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Thursday, 6 May 2010

Gay & Lesbian Humanist: the election, the pope, Derren Brown and much more

It’s election day here in the UK – but that’s not the only subject on offer in the latest issue of Gay & Lesbian Humanist. The online magazine also looks at AIDS dissidents, alleged papal cover-ups of priestly sexual abuse and nonreligious ceremonies, among other things. And we pay tribute to one of the founding fathers of gay-rights campaigning in the UK, Antony Grey, who has died aged 82.

But today’s election is an opportunity, so the pundits are always telling us, for the British public to engage in the crucial debate about the choice of who will govern and what policies will be enacted in the next four or five years.

The latest issue of G&LH takes the theme "Dogma or debate?" and looks at election topics, with editor Mike Foxwell asking, “Am I just a tad pedantic – cynical even – in believing that for there to be any meaningful debate about anything there has to be a divergence of position, a fundamental difference of opinion?”

And, he asks, is the system we have human enough?

“Somehow, our humanity seems to diminish in proportion to the size of the group until you end up with a totally dehumanised chimera called the State. True, big groups of people can do bad things, but it takes the State to commit the real atrocities such as the illegal and unjustified war on Iraq. It wasn’t in the Labour Party’s manifesto, the British people didn’t vote for it and in fact protested against it in enormous numbers, but it still happened.

“If you are looking for corrupt, self-serving and untrustworthy, look no further than the Government. Maybe in the end it doesn’t matter whom you vote for, who gets in, it’s still the government that wins – and that’s the root of the problem.”

Sexuality and politics

In his “Vote seXuality” feature Andy Armitage takes a look at whether being gay influences the way people vote. He asked the eight main political parties fielding candidates in the UK General Election a simple question: “What can your party offer to the LGBT community that other parties cannot or will not?”. Only three of the parties bothered to reply at all. The Tories were not one of them, and it’s the Tories who, in spite of more recent attempts to court the pink vote, have traditionally been the nastiest towards gay people.

Peter Tatchell, too, is far from impressed by the platitudes coming from the Tories as he reports in his “Big Gay Flashmob” article. The election theme is continued in our “Out of Print” feature, which is taken from the Summer 1997 issue of G&LH, in which Terry Sanderson, now president of the National Secular Society, assessed the gay-law-reform prospects following the election of Tony Blair’s Labour government earlier that year.

On the lighter side, Steven Dean seems to have an opinion on almost everything, and this time he gives us an insight to how he chooses whom to vote for. As you would expect, there’ll be an “X” in it somewhere!


HIV-AIDS is another subject that still arouses heated debate.

A recent attack on what have become known as AIDS dissenters was made in the November/December 2009 issue of the British publication New Humanist by an AIDS establishmentarian Seth Kalichman, who mounts a scurrilous ad hominem attack on a number of well-known HIV-AIDS critics, and then urges his readers never to enter into a debate with dissenters about the facts surrounding the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.

One reader of Kalichman’s article was HIV-AIDS dissident John Lauritsen, who was outraged and asked the New Humanist editor, Caspar Melville, for the right of reply. He did not get one, but G&LH has given Lauritsen the space to make the rebuttal that he was denied.

Reform in the Church of England

Though hardly radical by freethought standards, debate within the Church of England has been rumbling on within that stalwart of dogma for the past decade or so. The anti-reform backlash has been marshalled by a group called, in true Orwellian fashion, “Reform”. In his feature, “Church’s end”, Neil Richardson laments the influence of these hardliners

Arrest the Pope

There have been moves by noted atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens to have the Pope arrested when he comes to Britain in September. Is this realistic? In his feature, “Arresting the Pope”, Andy Armitage assesses the likelihood of success for this audacious plan.

Continuing the theme of priestly abuse, Andrew John discusses the impact of a letter from the 1980s alleging that Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, counselled against the defrocking of a California priest, putting the unity of the universal church first and asks, “Where does it all go from here?”

Rife with homophobia?

Sometimes it seems that the world at large is rife with homophobia wherever you look. Many of us harbour the dark thought that, with the resurgence of radical religion across the world, things are getting worse. Author Narvel Annable counsels against being too negative in his article, “House of homophobia”.

Social-awareness campaigns

Continuing in a more optimistic vein, gay-rights campaigner Mirka Makuchowska tells us of the extremely active Polish gay rights organisation, Kampania Przeciw Homofobii, of which she is currently secretary.

One of its current campaigns is for a Polish civil-partnership bill.

New-look news

This issue see the first of our new-look news feature, “The full story”, which replaces the long-running “News Watch” and “World Watch” features. The intention is to provide a more integrated view of chosen news stories worldwide in an attempt to join up the news dots, as it were. Dean Braithwaite and George Broadhead have the full story.

Derren Brown

“Blogwatch” this time focuses on the blog of the illusionist, mentalist, painter and sceptic Derren Brown, who will have been seen on UK television by many readers.

Another well-known illusionist is James Randi, who at the age of 81 has recently come out as gay. In his feature, “An amazing escape”, John Brand takes a closer look at Randi and how he decided to come out. Warren Allen Smith also has something to say about Randi in his “Gossip from across the Pond” article, in which he tells us of his correspondence with Randi following his coming-out.

To the woods

Becoming ever more popular are nonreligious ceremonies, not just funerals but birth and wedding ones, too. George Broadhead takes a look at what’s on offer in his feature, “Exit strategy”.

The magazine is online: just click the logo below or on our sidebar.

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