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Sunday, 30 November 2008

Imagine no censors

The religious types in the USA really do like freedom of speech – provided it’s only their own.

A billboard containing an atheist message has been taken down in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino county, California, after complaints (from what we can only assume are rabid religionists), according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

The sign says, simply, “Imagine no religion”. The Tribune tells us:

The General Outdoor sign company took down the Freedom from Religion Foundation billboard after the city said it received about 90 complaints and asked whether there was a way to remove it.

The Madison, Wis.-based foundation, which advocates separation of church and state, has billboards in eight states that include such messages as “Reasons Greetings” and “Beware of Dogma”.

The foundation’s co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, said the billboard is meant to encourage a debate about religion by evoking lyrics from a John Lennon song.

“The city has no business suggesting our billboard be censored,” Gaylor said. “They’re not allowed to interfere over religious controversy.”

Hard to add anything else, really. The attitude of these people speaks for itself.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Be nice to gays, Catholics told (tee-hee)

The Daily Mail would have us believe that Roman Catholic priests have been banned from using what it calls “heterosexist” language in their churches lest they offend the gay.

No, don’t laugh!

“They have been told by their bishops not to assume that every churchgoer is a heterosexual and to reflect this ‘in language and conversation’,” the paper says, and continues:

Priests are also encouraged to put up posters advertising “support services” for homosexuals, a move bound to infuriate many Catholics who believe gay sexual activity to be sinful.

The advice was welcomed by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell as a “positive initiative which will bring great comfort to gay Catholics and their families”.

He said: “Its sympathetic, understanding message is a big improvement on the past homophobia of some Catholic pronouncements on homosexuality.”

However, he said the “laudable change of tone” was undermined by the “homophobic content of the Catholic Catechism” and by Pope Benedict XVI’s opposition to gay marriage.

Well, yes, there is just that tiny consideration.

And there is some dissent, of course.

“The advice was criticised by Lynette Burrows, a Catholic commentator [whatever one of those is], as ‘pitiful’,” says the paper.

She said it was ridiculous that Church leaders appeared to be “grovelling” to a secular agenda.

“It is things like this that are enfeebling the Church at the moment – the concentration on things that don’t matter and missing the things that do,” she said.

“What is pitiful as well as demeaning is that the Church is running after homosexual opinion but nothing is going to make homosexuals like the Catholic Church.

“This is because the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is a disorder and whatever the bishops say will not change that.”

Well, yes. She has a point, of course. The only way to make gays like the Catholic Church is for the Catholic Church to get used to the idea that God (if you wish to see it this way) made some people gay. Well, lots of people gay, actually.

And what does she mean by grovelling to a secular agenda? Why is being nice to gays and lesbians just a secular thing, if there are Catholic gays and lesbians and said gays and lesbians are part of the “flock”? Is wanting to be nice to the Catholic Ladies’ Guild or the recipients of Catholic charities or pregnant women or the church cricket team “grovelling” to a secular agenda?

Friday, 28 November 2008

Relate cousellor who didn't relate to gay clients

The case of Gary McFarlane (47), the Relate counsellor  (pictured) who didn’t like the idea of ministering to same-sex couples is due to be heard on 1 and 2 December, we’re told by the Christian Weekly News email that comes from Christian Concern for Our Nation (CCFON).

We carried a post on 26 October about it, but, briefly, he claims he was fired because he admitted that his superstitious beliefs could prevent him from administering sex therapy. McFarlane had worked for Relate since 2003.

He said that, while he had the attitude “each to their own”, he felt uncomfortable doing anything that would directly encourage gay sex. He says he hadn’t thought he’d have to confront these issues until he faced the prospect of providing therapy for a gay couple. That was when he planned to discuss them in confidence with his supervisor.

Some fellow counsellors had complained about McFarlane’s views, claiming he’s been homophobic.

The Christian Legal Centre carried a piece on the issue on 17 October.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Life blood

A four-year-old child who might have died because of her parents’ twisted beliefs may now get the blood transfusion she desperately needs.

A High Court Judge in Dublin has ruled that a hospital can give the lifesaving blood if it’s absolutely necessary.

Today’s Irish Times tells us:

The court heard the child was admitted to the hospital last Sunday suffering from pneumonia and an X-ray had revealed she needed to have fluid drained from her lung. It was possible the draining procedure would lead to severe loss of blood and the child would need a transfusion.

The parents, whose religion prohibits blood transfusions, had objected to any transfusion and the father had said he would go to court to stop it, it was stated.

However, that was when the hospital decided to take proceedings and seek permission for the blood to be administered.

It’s absurd in the extreme that hospitals need to seek permission to administer blood in a life-or-death situation.

It’s one thing if an adult Jehovah’s Witness wants to refuse a blood transfusion for him- or herself, but visiting their own wacky beliefs on another human being, especially when they could well kill that human being, is just not on.

The child is not a Jehovah’s Witness (even if the parents claim she is, and I don’t know whether they make such a claim, but it wouldn’t surprise me). At four, she can hardly have stacked up the cognitive wherewithal to formulate ideas on such matters.

All she needs is for her young life to be saved.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Cop out

The Norfolk policeman who bombarded colleagues with Christian emails concerning sexuality has now been fired.

PC Graham Cogman just couldn’t get used to the fact that some people are gay.

See the background here.

He got his comeuppance at a disciplinary tribunal.

Let's all do sharia!

A barrister reckons sharia law should be incorporated into UK secular law.


Stephen Hockman QC, a former chairman of the Bar Council, has reportedly suggested that a group of MPs and legal figures should be convened to plan how elements of this Dark Ages Muslim religious-legal code could be introduced.

The story is carried in today’s Daily Telegraph, which quotes the Daily Express. The Telegraph says:

After speaking at an event organised by the website Islam4UK at the National Liberal Club, Whitehall, Mr Hockman reportedly told the Daily Express: “Given our substantial Muslim population, it is vital that we look at ways to integrate Muslim culture into our traditions. Otherwise we will find that there is a significant section of our society which is increasingly alienated, with very dangerous results.

Hang on. We are the host culture. Those of other cultures need to integrate into ours, albeit that some things rub off and we benefit from cultural gifts such as food and entertainment. But food and entertainment are what we can choose to partake in, and they are not the law of the land, which we are all subject to.

And “dangerous results”? Are we to go entirely Muslim, then, before we can stop whatever “dangerous results” Hockman has in mind? When we give one thing, how long before we can expect “dangerous results” if we don’t give another?

Remember the Danegeld.

God is half good

Stephen Green of Christian Voice is being thoroughly entertaining again. He’s got half his costs waived in the court case that threatened to bankrupt him – the one he lost against the BBC and producers of Jerry Springer: The Opera.

But it’s not an earthly phenomenon, this deal to settle for half the costs. Not something that’s been brought about by, you know, people. Oh, no. It was the Lord wot done it.

Stuart Hartill of the Clinging to a Rock blog tells me that Green has emailed him thus:

I am pleased to tell you I was able to do a deal with them, in which I settled for half their total costs, and the Lord graciously provided the money. To Him be all the glory. That leaves [producer] Jonathan Thoday, but I owe him less money, and I am praying for a good resolution there as well.

Funny how the Lord graciously provides the money for Stephen Green, but doesn’t quite manage it for the starving and destitute the world over, isn’t it? The gracious Lord doesn’t dip into his heavenly pocket for hospitals and schools, for facilities for the disabled, for the million and one other things that money is desperately needed for.

Just a bit suspicious, don’t you think? A bit of favouritism, perhaps? Maybe even nepotism, since Green surely believes himself to be the Son of God returned to Earth. And, if the Lord felt Green's case was worthy enough, why didn't he graciously provide the entire costs, rather than just half?

Green, you will remember, was the campaign (or a large part of it) against the Welsh poet Patrick Jones, leading to the bookstore chain Waterstone’s reneging on an arrangement for him to do a signing and reading session in their Cardiff shop.

He’s launched a petition against the decision by Peter Black, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesman in the Senedd, to invite Jones to read the “offending” poem:

Now, we have launched a petition against Peter Black’s invitation to the “poet” Patrick Jones to insult the Lord Jesus Christ in the National Assembly of Wales – and call for churches to be closed! The event is due to take place in the Ty Hywel NAW [National Assembly of Wales] building at 12 noon on Thursday 11th December. Lorraine Barrett, another Assembly Member and also a member of the extremist anti-Christian National Secular Society, is co-hosting the event.

In an earlier press release he calls Jones a “militant atheist”. Funny how no atheist can just be an atheist with these people: they have to be a militant atheist. My impression from Jones’s poems and his emails to me is that he’s just pissed off with religion – especially the way it’s dished up by prats such as Stephen Green. His wish to close the churches stems from that, not from some rabid hatred of religion per se.

Anyway, there’s Mr Green's petition to sign. It’s here. What are you waiting for? Better still, though, try this one – it's a counterpetition set up by Barry Duke of the Freethinker.

Thanks, Stuart, for the tip-off.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

On the road to more blasphemy laws?

The UN General Assembly has adopted a draft resolution calling on all countries to alter their legal and constitutional systems to prevent “defamation of religions”.

This was carried by a vote of 85 to 50, with 42 abstaining.

We know just which religion is behind it, of course. The Assembly is asserting that “Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism”.

It is true that Islam is frequently associated with these things – too frequently at times. It is not so that it is always wrongly associated with these things. It’s just a fact of life. Not all Muslims want to bomb the hell out of people – but some do. If more of those who don’t do so spoke up against those who do, we might see changes that don’t necessitate this gagging.

As for human rights, well, this blog and others and commentators the world over have rehearsed that argument many times. Women under Islam? Gays under Islam? Go figure.

We know what will happen. The nuttier religions and sects – not just Islam – will be using this to try to stamp on freedom of expression. They do it now; they’ll do it all the more with this sort of nonsense in place.

“This is just the latest shot in an intensifying campaign of UN resolutions that dangerously seek to import Islamic anti-blasphemy prohibitions into the discourse of international human-rights law,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent human-rights monitoring group in Geneva.

“Human rights were designed to protect individuals – to guarantee every person free speech and free exercise of religion – but most certainly not to shield any set of beliefs, religion included. These resolutions legitimise the criminalisation of free speech in countries like Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia,” Neuer continued. “Muslim moderates, bloggers, women seeking basic freedoms – all of these will be the first to suffer from the worsening climate of state repression in the name of state-supported Islamic orthodoxy.”

It remains to be seen how those who find themselves criticising religious privileges and religion’s attempts to gain unfair advantages in society – I’m thinking of the blogging community, journalists, other commentators, comedians and satirists who poke fun at religion, thinkers who do scholarly analyses of religion – will react to this.

I know a few bloggers who will raise a stiff middle finger to the UN’s General Assembly and its ridiculous attempt to gag us in the name of superstition. And it will be interesting to see which countries do alter their laws.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Ad watchdog knocks church's homophobic protest

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that an ad in a local paper in Northern Ireland – placed by Sandown Free Presbyterian Church ahead of this summer’s Pride event in Belfast – breached its code.

The 540-word ad was inserted in the Belfast News Letter on 1 August, calling gay people perverts and urging “religious” people publicly to oppose gay rights and Pride events.

Pink News cites a BBC reports that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has “ruled that the ad breached decency codes”.

The story continues, “It reportedly said the advert must not appear again and in future ‘particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of sexual orientation’.”

The ASA has refused to comment on the BBC report.

The offending ad read:

The act of sodomy is a grave offence to every Bible believer who, in accepting the pure message of God’s precious word, express the mind of God by declaring it to be an abomination.

This unequivocal statement clearly articulates God’s judgment upon a sin that has been only made controversial by these who are attempting to either neutralise or remove the guilt of their wrongdoing.

The issue of human rights is no longer a basis for this parade, as successive governments have legislated for the lowering of the age of consent, the authorisation of civil partnerships and the inheritance rights of a nominated partner.

This parade is not a welcome addition to our city, neither is it a positive celebration of a profitable lifestyle flaunting a form of sexuality that generations of men and women have righteously resisted and by gods grace will continue to resist.

Yeah, right.

Pink News tells us that the News Letter has said that it will examine the ASA adjudication, which has not been made public yet.

It was the Rev. Ian Paisley Sr, a former First Minister of Northern Ireland and noted homophobe who shouts a lot, who founded the Free Presbyterian Church 56 years ago. The church mounts an annual protest against Belfast Pride.

“Last year,” says Pink News, “veteran politician Paisley resigned as leader of the Church after coming under pressure from its members over gay rights issues.

“The fundamentalist Christian sect were outraged that Mr Paisley and other members of his Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) ignored their objections to government financial support for Pride marches, which they called a ‘celebration of sodomy’.”

Cop who sought a cop-out

A police officer who, according to the rabidly homophobic Christian Institute, has been “discriminated against for traditional beliefs” is due to have his case heard this week at a disciplinary tribunal.

PC Graham Cogman, who’s 49 and comes from North Norfolk, has been a copper for about 15 years.

But, says the CI of Cogman’s intention to take his employers to an employment tribunal on the issue:

PC Cogman is taking the unprecedented action as a serving policeman after a series of complaints and investigations suggesting he is “homophobic” – something he strenuously denies. He says that the “over the top” promotion of homosexual rights within Norfolk Police makes being a Christian policeman, or an officer with traditional family values, extremely difficult, unless a person is prepared to ignore his or her conscience.

It then goes on to tell Cogman’s story:

In 2006, PC Cogman was working at the force’s Great Yarmouth headquarters when gay liaison officers put “politically correct” pressure on all colleagues to wear a pink ribbon supporting Gay History Month. PC Cogman claims police stations were flooded with homosexual literature, posters, including the promotion of a gay quiz night in pubs. As a member of the Police force, an organisation which he feels is charged with upholding traditional standards of freedom of speech and association, he emailed colleagues with an alternative view on the subject, stating his Christian views and reminding them that Christians, and other members of society, whom they serve as officers, believed homosexual acts were wrong in God’s eyes.

PC Cogman was subsequently accused of failing to be tolerant and banned from using the force’s internal email system. When the event re-occurred 12 months later, PC Cogman again protested, especially when the promoters wanted to use the Rainbow Symbol, which has special significance for many Christians. The officer was summoned to a full disciplinary hearing. On the strong advice of lawyers, and because he was told he would lose his job otherwise, he pleaded guilty to a breach of the police code of practice and was fined the maximum, £1,200. When PC Cogman then added a Christian text to his computer screen saver, he was questioned again and in April 2008, he was interviewed about his faith and beliefs. He now faces a further full disciplinary hearing and is in fear of losing his job.

Perhaps no one should be forced to wear pink ribbons, but he didn’t have to do the cyber-preaching to his colleagues. Then we get, “As a member of the Police force, an organisation which he feels is charged with upholding traditional standards of freedom of speech and association . . .” What does he mean? That only “traditional” ideas should be talked about? Just what are “traditional” standards of freedom of speech? His standards? Just his conservative Christian standards? Are only “traditional” standards of freedom of speech acceptable within the police force?

He sent homophobic emails out. The rules say no homophobia.

The Daily Telegraph said back in July:

PC Cogman, a father of two, said reconciling his religious beliefs with his job was becoming more difficult because the force’s stance on homosexuality was at odds with his religious views.

“The blatant support for homosexual rights in Norfolk Police makes being a Christian officer extremely difficult,” he said.

Well, things change. Gays have fought long and hard to be recognised as equal to straights, and people in positions of authority should be ready to deal with that. Religion, after all, is something that can be ignored. One’s sexuality isn’t.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Let's hear it for the heroes

The Sunday Times:

The Centre for Social Cohesion has produced a publication which details the cases of almost 30 Europeans born to Muslim parents who are risking their lives to speak out against aspects of their faith and culture. The most important rarely receive more than passing attention. But they deserve our focus. For the risks that they – and many other reformers – are taking will in the end be for us all.

But our government is far too keen to bend over backwards to appease those who whine and bleat, not realising that by so doing they’re inviting Islamisation of the UK to creep further and further into the host culture. Once it reaches a critical point, it will be too late, and gays and women can kiss goodbye to whatever freedoms they have.

We’ve seen how sharia courts are operating in Britain, with the government’s blessing. Some hope for justice for women there.

And, yes, it is time we gave credit to the brave ones who stand up as ex-Muslims or as those who speak out against aspects of their benighted “faith”.

The Sunday Times piece – written by Douglas Murray – is praising of those who stand up:

The individuals profiled range from cabinet ministers to journalists, writers, academics, artists and even pop singers. Most are in trouble for having criticised elements of what they see in Europe’s Muslim communities, particularly the treatment of women. Nyamko Sabuni, the Swedish minister for integration and gender equality, has been the subject of death threats since speaking out against female genital mutilation and proposing that all Swedish schools should have mandatory gynaecological examinations to discourage the practice.

In Denmark, Manu Sareen, a city councillor and social worker who helped victims of “honour violence”, was forced to give up his job after being approached on the way to his office by two men who told him that if he helped more of their women he would be killed.

Governments across Europe, including our own [UK], make regular pronouncements about helping moderate Muslim voices to emerge above the din of radicals and radical-affiliated groups who have such a knack of grabbing the headlines. But the truth is that many of the individuals detailed in Victims of Intimidation either never had, or took a long time to get, the support they deserved.

As an example of someone who wants to doff the shackles of a conservative (I would say Dark Ages) belief system, at least as far as women’s right to self-expression is concerned, Murray cites Deepika Thathhaal (or Deeyah), a Norwegian-born pop singer based in London, who was attacked on stage at a concert in Oslo and “has had her life repeatedly threatened. She has been criticised for her dress, dancing, music and her music video ‘What Will It Be?’ which highlights the victims of ‘honour killings’.”

As Deeyah has said herself: “What’s been a hard and sad thing for me to realise is how not one single person from the religious establishment within the community has shown any support.” Earlier this year she launched a project called Sisterhood to support female Muslim rappers and singers. Daud Abdullah, deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (who both the government and the Conservative Party continue to deal with) responded to this modern woman’s right to self-expression by saying: “The moral framework of Islam has already been laid down and women should not push beyond its boundaries for the sake of commercial gain.”

Islam has a job recognising that women might wish to push beyond the boundaries for any gain, it seems, including basic equalities.

But when did Gordon Brown or any of his Cabinet stand up and unequivocally denounce this sort of attitude, and say they will not deal on a formal basis with an organisation that holds these views? If it were a nonreligious organisation it would be denounced by equalities ministers and PC do-gooding organisations throughout the country.

If it’s religious – and especially if it’s Islam – it must be tiptoed around on eggshells.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Keeping up with the Jones saga

Here's another update on the Welsh poet Patrick Jones and his book of poetry, which Waterstone’s book chain would not let him sign and read at its Cardiff store, in spite of an agreement.

You’ll remember from our posts (this link will harvest them all, including this one) that the Welsh Lib Dems invited Jones to read some of the poems – including, we assume, the “offending” one that has got some Christians, led by well-known pillock Stephen Green of Christian Voice, twitching and threatening hellfire – in a room at the Senedd (Parliament building).

A couple of AMs (Assembly Members) have now objected, though, it seems. An independent, Trish Law, thinks the poems “blasphemous” (although there is no longer a law of blasphemy) and is seeking to ban the reading.

Jones has told the New Humanist blog the that the AMs are now trying to get the reading cancelled due to “blasphemy and profanity”.

The BBC’s correspondent Betsan Powys tells us on her BBC blog that Trish Law, the independent AM for Blaenau Gwent, has written to the Assembly’s presiding officer, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, whingeing about the reading. Oddly enough, Law upholds the freedom of speech, she says. And yet,

While I uphold freedom of speech I cannot condone the reading of blasphemous, obscene and perverted poems in the National Assembly. We are still a Christian country, yet one that acknowledges and readily accepts other religious beliefs and values. So while we would not tolerate other religions and religious leaders being insulted through verse or deed neither should we expect Christ and Christianity to be subjected to a tirade of anti-Christian rhetoric and profanity.

I implore you to put a stop to this reading on December 11 in the name of decency and humanity.

We’re a Christian country? Speak for yourself, Trish. There are a fair few Christians in it, and lot of sceptics, too. But those who give more than a bit of lip service to it are in a minority in the UK, and I suspect Wales, too. And who says we “would not tolerate other religions and religious leaders being insulted through verse or deed”? All belief systems are fair game. Therefore so is any religious leader.

Meanwhile, a Conservative AM, Jonathan Morgan, is also seeking to censor, but for slightly different reasons:

Patrick Jones seems to think that the freedom of speech is a convenient shield to be used when under attack for being offensive. In exercising that freedom, and in respecting it, we should do so responsibly. I do not believe that AMs should be wading into the debate by hosting a reading. It is a mistake and opens up the institution to the accusation that it is siding with one opinion without giving the other the same chance of expression.

Hat tip Freethinker

Court will hear the opposition to the Proposition

Some good news reaches us from the Golden State. The California Supreme Court has said it will hear a case against the passing of Proposition 8, the vote (held on the same day as the presidential election) that proposes a change in the State Constitution to make marriage strictly a man–woman affair.

Fifty-two per cent of voters polled in favour of Proposition 8, causing heartache and disappointment to those who planned to marry.

Around 18,000 gay and lesbian couples tied the knot between June, when the court struck down the ban that was in place, and November, when it was put back again, prompting some spirited opposition.

“If permitted to stand,” says a story in Pink News, “Proposition 8 would be the first time an initiative has successfully been used to change the California Constitution to take way an existing right only for a particular group. Such a change would defeat the very purpose of a constitution and fundamentally alter the role of the courts in protecting minority rights.”

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Animals suffer to appease Muslim prisoners

News of yet more creeping Islamisation and kowtowing to unreasonable religious demands comes to us from Scotland, where it’s reported that the entire population of a young offenders’ institution have to eat cruelly slaughtered meat because there are some among them with religious sensitivities.

Yes, it’s Muslims again. The institution concerned is Polmont, whose managers have been told not to source all their meat from halal butchers, but have continued to do so, according to the Daily Express, “to avoid ‘prejudicing the position’ of the handful of religious inmates”.

The point is that animal suffering should not be condoned, no matter how many Muslim prisoners there are. If they don’t like non-halal meat, let them take the veggie alternatives. It’s bad enough that our supine, kowtowing government has allowed ritual slaughter at all, in spite of a damning report from the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) in June 2003, which said ritual slaughter should be banned forthwith.

“FAWC said it wanted an end to the exemption currently allowed for Kosher and Halal meat from the legal requirement to stun animals first,” says the BBC report linked to above, which continues:

It says cattle can take up to two minutes to bleed to death – amounting to an abuse of the animals.

“This is a major incision into the animal and to say that it doesn’t suffer is quite ridiculous,” said FAWC chairwoman, Dr Judy MacArthur Clark.

Compassion in World Farming backed the call, saying: “We believe that the law must be changed to require all animals to be stunned before slaughter.”

But oh, no: that would hurt the itty-bitty sensitivities of cuddly-wuddly Jews and Muslims, wouldn’t it, and we wouldn’t want to hurt their special ickle sensitivities, would we? It’s religion, after all, cuddly, lovable religion, and that trumps everything – even ending barbaric cruelty to animals.

Anyway, these inmates wouldn’t know if the meat were not halal, would they? They could just take their choice and hope that it is. If they suspect that it’s not, tough. There are alternatives.

And this is nothing to do with prisoners’ rights. We acknowledge those. It’s to do with a society’s right to ensure that the animals it uses for food are treated as humanely as possible, and to demand that its government act with compassion, instead of bowing to religious pressure. The meat industry is bad enough in its conventional dealings with the domestic animal kingdom. Adding the stress of allowing an animal to watch itself bleed to death is something else.

British “justice”

For an interesting analysis of Britain’s kowtowing to a primitive, foreign and unfair court system, which it allows to run alongside its own secular system, disadvantaging women, turn to the International Herald Tribune.

Perhaps it can look with a little more objectivity at the issue. But anyone reading the article cannot help but think we’re heading for disaster by allowing incomers and their descendants just to set up courts according to their own religion and expect the host country to sit back and see British women – for that is what these Muslim women are – being treated like shit in deference to Dark Ages “justice”.

We’ve seen how violence is treated, too, in a case we’ve reported on this blog (see second indented extract quoted there) that told how violent assailants had just been told to go away and have counselling and consult the odd mojo man – sorry, imam. All to the detriment of the women victims.

The fact is that these “judges” have no specialist knowledge of British jurisprudence, by which all citizens should be judged, not just those who aren’t Muslims, and the British government is lying supine and allowing yet more creeping Islamisation because it is too gutless to take decisive action and say enough is enough, this is Britain, this is our system, you will abide by it or go elsewhere.

See Pink Triangle’s last post on the issue here.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Poetic justice, Part II

More poetic justice for the Welsh poet Patrick Jones has come from the book chain Borders, who say they’re organising a signing and reading for 11 December – the same day Jones is due to read his “blasphemous” poem to the Senedd (the Welsh Parliament).

The story so far is that Waterstone’s cancelled a reading and signing at their Cardiff shop after bully tactics from some pathetic little outfit called Christian Voice, based in West Wales, where a large percentage of its membership, Stephen Green, lives.

The latest news comes from New Humanist’s blog, which tells us that Jones has emailed it to say:

Welsh AMs [Assembly Members] are now trying to get the reading cancelled at the Welsh Assembly due "to blasphemy and profanity in the poems" and that "the UK is a Christian country" and "believe in freedom of speech . . . but" – and I promise I have not sent an email or invited them or anything!!! I think it goes to show the knee jerk reactions that abound.

Also Borders have stepped in and we will be launching the book on Dec 11th at the Cardiff store with a further reading in London's Borders – which i hope will show the way that it should have been handled and that the issue was not how Christian Voice heard of the book but their reaction and their destruction of free speech. The venues I am reading at (and I could be reading any poem – even Rowan Williams!) are being bombarded and threatened with calls and emails from CV members and some are quite upset and anxious about this

Seems like that book of poems will sell and sell and sell. Christian fundies have got to be good for something, it seems!

By the way, we’ll be running an article in the next issue of G&LH on this saga, and will print the “offending” poem that speaks of sexual relations (tut-tut!) between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

Meanwhile, enjoy the background here (where you'll get the first five posts in reverse chronological order) and here.
Hat tip: MediaWatchWatch

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Religious bullying

The findings of a survey showing that one in four young people from across all religions is being bullied because of his or her religious beliefs should come as no surprise. Kids whose parents subscribe to different superstitions are often kept in different environments called “faith” schools.

The finding comes from a report by Beatbullying, the UK’s leading bullying prevention charity, published today and reported by the think tank Ekklesia.

“The findings will contribute to concerns that faith schools are fuelling serration on the basis of faith,” says Ekklesia. “The report also addressed the bullying of atheists.”

Ekklesia then quotes the report as saying:

There is little or no support, few outlets and limited provision provided for young people to talk about their faith. Almost half of young people do not talk about religious or faith issues at all.

Religion, faith or perceived faith background arguably mediates peer relationships and interactions. 1 in 5 young people report[s] friendships with people largely from the same religious background, arguably indicating a level of segregation and religious intolerance.

The group that produced the report, Beatbullying, runs Interfaith bullying-prevention programmes, funded by the UK government, to divert the behaviour of those using their superstitious belief systems as a reason to bully their peers.

Proposition 8's terminator?

All may not be lost for the proponents of same-sex marriage in California. As well as a spirited reaction to the vote on 4 November to pass Proposition 8, making marriage something possible only between opposite-sex partners, the state’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, reckons the state Supreme Court will reverse that vote, which effectively overturned an earlier Supreme Court ruling.

“For me,” said Terminator star Arnie, “marriage is between a man and a woman. But I don’t want to ever force my will on anyone,” he said on ABC television’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

“I think that the Supreme Court was right and that everyone should have the right.

“So the Supreme Court, you know, I think ought to go and look at that again. And we’ll go back to the same decision. I think that they will. And I think that the important thing now is to resolve this issue in that way.”

See the full story in Pink News here.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Lord of the dance

Mandy on Strictly Come Dancing? Can you believe it?
But the new UK business secretary Peter (now Lord) Mandelson has indeed hinted that he’d like to appear on the programme, having watched journalist John Sergeant put through his paces on this TV talent show (which leaves me cold, but most people seem to like it).

“It would be nice to be asked,” Mandy said, having admitted that he'd felt some degree of envy watching Sergeant.

Morality does not come from religion

"Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake," advertisements will be appearing on Washington, DC, buses starting next week and running through December. The expected responses from infantile religious spokespeople have been prominently reported in the media and, as usual, they have been treated as if their comments are obviously true. (See also our earlier post.)

The Newsmax story said, “Some experts from religious groups criticised the campaign, saying that morality and the intention to do good is based on belief in God.”

Bill Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League, responded in a press statement, saying, “Codes of morality, of course, have always been grounded in religion. We know that militant secularists are busy flexing their muscles these days, but is it too much to expect them to act rationally?”

Such responses are a sad reflection on the education system.

Morality must be, and always has been, distinct from religion. Otherwise the actions of the gods could never be judged as morally right or wrong. One example should suffice even for the likes of Bill Donohue.

The god of the Judaists, Christians, Muslims and Mormons is reported in the book of Exodus in the Bible as having sent an angel to kill the entire first born in Egypt, excepting only the chosen few. The festival of Passover is said to commemorate the event. But does this fable describe a moral action? Anyone who says yes it does, or no it does not, rather than that they cannot say because it was an act of God, demonstrates that actions can be judged as moral or immoral without any reference to religions.

It is necessary to challenge these religious claims because media bodies like the BBC report the comments and give religions status they do not deserve.

Interesting times

“No one in California political circles has ever seen such a speedy response to a single political event. And it’s spreading across the country.”

That “single political event”, in case you hadn’t guessed, was the trashing of same-sex marriage, thanks to a lot of religious influence, and money, supporting Proposition 8, the change to the State Constitution in California to make marriage strictly a man–woman affair.

The writer of the passage above in the Mercury News in California, Mary Ann Ostrom, continues:

While leaders of the No on 8 campaign say the grass-roots activities underscore the deep resentment gays feel in losing the right to marry, backers of Proposition 8 say they have become the target of an ugly, anti-democratic witch hunt. They say printing the names of people who donated to the yes cause and circulating “blacklists” on the Web unfairly penalize small donors who believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage.

She quotes Assemblyman Mark Leno of San Francisco, a leader in the gay-marriage movement: “We’re in the midst of a social change. Remember the riots, the dogs, the fire hoses when they tried to integrate the public school system. It was tumultuous. That’s what happens when you go through social changes, and there’s going to be quite a bit more tumult.”

Ostrom continues:

Backers of gay marriage can’t fully explain the aggressive response, but some suggest a newfound spirit of activism, fueled by the organizing capacity of the Internet, is at work. And a poorly organized No on 8 campaign, mostly run by Sacramento insiders, has prompted gay activists and others to take matters into their own hands.

Perhaps those who oppose equality for all are about to live in interesting times.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Poetic justice

The saga of the poet Waterstone’s kicked out of their Cardiff shop has taken a new twist: Patrick Jones has now been invited to read his “blasphemous” poem to the Welsh Assembly.

(In case you need the background, click here for all the posts we’ve carried. Briefly, Patrick Jones wrote a collection of poems (pictured), and the book chain Waterstone’s agreed that he could stage a reading and signing at its Cardiff store, but pulled out when Christians threatened to disrupt the event.)

According to the website of Christian Vice – sorry, Voice – the Liberal Democrats’ culture spokesman in the Senedd (Parliament), Peter Black, has invited Jones “to insult Jesus”.

What Peter Black actually says – and this is taken from the Welsh Lib Dems’ website – is:

I was disappointed that Waterstone’s capitulated to the narrow bigotry of Stephen Green’s Christian Voice and cancelled a reading by Patrick Jones. I can understand that they would not want their staff and their premises subject to the sort of disruption that this fringe group were threatening. Christian Voice’s actions amount to the sort of moral bullying and censorship that has no place in a democratic society.

Stephen Green and his supporters have every right to object to the contents of this book, but they do not have the right to prevent other people reading it or listening to its author read from it. After appearing with Patrick on a radio phone-in, I decided to invite Patrick to come to the Assembly to do a reading here.

Art can only thrive when artists are free to express themselves. I’m pleased that we have found a way to ensure that people can hear Patrick’s poems and make their own [minds up?] on them.

Patrick’s work “The Guerilla Tapestry” was read at the celebration to mark the opening of the Assembly. I’m sure many people will look forward to hearing his latest work in the next month.

Stephen Green – who is a large percentage of Christian Vice, we suspect – has this to say on his website:

This is a creepy event at which Jesus-hating AM’s [Assembly Members] can swoon over poems packed with hatred for Christianity and which speak of Mary Magdalene and the poet having sex with the Lord Jesus Christ. They will also hear Jones’ unfettered hatred of Christianity, which he has somehow managed to convince himself is indistinguishable from Islam.

What they will not hear is Jones insult the prophet Mohammed. He dare not do that at all, let alone in the sexual way he insults Jesus Christ, whom he sees as a soft target.

Christians in Wales must not take this lying down. We need to stand up for our Lord against this attack on His honour and on the Church itself by Peter Black. He has gone out of his way to show contempt for Christians in Wales. As he is the LibDem Culture Spokesman, that means insulting Jesus Christ is now official LibDem policy. The LibDems have thus become a political party Christians can no longer in conscience vote for or take any part in.

Oh, dear! Can we just get one thing out of the way? I don’t think atheists, agnostics, sceptics, call us what you will, actually hate Jesus. If he existed at all, we can know nothing about him. How can you hate that which you know not? Only religionists can do that. Jesus of Nazareth may have been a nice guy within the context of the mores of his times. Who knows?

What we detest is what some – not all – Christians have done in his name. They seek to censor and to censure, to punish and to prevent, to hold up their own beliefs as the way and the truth and the life for all.

But Green uses the black-or-white tactic: if you’re not with us, you’re against us. In his case, if you explore Jesus through art, if you criticise him, if you explore what people have done in his name, then you’re against him and everything he did and stood for. Even if we knew his life story in that amount of detail, it would be impossible to disapprove of everything. Hate is a pretty powerful, all-enveloping word. It’s not a black-or-white affair.

To talk of “Jesus-hating” is a bit OTT, not to mention rich, coming from someone who seems to hate everything that is not Jesus, or intimately connected with him and the myths that have followed him.

Back to Jones. Yes, there is a line in a poem called “Hymn” that talks of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in a sexual context, but it’s hardly blasphemy (not that such a crime exists any more, Stephen), and the whole poem is a comment on religion (among other things) in general. Here’s a taste:

just like mary magdelene
i fucked jesus
just like mary magdelene
i have been deemed useless
i shall drift to dust [. . .]

The Welsh Assembly reading is scheduled for 11 December.

Wales’s national daily, the Western Mail, sides with Jones, too.

“ ‘Do we live in Iran?’ asked a bewildered Mr Jones,” it said yesterday, and then answered the question:

No, we do not, and this censorship should not have been allowed to happen. Waterstone’s must have been aware of the content of Mr Jones’ poetry – it is still for sale in their shops – so someone must have been satisfied that the work was appropriate for a public reading.

Stephen Green, the man behind Christian Voice, has a right to object to the contents of Mr Jones’ work, but Mr Green and his followers do not have the right to prevent others from reading, buying or listening to it. Mr Jones invokes the example of Iran; there are plenty of other eerie historical parallels that spring to mind.

One of the pillars on which our way of life is built is that the free exchange of ideas allows opposing points of view to be put and argued in a public or a private arena. The strength of an idea can be enough for it to carry the day – and even to go on and change society.

Mr Green may feel he has right on his side: the way to test this is through discussion and debate, not through disruption. If he thinks his ideas are the stronger, let him put them in a reasonable and calm manner.

The paper reports that Green and his cronies plan to protest at the Senedd, and the Mail agrees, as I’m sure we all do, that it is right and proper that they should be allowed to.

Thanks to Barry at the Freethinker for alerting me to this one. See his take on it here.

You can also see Peter Black’s own blog piece on the issue. There’s an interesting swipe at Patrick Jones among the comments that seems to think that insulting the mother of a living person is the same as referring to a fictitious incident concerning a mythological figure a couple of millennia ago.

We’ll also be carrying a feature on this issue in the next issue of G&LH.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

On the buses – again

The American Humanist Association (AHA) have launched a bus campaign with an atheist message. They announced the $40,000 campaign – which they’re calling a “godless holiday” campaign – this week.

More than 200 placards will be placed in and on the Metro buses in Washington, DC, with the message that doing good is a human thing, and doesn’t require a belief in God or gods.

However, the Newsmax story linked to above says, “Some experts from religious groups criticized the AHA’s campaign, saying that morality and the intention to do good is based on belief in God.”

Experts? Experts on what? They’re twats. Arrogant ones, at that.

Peter Sprigg, vice president of policy at the conservative Family Research Council (FRC), told that sustainable morality is grounded in a belief in a higher being.

“I don’t think it’s possible to sustain long-term morality without religion,” Sprigg said. “If there is no higher being obliging humans to act morally and ethically, why should we do it?”

Sprigg emphasized he thinks that atheists can act morally, but he also said that society would shift towards greed and selfishness without a belief in a higher power.

Who does this pillock think he is to sit in judgement on those who can think for themselves without the need of some old scriptures to “guide” them? What utter drivel!

Then there’s that other waste of space, Bill Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League, who responded to the AHA’s campaign in a press statement thus: “Codes of morality, of course, have always been grounded in religion. We know that militant secularists are busy flexing their muscles these days, but is it too much to expect them to act rationally?”

Rationally? Really? A Catholic nutcase talking about acting rationally? You couldn’t make it up!

The placards will read, “Why believe in God?”, adding, “Just be good for goodness’ sake.”

We have a bus campaign in the UK, too, of course, as we’ve reported on this blog here and here.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Poetic injustice, Part V

The Waterstone’s saga continues – but, then, sagas have a habit of doing that.

In case you're not familiar with the tale, see here, here, here and here for the background.

I’ve just received a second email from Waterstone’s MD, Gerry Johnson – this one unsolicited, but referring to my first one to him – that makes allegations against the offended poet, Patrick Jones.

Robinson says:

The poetry reading was organised and planned in good faith between our store and the publisher. However, it would appear that shortly before the event took place, the author deliberately took provocative action to create a furore around the publication of his book. These actions were taken without prior discussion with the store or their consent and altered the nature of the pre-agreed event. For this reason and because of the risk of disruption to the store, our staff and customers we felt it appropriate to cancel the event.

The publishers, Cinnamon Press, deal with this on their website, thus:

I [we don’t know who “I” is, but presumably one of Cinnamon's team] was also told on the phone that Waterstone’s considered Patrick Jones had taken actions that instigated the cancellation of the event. Having followed this up with the author it is clear that this is not the case. In fact the leader of Christian Voice [Stephen Green] had published remarks several months ago that Patrick had responded to in verse. This was a separate and historical incident and not related to the launch in any way. The leader of Christian Voice is well known for his attempts to sabotage anything that does not meet with his approval and there is no doubt that he would have orchestrated this bigotry even if he’d never previously heard of Patrick. The cancellation was not due to Patrick’s actions, but only due to Waterstone’s decision to accede to a very small threat in a way not consistent with your previous policy. To cave in to threats of disruption or any implied threats of violence is an appalling betrayal of civil values. If threats were made (or implied, as seems likely from the language of “going to the battleground” and being prepared to “fight”) it is a matter for the police, not for capitulation.

Poetic injustice, Part IV

The UK book chain Waterstone’s cowardice in the face of Christian fundies is a story that, as journos say, has legs. It’s not going away in a hurry.

In a nutshell (but see here, here and here for the background), Patrick Jones writes a book of poems, some are a bit racy in the eyes of some Christians, Waterstone’s in Cardiff say they’ll host a signing and reading for Wednesday of this week, said Christians start bleating, Waterstone’s in Cardiff say oh shit the Christians are coming we’d better cancel this event.

You can see how concerned some influential people are from the comments on Part III of this saga below (or at this link), one of which is from a representative of the publisher of Patrick Jones’s book of poetry, Cinnamon Press.

Cinnamon have published an open letter to Gerry Johnson, the MD of Waterstone’s, on a page of their website that’s devoted to the issue. In part, it reads:

Dear Gerry Johnson

Cinnamon Press do not consider the action of cancelling an agreed launch at the last minute in the face of protest from small, but orchestrated group of religious extremists either reasonable or necessary.

The commitment to host the launch was reneged on at a point when we could do nothing about it and whilst we were travelling and out of contact, involving us in incurring considerable costs as well as the lost revenue of sales. As a small press this kind of loss can effectively wipe out all profit from a poetry title. I have no doubt that if Cinnamon Press made a commitment to Waterstone’s and cancelled at the last minute causing costs we would be receiving a bill.

We are also not convinced by the reason given for cancellation. Waterstone’s was one of the major supporters of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses – the decision to stock it and promote it in your stores caused more than potential disruption. Although Waterstone’s made it clear they could not tolerate death threats against members of Waterstone’s staff, they did not give in to these demands and threats, so it seems more than disingenuous to claim it is not appropriate to have a bit of shouting or boycotting at the launch of a small press poetry collection [. . .]

I was told by your PA that Patrick Jones had been informed of the cancellation and would not be attending the launch. This was not the case. Patrick had not agreed to not attend and turned up with a large crowd of people. Due to misinformation we were no longer there or would have held the launch in the street.

As it is we will be considering with Patrick how best to proceed and whilst Cinnamon will not take any part in organising disruption I am aware that many of the book’s supporters are minded to plan non-violent disruption to Waterstones stores until the decision is reversed. It is my opinion that the decision should be reversed without need for counter-protest and that the expenses of re-scheduling the launch should be at Waterstone’s expense.

There’s more. We don’t know who the “I” is who is writing the letter, unfortunately, but he or she ends with the contact details for Gerry Johnson: (or phone 020 8742 3800).

The letter adds that Stephen Green “is well known for his attempts to sabotage anything that does not meet with his approval and there is no doubt that he would have orchestrated this bigotry even if he’d never previously heard of Patrick”.

Cinnamon have prepared a short video. It's on YouTube, and is linked to in one of the comments in Part III, but you can see it below.

Christian bigot employment appeal due in a month

That woman in Islington, London, who would not, on religious grounds, do what she was employed to do but preferred to whine to an employment tribunal instead, is set to have her case heard again on 10 December, according to the rabidly homophobic Christian Institute. This time, it’s the appeal by her employers that will be heard.

Lillian Ladele didn’t like the fact that, as a registrar, she’d have to splice filthy queers in civil partnerships as well as nice heterosexuals like herself.

So she did workarounds and some colleagues complained and it led to the employment tribunal. She won.

If common sense prevails on 10 December, the tribunal will decide that she should have done the job she was employed to do, even though civil partnerships were not law when she took it on. Job descriptions change all the time, and, as long as her bosses were not telling her to eat babies, she should have got on with it and put her religious convictions (which she’s entitled to hold, but not let hinder her work) behind her. Or she should have left the job.

The egregious Christian Institute are bankrolling her appeal, just as they did her case before the original tribunal in July, when, say the CI, “three employment judges unanimously ruled that Miss Ladele had suffered harassment and religious discrimination at the hands of her employer, Islington Council”.

You can see the 10 July BBC news report in the video below.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Connecting in Connecticut

Well, they were disappointed in California, but same-sex marriage is now legal in Connecticut.

New Haven Superior Court Judge Jonathan Silbert ruled at a brief hearing yesterday that gay and lesbian couples now may pick up marriage-licence forms at town and city clerks’ offices statewide.

Many gay and lesbian couples had planned planning ceremonies for yesterday.

The judge’s ruling followed a historic decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

The high court ruled 4–3 on 10 October that same-sex couples have the right to marry, as such, rather than accept a civil-union law designed to give them the same rights as married couples, as we have here in the UK, where our government decided to bow to religious pressure to ban the M word.

Poetic injustice, Part III

I’ve just had an email from Gerry Johnson, the MD of Waterstone’s (see our two posts, the earlier one here, the later one here, on how they got scared of a bunch of Christians and decided to kick a poet out of their Cardiff store, where he was supposed to be doing a signing and reading of his new collection of poems last night).

It just reiterates Waterstone’s position, really: they’re keeping the poet, Patrick Jones, on the shelves, but cancelled the event because they didn’t want trouble.

But, if they expected trouble, the people to call would have been the police. Instead, they bowed to that suitable case for treatment, Stephen Green, and his dog and his pet cockatoo (or whoever makes up the rest of his pathetic little organisation Christian Voice, which gives Christianity a bad name).

Anyway, here is Johnson’s response to an email from me complaining about the cancellation of the event:

Waterstone’s does not act as a censor and will not, and should not, dictate what customers may read. We will only remove a title from sale on the advice of the publisher. This is the case for Patrick Jones book, and it remains available from Waterstone’s. Any comments or complaints regarding the content of the book should be directed to the author or the distributor of the book, the Welsh Books Council.

Regarding the cancellation of the event arranged for this book, Waterstone’s simply took steps to prevent a disorderly event in the interests of our customers and staff.

Let your own views be known to Waterstone’s. Gerry Johnson can be phoned on 020 8742 3800 or emailed at His boss is Simon Fox of HMV. Get him on 020 7432 2000.

Poetic injustice, Part II

Stephen Green, the nutter who runs Christian Voice, has been trying to justify his insane little organisation’s protests against the Welsh poet whom book chain Waterstone’s kicked out of their Cardiff store yesterday.

This time the Beeb were justified in bringing on this loony, since it was he who caused this stamping on freedom of speech. (Usually, they and newspapers just wheel him on because they know he’s good for a lunatic quote or two.)

See the post below this one (or by clicking here) for background on how this cowardly act by Waterstone’s came about, and listen here to a BBC Wales recording of Green and the poet, Patrick Jones, arguing the toss (which has now been placed on the BBC story’s web page).

Toss is probably an apt word here: Green comes over as the tosser.

Incidentally, why not let your views be known to Waterstone's? Their managing director, Gerry Johnson, can be phoned on 020 8742 3800 or emailed at His boss is Simon Fox of HMV. Get him on 020 7432 2000. Make their lives hell.

Poetic injustice

It’s time to boycott Waterstone’s. The UK national bookseller chain has just kicked a poet out of its shop in Cardiff after protests from a nutty Christian group based in West Wales.

Patrick Jones – poet, playwright, filmmaker and brother of Nicky Wire, of the Welsh band the Manic Street Preachers – was supposed to be signing copies of his latest book of poems, Darkness is Where the Stars Are, there yesterday. But Christian hooligans complained – about just what, we’re not sure – and Waterstone’s caved in.

The story is here on the BBC Welsh news site. What is particularly galling is that the supine Waterstone’s spokesman said, grovelling to Christian superstitionists who may not even have read the book (we’re not told in this story), “The book remains available through Waterstone’s and we are very happy for that to be the case.

“However, we have a duty to our customers and booksellers regarding events that we organise, and we felt it prudent in this case.

“We don’t act as a censor. We stock books in the tens of thousands and would only remove them from sale on the advice of the publisher.”

So did the publisher, Cinnamon Press, advise removal? This story doesn’t tell us. Lazy journalism again.

What the story does tell us is that the nutcase Stephen Green, who probably makes up a large percentage of Christian Voice, said that this was “a triumph for the Lord, not for us”. This lunatic goes on, “The Lord had not even showed me what we should do at Waterstone’s, only that it should be Christlike.

“Just the knowledge that we were on our way has put the fear of God into the opposition.”

Well, it put the fear of something into the cowardly people at Waterstone’s, that’s for sure. Write to the bastards, tell them you won’t be using their stores, and ensure you tell them why. Be polite but firm, and use better punctuation than the BBC. They’re more likely to take you seriously.

Jones had been expecting to launch the book at the Cardiff Hayes branch of Waterstone’s on Wednesday night. I’ve seen several websites with his name coupled with that of Waterstone’s, all looking forward to the event.

But, a few hours before the planned event, the poet, who’s from Blackwood, Caerphilly county, was contacted by the company to tell him the event had been cancelled “to avoid potential disruption to our store”.

Jones was not going to be “beaten down”, by religious activists, he said, and signed copies for a small group of people in the street.

“I’m really proud of this book and I’m really sickened.

“There shouldn’t be censorship of this sort – it doesn’t set out to be offensive.”

He said he had not singled out Christianity in his poems, but was questioning beliefs in society.

UPDATE: Since posting, I've been looking at a few websites. The Sony BMG Music Entertainment website, on the page that heralded this signing session back in October, had this to say of the poetry in this volume:

The poetry is harrowing, compelling and psychologically acute [. . .] giving the reader an insight into the painful effects of domestic abuse, as well as addressing bullying, religious fundamentalism and the way children are taught at school.

Well, that vies us some idea, then. The religious fundamentalists don't like being called religious fundamentalists, it seems. It then carries a couple of endorsements: “very strong stuff” – Harold Pinter; “thoughtful, provocative and challenging, these poems engage and enrage” – Peter Tatchell. It goes on to give details of tour readings, so, if you missed the Waterstone's one because of caving in to religious fundamentalists, you can still catch him.

You can get the same information at the Columbia site. As I say above, several sites signpost this event, so it was widely anticipated.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Saudis – always good for a laugh

Saudi Arabia is sponsoring a discussion at the United Nations on – wait for it – religious tolerance starting today. Yes, you got me right: religious tolerance.

Pardon me while I snort with laughter.

Saudi Arabia has a special police force to ensure that only one narrow sect of Islam predominates in the kingdom.

It's a bit like asking Fred Phelps to host a conference on why gays should have equality.

Full story here in the International Herald Tribune.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Let religionists carry knives into Parliament building, says MEP

An MEP wants Sikhs to be able to carry knives into the European Parliament building.

She says they can carry them into Westminster, so why not the European Parliament?

Lib Dem MEP Liz Lynn was speaking as an all-party Sikh interest group is launched, but some Sikhs have been denied access to the Parliament building because they seem to think they have to carry a knife – a ceremonial thing called a kirpan.

No, they don’t. If it’s ceremonial and not a weapon, as they claim, why can’t they carry a representation of it? And what are they doing being allowed to carry weapons into Westminster, when anyone else would not be allowed to do so?

This loopy PC MEP puts forward this crazy logic: “I am deeply disappointed that the European Parliamentary authorities refuse to recognise the right of Sikh people to wear the kirpan.

“The kirpan is not a weapon: it is a religious symbol. This is not a question of security but one of religious freedom.”

Even if each and every Sikh who was allowed to enter a government building carrying a knife had only the purest of intentions (and that cannot, of course, be guaranteed), the fact that that weapon is on his person if he got into an contretemps – even by no fault of his own – is itself a security issue. If ten Sikhs are in a meeting, there are ten knives in the meeting.

And what if a religious type claimed it was his fundamental religious freedom to carry an AK-47?

Where I do agree with her is when she says, “I do not see why the rules should be different in the European Parliament.” Quite. The rules shouldn’t be different for the two parliaments. The knives should not be allowed into Westminster – unless, of course, everyone were allowed to carry one, which might not be wise.

When God is “pretty useless”

The Archwizard of Cant, Rowan “Dumbledore” Williams, has said that God was “pretty useless” when Islamic terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 11 September 2001.

This revelation comes in a new biography of Williams, who was a few streets away from the World Trade Center when it was hit. He’s said to have told an airline pilot in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity that God had not prevented it because he has given humans free will.

“The Archbishop and his companions feared they would suffocate in a smoke-filled room as the Twin Towers collapsed,” says Britain’s Telegraph. One of his friends put a hand on his shoulder and declared, “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather die with.”

Later in the story, the paper says:

According to Rupert Shortt’s new biography, the pilot asked him: “Where the hell was God?”

The book states: “Rowan’s answer was that God is useless at times like this.”

Well, I’ll let you into a little secret, Rowan. He’s probably pretty useless because it’s very, very unlikely that he’s there. Wake up. You’re a scholar.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Homophobic bus man sinks hate money into city academy

Brian Souter, that evil sod who was so hell-bent on keeping Scotland’s version of Section 28 (the clause in the Local Government Act that sought to prevent the “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities) has now sunk half a million into a city academy in England – and of course it will be pumping religion into impressionable kids’ minds.

And why is he sinking so much money into this project? Because its policy is not to “promote” homosexuality – although quite how you promote something that a kid either has or doesn’t is beyond me. It’s a bit like “promoting” the idea of having lungs.

“The city academy scheme, a flagship education policy of the [UK] Labour government, allows firms and entrepreneurs to take charge of schools in exchange for a fee,” says Scotland’s Herald newspaper. (Yes, and then they can force-feed their charges with as much superstitous nonsense as they like.)

It says that Souter’s Stagecoach, the bus company he owns, has “ploughed £500,000 into a city academy in Grimsby – the firm is unable to make a similar investment in a Scottish school as city academies have been blocked north of the Border”.

Scotland has some sense, it seems.

These city academies are notorious for being run by religious nutcases. Souter himself is a religious nutcase. It was his Christianity that informed his opposition to Section 28 (it was abolished eventually, anyway, so he wasted his money, thank goodness!) and is informing his “philanthropy” now.

Stagecoach’s accounts reveal that the transport company is funding the Oasis Academy Wintringham, a school catering for 1,100 pupils.

The school – which opened in September last year, replacing Wintringham School and is due to move into new buildings in January – is run by Christian group Oasis Community Learning (OCL) as a city academy.

Then we get to the nub:

A clue as to why Souter is offering financial support to the Wintringham academy is found in the school board’s sex and relationships policy, which states: “The Oasis Community Learning Board will not permit the promotion of homosexuality.”

Surprise, surprise!

The money will be paid out via the Souter Charitable Trust, his “personal vehicle for good causes” (and evil ones, too, if his opposition to human rights is anything to go by).

Souter is also a huge backer of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which is the majority party in the Scottish Parliament. This has prompted Labour MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) George Foulkes to say, “This shows there is a whole load of paradoxes about Souter’s support for the SNP. He is supporting a Scottish Nationalist party, but backing this sort of school in England.

“I just don’t understand how ordinary SNP members can support having him as their principal backer.”

Garry Otton, who for years wrote “Scottish Media Monitor” for ScotsGay magazine, and is the author of Sexual Fascism (about which I wrote an article in the print version of G&LH in 2001) is one of those leaving comments below the story. “[H]ow about getting religion out of schools altogether!” he says. “And what is a charity doing funding a school that is openly breaking international law by imposing on the human rights of young gay or bisexual kids in accessing appropriate support and education?”

Good question. But the nuttier Christians, who are fuelled by hate rather than love, are like that.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

You can give the missus a good kicking – if you're Muslim

It’s OK to beat hell out of the missus if you’re a Muslim. That, anyway, seems to be the perception among Muslims, if a headline in the UK’s Daily Telegraph is to be believed when it says, Muslim men “think they have God-given right to beat wives”, claims female Muslim medic.

But this is happening here in the UK, not merely in some benighted Muslim theocracy whose religious observance ensures it remains in the seventh century. The paper says domestic violence is more common in Muslim households because the male members of this “religion of peace” think wives are OK to use as a punchbag.

At least your average non-Muslim wife beater can blame it on the booze (not that that is an excuse – for any type of violence), but your Muslim man can’t. All he can say is that it’s part of his cultural tradition, informed by his religion.

The Telegraph tells it from the point of view of Fatima Husain, a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, who “has told how she sees Muslim women coming for treatment with strangle marks around their necks and bruises on their pregnant bumps”.

The paper goes on, “She also claimed that problems develop because many followers of Islam are fearful of discussing sex, contraception and infertility.”

Dr Husain, who works at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals in Berkshire, told the Muslim News that many women ask to be referred to her specialist clinics because she is a hijab-wearing Muslim, allowing her to discover the true scale of domestic violence in her religious community.

She said: “I’ve seen injuries on some of my patients that I wouldn’t dream would happen to pregnant women.

“I’ve seen strangle marks, finger marks on their necks and bruises on their pregnant abdomens.

“Domestic violence is supposedly equally divided amongst the various groups but I get the impression it is more common in Muslims.

“Some Muslim men think they have a God-given right to be physically violent to their spouses. I see the result of all this when they are admitted as my patients.”

Dr Husain went on: “I feel that it is important to talk about issues that are often avoided, especially by Muslims. These often cover areas to do with advanced fertility treatments, contraception issues and psychosexual problems.

“Unfortunately, many misconceptions have developed as a result of a lack of accurate medical information as well as the religious perspective.”

And this problem can only get worse if we allow domestic matters to be settled in sharia “courts”, as the second extract in this previous Pink Triangle blog post testifies.

No doubt our politicians will just throw more money at Muslim “community leaders” and trust them to come up with some “initiative”, instead of tackling it head-on and simply doling out the appropriate punishment for men who are violent, whether to their wives or anyone else, and thus getting the clearest of signals out to these people that violence will not be tolerated, whatever your religion.

The PC brigade would no doubt say that this is something that has to be tackled with a softly-softly approach, for the sake of the (failed) multiculturalism experiment, that it’s something that has to be tolerated for now, until we can spend millions on the “education” of these morons.

Doing the splits – again

A third diocese within America’s largely liberal Episcopal Church – part of the Anglican Communion – has decided to break away because it can’t stand poofs.

That’s simplifying it a bit, perhaps, but that’s what it amounts to. Give or take.

This one is Quincy in Illinois, described by the Washington Times as “theologically conservative”. It has broken away from the main Episcopal community “in a long-running dispute over biblical authority, homosexuality and other issues”.

“Two other dioceses – San Joaquin, based in Fresno, Calif., and Pittsburgh – have already split off,” says the Times. Next weekend, the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, will vote whether to follow suit.”

Not only is the Episcopal Church at odds with the barmy homophobes in the more conservative corners of the Anglican Communion, but there are, as we reported in August, splits within splits.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Heroes and villains

Two Robinsons have just got Stonewall awards: one called Gene and one called Iris – hero and villain, respectively.

That bloody woman (pictured) has been voted bigot of the year. I refer, of course, the latter of the two Robinsons, Iris, whom it’s hard to think of in any terms other than “that bloody woman” (as we have dubbed her on this blog several times).

She is the Northern Ireland politician – a Westminster MP and a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, chairing its Health Committee no less – who really thought that homosexuality could be “cured” by a psychiatrist she had hidden under her bed.

Well, she described him as “a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals trying to turn away from what they are engaged in”.

She uses that phrase “from what they are engaged in” in that distancing way, as one might pick up someone else’s dirty handkerchief by the corner and hold it at arm’s length while affecting a disgusted grimace.

Well, Stonewall have named her Bigot of the Year. Not that such an accolade will bother her, I’m sure. Indeed, she’ll probably see it as just that, an accolade, on the grounds that being hated by your enemy is a sign of your success. The more they hate you, the more effective you’ll believe you’ve been in doing whatever it is that’s got up their noses.

This damnable excuse for a human being is on record as having said, “There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children.”

Stonewall say she won the award “overwhelmingly”.

The Gene of the pair is the Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, the only out gay bishop in the Anglican Communion.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Creationism in the classroom

About a third of British teachers think creationism or its pal, intelligent design (creationism but it all took a lot longer), should be taught alongside evolution in classrooms.

This is according to a poll of more than 1,200 teachers. The poll was published to coincide with a week of UK TV programming dedicated to the evolution debate. The poll also showed that nearly a third (30.1 per cent) of schools already consider creationism or intelligent design to some extent during science lessons.

Nearly 50 per cent of teachers also agreed with Professor Michael Reiss’s sentiment that excluding alternative explanations to evolution is counterproductive and alienates pupils from science.

Almost 9 out of 10 (87.9 per cent) teachers took the view, pragmatically, that they should be allowed to discuss creationism or intelligent design in science, if pupils raise the question.

This was more or less Reiss’s position. He didn’t actually say creationism should be taught in science lessons, but his belief that it should be discussed got scientists twitching, and he eventually stepped down from a post as a director of the prestigious Royal Society, which said at the time:

As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the society, he will step down immediately as director of education – a part-time post he held on secondment. He is to return, full time, to his position as professor of science education at the Institute of Education.

And, of course, talking about it in class is OK. It’s a legitimate subject. “Look, kids, people once believed that Earth was created in six days by a deity. It probably seemed a plausible explanation at the time. There are many who don’t believe this, however. Many don’t even believe there is a God, but no one can know for sure. But the evidence for the creation of the universe is overwhelmingly . . .”

That’s teaching about it, not teaching it as fact. It's the way RE should be taught. It’s interesting to talk about in class, no doubt, as one might talk about characters in mythology, without trying to say they actually existed or exist.

Let’s hope that’s only as far as it goes.

Peace on Earth? Pull the other one!

A bunch of Catholics and Muslims have been chin-wagging all this week to try to reach common ground for Islam and Catholicism.

They’re discussing a document called A Common Word Between Us and You, which proclaims itself as an attempt to bring peace to the world by finding this common ground.

But they have problems. Real problems.

For a start, the god the Catholics believe in has a son and his pal the Holy Ghost – that three-in-one thing. It’s a ménage à trois posing as a ménage à un. The Muslim God – “You can call me Allah” – is strictly a loner.

There’s a bit in the Koran – Sura 3:64 – that denies the identity of the Catholic god (and, of course, that of most Christians). It goes, in part, something like, “Say: O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him.” To say that God/Allah has any sort of “partner” is blasphemy to Muslims. So get out of that one, you bunch of pontificating arseholes!

Previous Muslim entreaties to meet them halfway have really been a way for Muslims to say, “Psst. Wanna become a Muslim, brother?” In other words, no way are they going to step over the Catholic side and risk accusations of apostasy. Muslims like to kill people for that little transgression.

Then there’s another big stumbling block: their desiccated old scriptures. The Muslim worldview sees the Koran as a valid, authoritative source and that Muhammad was an authentic prophet. Christians don’t quite see it that way.

There are oodles of differences. They wanted to base their common ground on the idea of loving God above all things and loving your neighbour (just what Jesus is supposed to have said in the New Testament, though God knows where, and I can’t be arsed to look it up).

And that’s the easy bit. Those who actually believe in the god of their chosen religion, rather than pay lip service because dabbling in religion is sort of rather nice and you get to dress up, will of course love him/her/it. And loving your neighbour is just the sort of thing most people aspire to, whether they have these disturbing delusions about invisible friends or not.

Anyway, this document is being a bit naughty in suggesting that the “love thy neighbour” thing is a tenet of Islam. There’s nothing in the Koran that supports love of neighbour. Indeed, Islam teaches love of other Muslims; nonbelievers can either be converted or disposed of.

So a bunch of Catholics and imams have just had a nice little junket for a week, really, and there will be no peace on Earth – not as a result of this totemic little effort, anyway.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

A victory for hate

Well, the Catholics and others at the nuttier, more hate-filled, more evil end of the religious spectrum in the USA have a lot to crow about now that they’ve pissed on the parades of so many people by pushing for Proposition 8.

Proposition 8 was the move to change the State Constitution in California to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. It passed.

The sad story of one couple is told in the International Herald Tribune. They planned ahead for a wedding next spring, confident that the vote would fail. Then they learned it was looking very iffy, and dashed off to tie the knot, only to be told it had passed, with immediate effect.

As the paper puts it, “There was nowhere to turn except each other’s arms.”

It continues, “Combined with defeats on ballot measures in three other states, the outcome raised sobering questions for gay activists after an election full of triumphs for other liberal causes,” says the report. “Marriage bans prevailed in Arizona and Florida, while Arkansas voters approved a measure aimed at gays and lesbians that bans unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents.”

It goes on to say, “Religious groups, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Roman Catholic Church, played pivotal roles in pushing for the ban.”

Well, the religiofascists of the right had little to boast about when the presidential election result was finally announced. Now they can crow about this.

Let’s hope they feel really great about helping to cause so much misery to so many people by helping to bring about a situation that actually does them no tangible good, but satisfies their quota of hate for a while. But, then, that’s rabid right-wing Christians and Catholic mental cases for you.

At least it looks as if those who have already tied the knot can be assured that their knots will remain tied.