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Sunday, 28 February 2010

The freedom to restrict freedom

“The Roman Catholic Church will wade into the general election campaign next week with a controversial document condemning the loss of virtue in public life,” trumpets yesterday’s (London) Times.

The Times is calling this a pre-election manifesto, as if these damnable people were a political party. It’s one thing wishing to make a difference, and we all try to do that every time we write to our MP, help with some leafleting or just talk up our favoured political party in conversations in the pub.

But the influence Catholic bishops want to impose comes from Rome. I thought Henry VIII did away with that nonsense in the sixteenth century.

The Times goes on:

In their pre-election manifesto, Catholic bishops are expected to take a line that is economically to the left of centre but conservative on social issues such as marriage, education and care for the elderly.

Surprise, surprise!

They will argue for the right to religious freedom at a time when secularist campaigning is on the rise as never before. The document will also be interpreted as a warning to the Conservatives that their more liberal attitude to certain social issues, such as homosexuality, threatens to alienate a core block of swing voters in an election where the religious vote is regarded as crucial to the outcome.

Well, I think we’ve rehearsed all the invective sensible people want to throw at these pillocks a thousand times over.

You’ll note that they talk of freedom – freedom to impose restrictions on others, of course. They’re so infatuated by their imaginary friend that the irony completely bypasses them.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Kowtowing to religion – again

The gay Humanist educational charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) has expressed its dismay and disgust at the amendment included in the Children, Schools and Families Bill carried in the House of Commons yesterday. This will allow sex education to be taught in a way that “reflects” a school’s “religious character”.

The PTT secretary and my fellow blogger George Broadhead said, “Once again the government has kowtowed to religions by allowing faith schools to tailor their sex education lessons to their own beliefs.

“Why should atheist and Humanist parents have to send their children to faith schools and risk having their minds polluted by some of the reactionary teachings of these faiths?

“To echo the words of the British Humanist Association, the consequence of this Bill is that it will shift the focus of the law as it applies to faith schools away from the needs of children, towards the religious prejudices of the school, as if this is what the law should really be protecting. Who is education supposed to benefit – the child or the church?

“Faith schools now make up one-third of the total number and all three main political parties intend to expand them further. Unsurprisingly, a Stonewall survey revealed that a higher proportion of antigay bullying occurs in faith schools that in others. How is this going to be tackled if such schools are permitted to teach pupils that gay sexual relationships are sinful?

“New Labour has achieved a good deal in relation to gay rights and equality, but Harriet Harman has given way to the unelected Anglican Bishops in the House of Lords and Catholic pressure on the Equality Bill and now Ed Balls has evidently succumbed to that same pressure on the Children, Schools and Families Bill.”
See also:
Talking Balls
Kids will lose vital relationships education, say campaigners

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Talking Balls

So UK Schools Secretary Ed Balls thinks an amendment to a Bill that will allow schools to teach what’s right and wrong about sexuality isn’t a case of watering down the legislation.

In other words, this arsehole thinks that you can give “faith” schools the right to teach according to their “faith”, and still get it right.

In other words, you have a Bill that says you must teach the whole gamut – all kinds of relationships, contraception, the lot.

In other words, you teach a balance.

In other words, you don’t introduce exceptions.

OK, you say there won’t be exceptions.

But there will be exceptions, won’t there, you heap of drivel? They won’t be official, but they’ll be there. If schools can, as you tell the BBC, “say to their pupils we believe as a religion contraception is wrong”, then it’s teaching that it’s wrong, isn’t it?

What he says is that the schools cannot now “say that they are not going to teach them about contraception to children and how to access contraception” (yes, it's as muddled as that on the website), adding, “What this changes is that for the first time these schools cannot just ignore these issues or teach only one side of the argument.

“They also have to teach that there are different views on homosexuality. They cannot teach homophobia. They must explain civil partnership.”

Yes, you bloody . . . bloody politician, you (sorry, couldn’t think of a worse insult), but the school is the authority. Its own authority is the bloody scripture. Teacher says, “Look, kiddies, this is what the government says – pah – but this is what the scripture says! And God is right! And it’s double homework for any of you snivelling little brats who dare to think otherwise.”

I remember being at a National Union of Journalists conference once in Bristol, where delegates were mandated to vote by their branches. I was one of them. Two in particular did not, I could tell, agree with some of the things they had been told to vote for. So how high did they stick their voting cards in the air? About the height of their ears, that’s how high.

A teacher who’s also a religious dickhead may well tell the kids what’s what with regard to the law, with regard to the actual facts out there in the real world where people are not ruled by invisible friends and sky fairies, but how much enthusiasm for his subject is he going to put into that?

The very fact that a Catholic school is a Catholic school and not just a school means it will be teaching from the point of view of Catholic “ethos” (read fairy tales). If Ed sodding Balls really wants the schools to teach properly about all types of relationship, then why allow them to water it down by saying, “Ah, but, God says . . .”?

They should teach about relationships, contraception, abortion, stem-cell research and everything else objectively. Not that gay sex is right and everything else second-rate, no, I’m not saying that, just that the different relationships should get equal measure and teachers should not then go and say, “But God says . . .” – because the relationships are equal (some would say in the sight of God, since, they believe, he made us all the way we are, and there isn’t much point in setting ’em up just to knock ’em down).

Balls is talking utter balls.

Bishops want same-sex unions celebrated in religious premises

Where will it all end? Now some senior bishops are calling for gay partnership ceremonies to be held on religious premises.

The Times carries a story about a letter from a number of bishops who sit as of right in the House of Lords, who are calling for the right of civil partners to have their ceremonies on religious premises, which they haven’t been able to do hitherto under the 2004 Civil Partnerships Act, which came into force in 2005.

Only one political party, the Greens, has so far made it official policy, although the Tories have been dropping hints.

OK, PT readers will wonder why anyone wants to have anything to do with religion in the first place, but, given that some do, and heterosexuals can have their ceremonies marked religiously, with religious language and religious premises, it should be the same for same-sex couples, too.

Such a statement by the bishops won’t rid the Anglican Church of its bitter homophobic side, of course, and splits will continue. However, if we’re really stuck with religion for the rest of our own lifetimes and possibly well into the lifetimes of our children, and if that religion continues to have the ear of government, at least let it be gay-friendly religion.

There are religious groups and organisations in the UK, such as the Christian think tank Ekklesia and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, who are easy with people’s sexuality (well, the latter would be, of course), along with the Quakers, Unitarians and the Metropolitan Community Church.

It’s when religious organisations want to dictate what others do, based on their own reading and interpretation of questionable scriptures (the original dodgy dossiers), that I get a tad annoyed.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Could the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill possibly be worse than we thought?

We’ve talked a lot about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill proposed in Uganda.

Have a look at this YouTube video embedded below. You’ll see that it really is easy to get yourself killed – i.e. executed – in Uganda. You don’t even have to be gay; you don’t have to have ever had gay sex.

The short video explains succinctly but effectively just how you can become a serial offender – without having sex at all. It also defines people in authority as, among others, someone in a religious capacity.

So, without having sex and by easily stacking up “repeat offences”, you can face death at the behest of some twat who believes in sky fairies.

It’s a lot more evil than we were led to believe. And we were led to believe it was pretty damned evil to begin with.

I don’t believe in capital punishment, but I think I’d make an exception in the case of the author of this pernicious Bill, David Bahati MP.
Related links:
Kill Bill
No breakfast for Bahati Boy
The inconvenience of human rights
Uganda evil: silence . . .
Archbishop of York speaks out . . . but what took him so long?

Friday, 19 February 2010

Another government cave-in to evil Catholics

The gay Humanist educational charity the Pink Triangle Trust – owner of this blog – has reacted angrily to the news that the UK government has caved in to religious pressure, especially from Roman Catholic sources, concerning sex and relationships education.

An amendment to the Children, Schools and Families Bill tabled by the Secretary of State Ed Balls would permit state-funded “faith schools” to teach PSHE (personal, social and health education), which includes sex and relationships education (SRE), “in a way that reflects the school’s religious character”.

PTT secretary George Broadhead said, “It is outrageous that the government is planning to deny young people the right to accurate, balanced PSHE and sex and relationships education, and allow state-funded schools to teach the subject from a religious viewpoint. By taking this position, it is implicitly condoning homophobia in schools and undermining attempts to tackle homophobic bullying. This looks like another Section 28.”

Section 28 was part of the Local Government Act of 1988, which outlawed the so-called “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities in the UK. It led to much self-censorship by schools. No one was ever prosecuted under the Act, introduced by the Tories and subsequently scrapped by the current Labour administration in 2000 in Scotland and 2003 in the rest of the UK.

The exemptions we’re talking about here could allow Catholic teachers to tell gay kids that their sexuality is intrinsically evil. And that’s not much fun when you’re coming to terms with your sexuality.

Of course, it allows them to tell all the other kids, too, that the gay kids in their class have a sexuality that’s intrinsically evil. That’s not much fun, either – especially if there are bullies about.

The Catholic hierarchy stink to high heaven with their own intrinsic evil and their utter hypocrisy, and this just another nail in the coffin of human dignity and equality, and another way of appeasing a constituency of voters – especially only months before Ratzinger visits these shores in his white frock and dainty shoes (largely at our expense), having himself criticised the Equality Bill for its equality measures – leading to a cowardly climbdown on the part of the “equalities” minister Harriet Harman.

Broadcaster Gosling released after questioning

The 70-year-old broadcaster Ray Gosling has now been released after 30 hours of questioning after he admitted on regional television that he’d mercy-killed a lover who was dying with AIDS.

Gosling made his admission in an East Midlands BBC programme this week. He’s said to have cooperated with police but has not revealed the name of the person he allegedly killed.

The link in the previous paragraph takes you to our embedded YouTube video in which Gosling makes his startling admission to camera while strolling through gravestones.

He was questioned by Nottinghamshire Police, who are said to have treated him kindly while he was in custody.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Gately complaint: press watchdog says no

It’s hard to accept the decision of the UK’s Press Complaints Commission, I know, when it decided yesterday not to uphold a complaint against a Daily Mail columnist who was critical of the dead Boyzone star Stephen Gately.

You may remember that there were furious complaints after Jan Moir had run her column, following Gately’s death in an apartment he and his partner Andrew Cowles owned in Majorca.

For a complaint to be heard, it has to be lodged by a family member, and one was submitted by Cowles. Bu the PCC has come down in favour of freedom of expression, even though it concedes that there was “flaws” in Moir’s article.

Your humble blogger reluctantly agrees. Reluctantly not because freedom of expression isn’t important, but because we live in an age in which it’s just the done thing to lay into people with seeming impunity in newspaper columns of salacious intent, there just to boost the readership and therefore the profits of the proprietors and shareholders.

Having columns such as Jan Moir’s is the price we sometimes must pay.

But it doesn’t lessen our impression that she’s a bit of a vicious bitch who ought to have been hauled onto the editor’s carpet and given a good dressing down for sheer bad taste – not because one should speak only good of the dead, but because her comments were vicious and unnecessary and calculated to stir up offence.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Ray’s confession – a moving picture

As you would expect, since the news broke on Monday night that the broadcaster Ray Gosling had mercy-killed a lover who was dying painfully with AIDS, column inches and broadcast minutes galore have been filled with the sad story, which we carried on this blog yesterday.

Since I posted that story, a YouTube video has appeared. We need say no more about the matter than we did yesterday, when we criticised the do-gooder who wanted to see a prosecution of Ray Gosling. But here is the short clip from that programme in which Ray Gosling made his secret known to viewers in the East Midlands – and now to the world.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Broadcaster Gosling’s sad, sad secret – and the do-gooders who want to prosecute him

It’s hard to pin an emotion to what I heard on the midnight news on BBC Radio 4 last night. On the one hand, you want to applaud the protagonist in what was a distressing and heart-rending story. On the other, you feel profoundly sad that the situation came about in the first place.

I refer to Ray Gosling (pictured), the 70-year-old broadcaster and gay-rights activist, who has made hundreds of documentaries over decades for the BBC, who admitted on British television last night, “Maybe this is the time to share a secret that I’ve kept for a long time. I killed someone once. He was a young chap. He had been my lover, and he had AIDS.”

In the regional BBC1 television programme Inside Out, which went out only in the East Midlands, Gosling continued, “Doctors said, ‘There’s nothing we can do.’ And he was in terrible, terrible pain, and I said to the doctor, “Leave me, just for a bit,” and he went away, and I picked up the pillow and I smothered him until he was dead.

“The doctor came back and I said, ‘He’s gone.’ Nothing more was ever said.

“When you love someone, it’s difficult to see them suffer. My feelings on euthanasia are like jelly – they wobble about.

“We’d got a pact. If it got worse, the pain, and nobody could do anything, yes, I said I’d do it. It’s a terrible, terrible thing to know what to do.

“This is the time to share a secret I have kept for quite a long time.”

The BBC news website spoke to Dr Peter Saunders, of a pressure group called Care Not Killing, who has called for police to investigate.

Saunders said, “We have a case, by Ray’s account, not of assisted suicide but of intentional killing or murder.”

Well, I think Ray Gosling would have a better idea than you of whether his lover needed a speedy dispatch rather than a prolonged and painful death, thank you very much, Dr Saunders. Whether you are religious or not, you certainly belong up there with the Deluded Herd. Sure, there can be abuses, but that applies to anything, and safeguards need to be built into any law that would permit assisted suicide and/or euthanasia.

If we had a system whereby people could go into a hospital and choose to have a painless death administerd to them, we’d be a much more caring and civilised society. Where is your sense of compassion?

Anyway, back to last night’s programme, in which Gosling was asked by Inside Out presenter Marie Ashby if he had regrets. “Absolutely none,” he said. “He was in terrible pain – I was there and I saw it. It breaks you into pieces.”

Over the years, Gosling has made hundreds of documentary films, and I was lucky enough to catch the repeats last year of a captivating series of films about his decision to move into sheltered accommodation, which won Jonathan Gili Most Entertaining Documentary award. It was repeated on British television last year.

He’s an idiosyncratic broadcaster with a quirky style, and is a delight to watch and hear. If you get the chance to see one of Gosling’s films, do so.

See also the website he and fellow campaigner Allan Horsfall – a founder of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality in the UK – run called Gay Monitor, which keeps tabs on court cases concerning older gay men who may have been wrongly accused.

The pair say on the website:

We’ve watched, supported and sometimes advised men caught up in appalling prosecutions during recent and ongoing current times in Lancashire – but we’re certain similar is going on all over the country and this website hopes to show the bigger picture.

It’s worth looking at, and supporting.

Monday, 15 February 2010

An end to creationism in UK schools?

Something good could come of a Tory government in the UK, it seems. The party wants to do away with schools that teach creationism as if it were science.

Michael Gove, the party’s shadow schools secretary, told BBC1’s Andrew Marr that “fundamentalist groups” who taught in a way that undermined “democratic values” would be challenged, and if necessary, closed down.
according to the think tank Ekklesia.

“To my mind you cannot have a school which teaches creationism,” he told the presenter. “And one thing that we will make absolutely clear is that you can not have schools that are set up which teach people things which are clearly at variance with what we know to be scientific fact.

“But critically, inspection is key here,” he continued. “We do have some schools at the moment – independent schools – that have been set up by religious groups. You mentioned Islamic groups. Let’s be clear, there are other fundamentalist groups as well which have schools in the private sector. If those schools are properly regulated and inspected, then we can ensure that anyone who teaches in a way that undermines our democratic values can be brought to public light, challenged, and if necessary, closed down.”

Sunday, 14 February 2010

And the Lord made woman to serve man

We all know that women are second-rate, right? They’re the cause of all that’s evil in men. After all, man’s downfall was down to a woman, wasn’t it? Seems that some people still believe this kind of tosh if a sermon preached at a church in the South of England is anything to go by.

Some women at the church, at Sevenoaks in Kent, heard their curate say that women should – wait for it – submit to their husbands.

Mark Oden, married with three children (all no doubt obedient to him), of St Nicholas Church, is said to have told his congregation, “We know marriage is not working. We only need to look at figures – one in four children have divorced parents.”

He then gives his solution: “Wives, submit to your own husbands.”

“Oden’s sermon was preceded by the controversy over a pamphlet by the vicar of St Nicholas, Angus MacLeay, expressing similar views on the role of women in today’s society,” says the Digital Journal story linked to above.

The article quotes the Daily Mail as saying that one parishioner asked the question, “What kind of medieval sermon is that? We are not in the 15th century.” Another declared, “How can they talk that way in the 21st century? No wonder the church is losing touch if this is the kind of gobbledegook they want us to believe it.”

The story also appears in the Sevenoaks Chronicle, with a digest on the website:

“As if we are being told to let our husbands talk for us,” fumed one wife, who lives in Sevenoaks and attends the church.

“And which husband? I divorced my previous husband because he threatened me and my children – am I supposed to listen to him?”

Rev. Oden defended his sermon.

“I am passionate about helping people to have healthy marriages.

“I did not set out to unnecessarily offend people, but I stand by what God has said in his word the Bible.”

Yeah, he also said adulteresses should be stoned (I’m sure some are, but I don’t think the Almighty meant that!) and that a man lying with a man as with a woman should be stoned to death, along with his fuck buddy (the Almighty may well have used a different term).

Just read the great lawgiving book of Leviticus for some pretty wacky things the Lord God Almighty told Moses to tell his people.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Demo against Pope Ratzo

A big demo is planned for London tomorrow to oppose Pope Ratzinger’s visit to the UK in September.

Secularists and gay activists are not exactly chuffed by the fact that the arch homophobe and bigoted old bastard will be here largely at taxpayers’ expense, as well as the fact that he’s, well, an arch homophobe and bigoted old bastard.

“The demonstrators are protesting at what they see as the pope’s bigotry on questions of gays and women,” says a story in Digital Journal. “They are also concerned about how much the British taxpayer will have to shell out for the visit, although, in response to a parliamentary question about the visit, the government has said: ‘The forthcoming visit of the Pope to the UK will be a Papal visit. As a Papal visit it will have status equivalent to a State Visit. The costs of the visit have not yet been determined; as with State Visits, certain elements will be borne by public funds.’ ”

The National Secular Society has organised a petition against the visit, which, as at lunchtime Saturday, had amassed more than 21,000 signatures.

George Broadhead, secretary of our parent organisation, the Pink Triangle Trust, says, “The Pope’s stance on many moral issues is completely contrary to that of humanists. It is also contrary to modern liberal values.

“He opposes women’s rights, gay equality, embryonic stem cell research, death with dignity and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. He has recently denounced our equality laws, causing the government to back down [in a House of Lords vote on amendments to employment provisions in the Equality Bill]. He is quite likely to abuse his presence in Britain to further attack our democratically agreed legislation that gives equal rights to women and gay people. This is why the Pink Triangle Trust is supporting the demonstration against his visit to the UK.”

We were recently a bit hot under the collar about the government’s climbdown, too.

“Campaigners have also been angered by the Pope’s speaking out against provisions in the Equality Bill – which a series of amendments have now removed – that would extend employment rights to all, irrespective of whether the employer is a religious organisation,” says the Digital Journal story.

Tomorrow’s event is being led by the Central London Humanist Group, in partnership with the National Secular Society, OutRage!, the One Law for All campaign, the Protest the Pope campaign and other organisations.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Happy Valentine’s Day in Saudi

No Valentine’s celebrations on 14 February in Saudi Arabia, then.

The so-called religious police have been out and about inspecting shops for red roses, heart-shaped products or gifts wrapped in red, and ordering shopkeepers to get rid of them, in a nationwide crackdown on anything Valentine.

One wonders what would happen if the United Kingdom banned all recognition of Eid and Ramadan. Instead, we bend over backwards to accommodate superstitous religious practices, even if it means inconvenience for others in the workplace.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Snub to Anglican conservatives

It looks as if the General Synod has cleverly sidestepped the issue of gay bishops in America, with a bit of a snub to the breakaway Anglican movement there.

After the appointment of Gene Robinson, a gay bishop, in New Hampshire in 2003, a sect of conservative American Anglicans formed a group called ACNA, the Anglican Church in North America, thus cutting themselves off from the country’s Episcopalian Church (which is part of the Anglican Communion).

This was part of the long-running dispute over the appointment of female and gay bishops – an issue that has dominated this week’s General Synod in the UK.

However, a motion to the Synod yesterday wanted to see ACNA recognised as such, but all the meeting did was recognise ACNA’s “desire to remain within the Anglican family”, which will be seen as a mild victory for the liberal wing.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Not enough religion on the Beeb say, er, um, religionists

Not enough religion on the BBC? No, I didn’t think you’d think that. Nor do I. But some religionists are claiming it.

Someone’s suggesting at the Church of England’s Synod, which is happening this week, that the BBC isn’t doing enough; the BBC says it’s doing more; the National Secular Society says people aren’t interested, anyway.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Work and pray

A Muslim bus driver decided he needed to stop for a break. Not for a pee, but to pray.

Trouble is, he had a load of passengers on board the bus, in North London. As he knelt in the isle, the paying passengers were trapped in their seats.

Gayle Griffiths, aged 33, complained to Transport for London about the incident on the Number 24 bus in Gospel Oak last week.

“When he had finished, he just got back up and set off again – all without any explanation or apology. It was truly bizarre, ludicrous and aggravating.”

Yes, anyone of right mind would be similarly irritated. Transport for London say he has been reprimanded. We can only hope he’s not tempted to pull the silly stunt again. When you’ve paid to get from A to B on a public service you don’t expect to be held up while some berk indulges in his superstition.

Monday, 8 February 2010

The judge who missed the point

Fancy taking a dagger into school with you? Onto a plane? Into any other public space? Chances are you’d be stopped if it was found on you, and made to part with it – even be hauled off for possessing an offensive weapon.

That is, of course, unless you subscribe to a particular brand of god bothering.

A judge has said that kids ought to be able to carry their ceremonial dagger, the so-called kirpan, in school. Sikh kids, that is. And the judge’s own religion? Well, Sikh, of course.

He is Sir Mota Singh, who has criticised schools over the issue of weapons – er, sorry, kirpans.

“Not allowing someone who is baptised to wear a kirpan is not right,” Singh told the BBC’s Asian Network.

Oh, yes? How does he work that out? What is right and not right in a society that doesn’t generally allow weapons to be carried on the person – especially in sensitive areas such as schools and airports? What the hell has baptism got to do with it?

“Last year,” says the BBC story linked to above, “a Sikh police officer, who had been told to remove his turban during riot training, won a discrimination case against Greater Manchester Police.”

Can’t do much harm with a turban, though, can you? You could strangle someone with it, I guess, but you could probably do that with a trouser leg or a belt.

The same story also tells us a schoolboy was also banned from “wearing” his kirpan at the Compton School in Barnet, north London. This fact follows straight on from the turban reference, as if the two were comparable.

They are, but not in the weapons sense. They are comparable in the sense that health and safety trumps religions – or should. If Mr Bloggs or Mr Smith isn’t allowed to wear some sort of towel round his head during such training, Mr Bhachu or Mr Narindra should not be, either.

There was also the case in 2008 of a girl in a Welsh school who insisted on wearing a religious bangle. I’d have no objection to this if it didn’t contravene health-and-safety rules and if the school’s policy were to allow such jewellery. But the school’s policy was not to allow it. You may disagree with that (and the bangle looks unimposing and harmless enough), but, if kids of other religions and none are expected to follow the rules, so should those of the Sikh religion.

Mota Singh is quoted as saying, “I wear my Kirpan and I’ve always worn it for the last 35 to 40 years, even when I was sitting in court or visiting public buildings, including Buckingham Palace. I think these are issues that can be dealt with with a certain amount of sensitivity.”

Yes Sir Mota – sensitivity to public safety, which means not carrying daggers to school.

The Compton School even bent over backwards to accommodate the silly practice, by offering the boy the option of wearing a smaller knife, welded into a metal sheath, rendering it harmless, one assumes, but his obstinate parents refused and withdrew him from the school.

Well, that’s up to them. I wouldn’t want a kid of mine to be going to a school where kids are allowed to carry daggers, thanks very much.

Singh also says there’s been no reported incident of a Sikh using a knife to cause injury. As a judge he ought to know better than to use such an argument. That it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t. And, anyway, if a kid with a dangerous dagger on his belt got into a fight, there’s always the danger that the weapon would be nicked by another kid and used in said fight.
Related links:
Let religionists carry knives into Parliament building, says MEP
Head case

The C of E’s dirty dollars

We’ve seen before how the Church of England has investments in decidedly dodgy portfolios, but now it’s decided to sell off one of them.

We learn from the Scotsman that it has sold its £3.8 million stake in the mining company Vedanta Resources. This follows concerns about the company’s human-rights record in India.

“Allegations about Vedanta’s alumina refinery in Lanjigarh, Orissa, and planned bauxite mine in the nearby Niyamgiri hills came to the Church’s attention in June last year, sparking a period of ‘engagement’ with the company,” the story says. But the talks have had “no substantive results”.

The Church of England doesn’t say in the story what it’s going to do with the proceeds of the sale. Is there a profit? What dividends did it receive while the investment was in place?

You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? It’s a step in the right direction to pull out (and to pull out of all dodgy investments), but any profits gained as a result of being in dirty businesses in the first place should be given to charity – preferably, if at all possible, a charity that helps anyone who may have been exploited by the companies concerned.
Related link:
The Christian ethics of investment

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Homophobia in football

We’re all aware that there’s homophobia in sport – especially soccer. We were praising recently of Gareth Thomas – the most capped Welsh rugby player, now playing for Cardiff Blues – who had taken a brave step and had come out as gay, and is now a patron of LGBT History Month, which is this month.

But the big problem is soccer. (The only out mainstream soccer player has been Justin Fashanu. He ended up committing suicide in 1998 after being accused in the States of sexual assault against a 17-year-old youth. In his suicide note, Fashanu said the sex was consensual.)

The Football Association, the UK’s governing body for soccer, has postponed the premiere of a short film about homophobia in the sport. It was due to take place next Thursday at Wembley Stadium, but FA chiefs now say they need more time to work on the project. A new date has not been set.

Two of those consulted over the project are the gay human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and former NBA basketball player John Amaechi, who have both criticised the film. Amaechi described it as an “expletive-laden rant”.

Pink News tell us that Amaechi has condemned the cancellation and attacked the film as “further proof of the FA’s willingness to window-dress its most serious problems”.

It’s not clear why he condemned the cancellation, or postponement, if he didn’t like the film, but perhaps we’re not getting a clear version of the story.

It does seem to show that the FA’s commitment to kicking homophobia out of soccer is a half-hearted affair, and one has to question the organisation’s commitment.

Tatchell, of the gay-rights group OutRage!, says, “The video produced was not in the style that OutRage! and I wanted. We had always pushed for a video that was positive, uplifting and joyful, with a strong music track backing to appeal to fans and which featured vox pops from players.

“The FA is saying [the premiere] is postponed, not cancelled, pending a reconsideration of how it fits into the FA’s strategy. The strategy was agreed over a year ago so I don’t understand why it has to be reworked.”

What won’t have helped in getting players to come out is the recent advice by the PR guru Max Clifford for them to remain in the closet.

While I can appreciate that a player wants to keep his career, he would be doing a far more noble thing to come out and encourage others to do the same. If we take Clifford’s advice, no player will ever come out, and being gay will continue to be seen as something intrinsically wrong, and organisations such as the FA will continue faffing about and not really doing anything about it.

Friday, 5 February 2010

George’s lesson in objectivity

There’s this bozo in Britain’s Daily Telegraph who thinks religious people “should know better” than nonbelievers when it comes to good behaviour.

George Pitcher, a religion editor attached to the paper, is also a priest. He’s been commenting on recent comments by Tony Blair’s wife Cherie, in her guise as a judge at the Inner London Crown Court.

She let a violent offender, a “devout Muslim”, go without a custodial sentence recently, telling him, “I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before.”

Her comments have rightly caused outrage. Not the “not been in trouble before” bit, because such things are often taken into consideration, but the “you are a religious person” bit.

Now here’s what Pitcher says: “At a huge risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, Cherie Booth QC, as we must call her when she’s not trading on her married name, wasn’t saying that religious people are morally superior to others. She was saying that, as a religious man, he should know better.”

At a huge risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, George, doesn’t “as a religious man, he should know better” also mean that, if he were not a religious man, he shouldn’t know better? That, because he’s a religious man, we would expect him to know better than we would a nonreligious person, and, if he were a nonreligious person, we would expect him to behave more shoddily?

Then this God-soaked moron refers to “the humourless and po-faced bozos of the BHA [British Humanist Association] and NSS [National Secular Society]”, who dared to criticise Booth (a self-confessed Catholic) for her asinine comments.

Religion (hardly a bundle of laughs itself) is obviously on the back foot – certainly as demonstrated by George Pitcher – and is coming out with the insults in order to make its case, it seems.

Insults, indeed, you say. But haven’t you just called him a “God-soaked moron”? Yes, I did say that, didn’t I? But, then, on this blog, anyway, I’m always insulting people, so nothing’s changed. It’s just the way I tell ’em. But when a sky pilot starts doing it you wonder whether he’s losing the will to argue.

And what is it that these “po-faced bozos” have to “get into their restricted imagination”? asks the Reverend George. Well, says he, it’s “the answer to this question: Do adherents to a major faith have demonstrable, objective and tangible standards of behaviour towards others enshrined in their religious traditions, to which they can and should be expected to aspire because they are accountable to their divine authority, that are not so prescribed by secular authorities?”

Come on, po-faced George, who, it seems, cannot argue himself out of a paper bag! You’ve just said that they are answerable to some “divine authority”, and that’s why they behave themselves (or should behave themselves). Not, then, because they have an inbuilt, human sense of ethical behaviour?

The atheist who behaves himself manages to do it in spite of not having an imaginary friend to obey. However, by implication, you are saying that atheists cannot be good (or we should not expect them to be good), because they don’t have the imaginary friend; religionists can be good, because they do have an imaginary friend (sorry, you call it a “divine authority”).

And how, anyway, can we trust a writer who talks of a “divine authority” and uses the word “objective” in the same sentence? Especially one who, believing himself to be objective, we must assume, thinks that you need to believe in the impossible in order to be good (or to be expected to be good). Is it also objective to believe that one who adheres to “a major faith” is more likely to be good than one who adheres to a minor one? Where does this objectivity come from, George? If it is truly objective, you will be able to prove it, no doubt.

And yet, George, there are people of religion – some in high places – who clearly do not demonstrate some higher ethical principle. Take Pope Ratzinger, for example. He tries to interfere in another country’s lawmaking so that his kind will be able to discriminate in employment law against gay people. And then there’s the organisation called Christian Concern for Our Nation. They sent out a “prayer alert” to try to persuade God to persuade the House of Lords to retain discriminatory parts of the Equality Bill. A bunch of loonies if ever I saw one.

Sorry, that wasn’t exactly objectively put, was it?

Thursday, 4 February 2010

The inequality of the House of Lords

An audience in the UK’s parliament heard this week that having unelected male religious leaders from one denomination in an unelected legislative chamber is unfair, inappropriate and contrary to the Christian message of equality and justice (see the religious think tank Ekklesia’s take on that here).

Well, it’s contrary to any justice, in fact, not just Christian. Indeed, there are patches of Christianity where justice is severely lacking.

Baroness Hayman, the Speaker in the upper chamber, the House of Lords, has given permission for the first ever debate to be held in the Palace of Westminster on the future of the 26 unelected Church of England bishops, who – known as the “Lords Spiritual” – are allowed to sit in the chamber by default.

Not only is it unfair from the point of view of how they got there, it also means that only men can take that position, since only men are allowed to be bishops in the Church of England.

Belief in fairies 1 : Equality 0

Here we go again. Damned pusillanimous politicians, gutless, lacking in balls, unwilling to stand up to the bullies among the Deluded Herd who want the right to discriminate against people on the grounds of sex and sexuality.

You may have heard by now that the weak-willed woman who calls herself the “equalities minister” (hah!) has backed down over the Equality Bill, after amendments were passed in the House of Lords to weaken the equality-making provisions in the Bill on the question of fairness in employment.

Our parent organisation, the Pink Triangle Trust, isn’t too chuffed, either. Its secretary (and my fellow blogger), George Broadhead, has been sounding off in the gay press with this: “This abject climbdown has obviously been prompted by the Pope’s recent criticism of the pro-gay clause in the Bill and is a clear indication, if any were needed, of the continuing malign political influence exerted by the Catholic Church.”

And other denominations, too, it seems, since the vote by the 26 bishops who are in the House of Lords as of right – just for being Church of England bishops – was significant. And, of course, there are the truly mental organisations such as Christian Concern for Our Nation, which seem to believe in the power of prayer – when it goes in their favour.

“Provisions in the Equality Bill, currently passing through parliament, would have clarified the law requiring churches only to discriminate in terms of sexual orientation when hiring those who will teach doctrine or lead worship,” says the Pink News article linked to earlier.

It, too, reckons it’s the proposed visit by Pope Ratzinger that has swung it for Harman, which just proves, if it’s true, that the churches still swing a lot of weight, and politicians in this country are just too ball-less to stand up to them. Her climbdown is nothing less than obscene and disgusting, and the title “Minister for Women and Equality” is a joke.

Ratzo earlier criticised the Bill for wanting to violate what he calls “natural law”. A man who throughout his priestly life chose not to have sex at all, against all the natural urges that his God, he would say, has visited upon humankind, talks of “natural law”! You couldn’t make it up!

So the people we elected to take care of our interests bow instead to the interests of people who believe in fairies. I despair!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Enter the monster – but let’s not make it easy for him

“The Pope has urged Catholic bishops in England and Wales to fight the UK’s Equality Bill with ‘missionary zeal’,” the BBC tells us.

And this is the monster the UK will be welcoming with open arms when he comes here on a state visit later this year.

Ratzo is quoted as saying that the legislation “violates natural law” and could end the right of the Catholic Church to ban gay people from senior positions.

And this is the monster the UK will be welcoming with open arms when he comes here on a state visit later this year.

“[T]he effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal [of equality, dignity and fairness] has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs,” the bigot is quoted as saying.

And this is the monster the UK will be welcoming with open arms when he comes here on a state visit later this year.

As we reported, the UK’s National Secular Society has a petition. It won’t stop the visit if you sign it, but, if it has a huge number of signatures, it sends out a message every time the petition makes it into a news story.

Demonstrations, too, are likely. They, too, won’t stop the visit. There will be huge security. There will probably be human-rights abuses by police, who will be acting on orders from on high to keep demonstrators out of the sight of the monster (as happened with the visit 11 years ago of the Chinese president, Jiang Zemin), or at the very least out of brick-chucking distance.

This blog’s parent organisation, the Pink Triangle Trust, isn’t too keen on Ratzo’s visit, either. The PTT’s secretary, George Broadhead, says in a hard-hitting news release, “This is a thinly veiled attack on the anti-discrimination legislation concerning LGBT people. His claim that our equality laws undermine religious freedom suggests that he supports the right of churches to discriminate in accordance with their religious ethos. He seems to be defending discrimination by religious institutions and demanding that they should be above the law.

“This pope has shown himself to be paranoid about homosexuality. His opposition to LGBT rights knows no bounds. He has declared that saving humanity from homosexual behaviour was as important as saving the rainforest from destruction. This must be the most outrageous and bizarre claim yet made by someone who has already got a well-deserved reputation as one of the most viciously homophobic world leaders on a par with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

“But his entrenched homophobia is not the only reason for criticising the visit,” George Broadhead continues. “The taxpayer in this country is going to be faced with a bill of some £20m as the visit will be paid for by the government, not the Vatican. We therefore call on all Freethinkers, Humanists and like-minded people to sign [the NSS’s] petition.

“It is imperative that the strongest possible protest be made when his so-called holiness visits the UK. This is not without precedent. During the last papal visit to the UK by John Paul II in 1982, a protest called POPE (People Opposing Papal Edicts) was instigated by the Gay Humanist Group. It had the support of other gay and secular organisations including the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and the National Secular Society. On the occasion of the impending visit we must pull out all the stops to demonstrate our opposition.”

I suspect websites and blogs will be ablaze between now and September, when it’s thought this insult to human rights, human dignity and all that is decent will be allowed to place his jackboots on our soil. All power to their keyboards. Let us send an unequivocal message to the Vatican and to our own pusillanimous leaders that this evil obscenity is not wanted here by anyone but misguided Catholics and other members of the Deluded Herd, politicians and those who just don’t give a shit and can’t wait for EastEnders or The X Factor to begin.

Hate-filled homophobe to be welcomed into UK

Joseph Alois Ratzinger (82), a pope, of Rome, Italy, has now confirmed that he will visit the United Kingdom later this year.

And just how much of the bill for this visit by a notorious evil homophobe, woman hater and coverer-up of priestly kiddy diddling will the British taxpayer have to foot? Very much, methinks.

Have the British taxpayers been asked whether they wish to foot the bill for this befrocked idiot, who likes to dress up his name, too (he goes under the name of Benedict), to visit? No.

And this, folks, is a state visit. This guy thinks – and much of the world agrees – that his bit of the world is a state. Yes, I know: you couldn’t make it up. No, we haven’t moved on, have we?

Mind you, part of his sojourn here will take him to Birmingham as part of the beatification of Cardinal John Newman, known, or thought likely, to have been a hated poof.

But Mr Benedict, Ratzinger, whatever, will conveniently not believe that, of course.

Why is this despicable excuse for a person being welcomed into the UK with open arms when Geert Wilders was barred (although eventually had that ban overturned)? This man Ratzo, very likely responsible for misery and suicides among gay Catholics, is going to cause more unrest by his visit that Wilders did.

The National Secular Society has a petition against this monster’s visit, which you can sign here. Terry Sanderson, president of the NSS, is quoted in the BBC story cited above as saying, “The taxpayer in this country is going to be faced with a bill of some £20m for the visit of the Pope – a visit in which he has already indicated he will attack equal rights and promote discrimination.”
Related links:
Dem bones, dem bones, dem gay bones
Cardinal in pink
Dem bones, dem bones, dem bones of contention

Monday, 1 February 2010

When death means life

“If I knew that I could die, I would live,” the writer Sir Terry Pratchett will tell the annual Dimbleby Lecture tomorrow. “My life, my death, my choice.”

His views are part of a (London) Times article today, in which the bestselling author – who’s suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease – says the time has come for assisted suicide to be legal.

And that’s the only moral and ethical way to look at it. But opposition – often but not always in the guise of members of the Deluded Herd – will bring out all kinds of “reasons” why this should not be allowed, one being that it is open to abuse.

So is just about anything you can mention. And, yes, it will be abused by those who want to bump off Aunt Peggy for her millions. But that just meant we’ll need to build safeguards to minimise such abuses, as we do, or should do, with other things that can be abused.

Selective Christianity

Will the “faith”-based agencies going into earthquake-ravaged Haiti help the LGBT folk there? It’s a good question, posed by Irene Monroe in the Huffington Post.

“As one of Haiti’s most marginal groups, the question arises in response to how some American LGBTQ New Orleans residents were treated during the Hurricane Katrina relief effort in 2005,” she writes, continuing:

During Hurricane Katrina, former President George W. Bush’s conservative faith-based organizations – like the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and all other organizations in Bush’s “armies of compassion” – highlighted how after the storm homophobia blew in.

While seemingly invisible in the disaster, many LGBTQ evacuees of Katrina and their families faced discrimination at the hands of those conservative faith-based relief organizations because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status.

Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal, is quoted as having said in a news release in 2005, “Tragedy does not discriminate and neither should relief agencies.”


Pardon me if I’m wrong, but I thought it was one of those Christian tenets. Even if you believe you’re helping sinners, you help them nonetheless. It just shows how choosy some “Christians” can be when they decide which bits of their “faith” they want to stick to.