) via the Pharingula blog.

Incidentally, the article he links to there is on something called WikiHow, and the introduction to the article reads:

Dealing with a friend that [sic] has different beliefs than you can be frustrating for both yourself and the non-believer. Learning how to deal with it can be extremely difficult and you might want to try and [sic] convert them. If you do chose [sic] this route, however, you must always keep this in mind: be gentle and never force your ideals upon others if they don't wish it. If your friend expresses a deep, sincere wish for you to leave their beliefs alone, please respect that.

If you go through all the steps it then recommends and your friend hasn't given you a smack in the mouth and vowed never to speak to you again, then you can safely believe in God, because it'll be a holy miracle.

Anyway, here's the video I promised you. Enjoy.

Veiled threat to Islamisation

A veiled woman has been denied citizenship by France because her brand of Islam is incompatible with French values.

"The case will re-ignite debate about how to reconcile religious freedom with other rights, which many in France feel are being challenged by the way of life of some Muslims," says this story in Britain's Daily Mail.

The Mail quotes Le Monde as saying it's the first time this sort of thing has happened because of personal religious practice.

The Mail continues:

Married to a French national, the woman arrived in France in 2000, speaks good French and has three children born in France.

Thought to be aged 32, she wears a burka that covers all her body except her eyes, and lives in "total submission" to her husband and male relatives, according to social services.

And it's that total submission that's worrying.

Should she be allowed citizenship? Is what she does with her appearance a not a private matter (provided she's not a threat to others)? I suspect it's not just her submission but the fact that she's wearing it like a badge of honour that's upsetting the authorities.

"The ruling", says the Mail, "comes weeks after a heated debate over whether traditional Muslim views were creeping into French law, prompted by a court annulment of the marriage of two Muslims because the husband said the wife was not a virgin as she had claimed to be."

It looks as though, if creeping Islam is to be halted, the process has to start somewhere.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Desecrating the sacred confectionery

If you liked yesterday's Pink Triangle story, "Corpus Crispi", which told the tale of a student who had the audacity to remove a little bickie from the communion-rail area of his church – effectively kidnapping the Body of Christ – you'll love this one.

An American professor is going to desecrate the Host. Quite how, I don't know, but he's appealing for some of the holy crackers – er, communion wafers – to commit his act of desecration on.

"Paul Zachary Myers, a professor at the University of Minnesota Morris, has pledged to desecrate the Eucharist," says the Catholic League story linked to above. It continues:

He is responding to what happened recently at the University of Central Florida when a student walked out of Mass with the Host, holding it hostage for several days. Myers was angry at the Catholic League for criticizing the student. His post can be accessed from his faculty page on the university’s website.

The story quotes him as saying:

“Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers?” Myers continued by saying, “if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching [Catholic League president] Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web.”

Donohoe says, “It is hard to think of anything more vile than to intentionally desecrate the Body of Christ. We look to those who have oversight responsibility to act quickly and decisively.”

Oh, crumbs! I can't wait for those photographs.
UPDATE: See the latest Jesus and Mo. It's about that bickie.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Stop digging

Did anyone see the first episode of Bonekickers on Monday night? It’s the new BBC (so-called) drama from Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham, the people behind the brilliant Life on Mars and its OK sequel Ashes to Ashes. Unfortunately, going by last night’s offering, Bonekickers is neither. And, yes, it’s full of fine actors and was directed by James Strong, who is one of the directors of Doctor Who – so why was it so bad?

According to the BBC hype, Bonekickers:

is a highly original six-part series about a dynamic team of archaeologists [and is set] against the backdrop of Bath, a city steeped in 3,000 years of history, [where] each week the team uncovers a compelling mystery from the past that tells viewers something profound and revelatory about the present.

After last night’s episode, hearing their claim that “archaeology has never been so dramatic” made me laugh out loud.

This episode was full of dire dialogue, religious references – including miracle cures, the cross that bore Jesus Christ – and modern-day religious nutters and psychopaths as well as very unsubtle references to the religious divisions between Christianity and Islam in Britain today. This culminated in a particularly gruesome, gratuitous and out-of-place beheading of a Muslim by some nutter who’d convinced himself that he was a modern-day member of the Knights Templar. I can’t help thinking that this is the sort of rubbish that would be produced by those responsible for (the brilliant) Waking the Dead if they spent too many Sundays inhaling too much religious incense.

Going by the press reviews, the chatter on the Internet and everyone I’ve spoken to, most people agree it was bad. In just a few days, the Beeb has managed to give us Criminal Justice, which has got to be the best piece of brand-new drama so far this year, and then what can only be described as the worst. In the Guardian, Gareth McLean described it as “mind-bogglingly dreadful [with] lame characters delivering abysmal lines”, while the academic and critic Sarah Churchwell described it as “beyond silly”. On BBC2’s Newsnight Review, John Mullan (the University College, London, professor of English who specialises in eighteenth-century fiction) criticised the show's absurdities, saying that “hokum has to have its own logic”.

In my opinion, Bonekickers was baloney. It was truly bad. It was a load of cringe-making bollocks! Den of Geek is spot on when it says that it “is surely the BBC’s most spectacular and hilarious misfire since the dark days of Eldorado back in the early 90s”, but I don’t buy their it-was-so-bad-it’s-good line or that because 6.8 million viewers watched it, they must have enjoyed it. Let’s just wait and see how many people bother to tune in again next week.

They’re not very impressed on the Bonekickers fan site, either, and see this rather hilarious recap of the first episode on the Killed in a smiling accident blog.

I should have watched ITV2's The Skulls instead.