Search This Blog

Thursday, 25 November 2010

PTT welcomes royal seal of approval for atheists

The British gay humanist charity, the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT), this blog’s parent organisation, has warmly welcomed the Queen’s recognition that people of no faith can lead moral lives and make an equally important contribution to society.

A PTT press release says:

Addressing the Church of England General Synod, the Queen told members that believers and atheists were equally able to contribute to the prosperity and wellbeing of the country.

The Queen, who is supreme governor of the Church of England, said: “In our more diverse and secular society, the place of religion has come to be a matter of lively discussion. It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue and that the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation depend on the contribution of individuals and groups of all faiths and none.”

The PTT secretary George Broadhead commented: “This is a remarkable and very welcome recognition. Coming as it does from the Head of State, it is also extremely important. For far too long religionists, even relatively moderate ones, have tried to claim that only they can lead moral lives and that religious faith of some sort is vital to society’s wellbeing.

“The Queen’s words knock this on the head and should be a lesson to all those who denigrate unbelievers and – in the case of Islamists – threaten them with hellfire and death.

“We hope that the Queen’s words will be noted by those political parties who grant religionists completely unfair privileges, as well as the media which is often grossly prejudiced in their favour.”

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Griffith Vaughan Williams, 1940–2010

Griffith Vaughan Williams,
who has died aged 70

We're sad to announce that one of the gay movement’s greatest friends, Griffith Vaughan Williams, has died. He was 70. Williams was lately secretary of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, one of Britain’s oldest gay campaigning organisations, and he was one of its longest-standing supporters.

Let’s let CHE itself have the first word. In a statement today, it says:

It’s with great sadness that we have to announce the death of Griffith Vaughan Williams, Secretary of CHE. He was 70 years old. Our condolences to his partner, Paul.

Griff was born on the 9th of November 1940 in Bangor, North Wales, and was educated at a local grammar school and then at a college of journalism in Cardiff. He worked for a number of magazines and provincial newspapers around the country, and later in the press office at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which he left about 20 years ago to become a freelance journalist. After retirement he threw himself into many voluntary causes, serving on committees, attending conferences, and forever asking questions at company meetings.

Griff had been a gay activist since about 1964, and was a leading member of CHE from its very earliest days. In recent years, despite ill-health, he had continued to be the driving force behind many of CHE’s activities. He will be very much missed. His final act as Secretary was to sign the contract commissioning a new book about the history of CHE, a history which he had very much helped to make.

We hope to compile a fitting obituary for Griff, and we would very much welcome any memories and thoughts about him. The CHE reunion at Friends House on the 27th of this month will include a tribute to Griff.

Fellow blogger George Broadhead, secretary of the Pink Triangle Trust, said today of Griff: “He was best know in CHE’s heyday as its conference organiser and was mainly responsible for keeping it going when it declined some years ago.

“I had been friendly with Griff since I joined CHE in the 1960s and, with my partner Roy, set up one of its local groups – Chilterns CHE – in 1970. I’ve been in touch with him many times since then, notably concerned the cooperation of CHE and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association in running the winter fairs at Conway Hall in the 1980s and their joint sponsorship of Winter Pride at County Hall and ULU later in that decade. This is described by Griff in detail in the book Out of the Shadows, which will be promoted at the CHE Reunion on 27 November.”

On a personal note, I’d known Griff on and off since 1978 when he did a recce in Coventry, where I lived at the time, in preparation for holding the CHE conference at the De Vere Hotel there. His beard was sort of brownish then.

I worked for a while on the CHE exec with Griff in the late seventies, and met up with him at various functions. Lately, it’s been only voice contact, because I’ve had some input into the CHE annual report and its review of the year.

With telephone contact, you could put the phone at one end of the room and listen from the other side, I remember, so clear (not to say loud) was his delivery. He was also annoyingly (though I say that with affection) averse to modern communications, never, as far as I know, embracing the Internet and email; and getting copy from him for any work I did on the CHE reports necessitated his having to pass it on to someone with a computer, who could then type it up and send it on via email. I think he relied on his trusty fax machine for several years, that being as technological as he got (unless he changed in the past year and I didn’t know).

When someone has been ill, it should come as little surprise that they might die, but it still has the power to shock. As soon as I saw the subject line of an email from George Broadhead this morning – just “Griff Vaughan Williams” – I guessed. When someone has died, that’s all you usually see at the top of an email that brings the sad news. If an email has just a person’s name in that line, I fear the worst.

GVW was indefatigable in his efforts for the gay cause, and was, of course, involved with CHE for decades. He put in hard work and sustained commitment to the cause of gay rights for many years. I’m sure there will be tributes aplenty over the next few days, because there can’t be many in the gay community more worthy of such praise.

Griff was a hard worker, a good organiser, a committed campaigner. He’ll be sorely missed.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise*

Some seem to be saying it’s a good thing that the supermarket giant Tesco, destroyer of many a good high street, has taken over a disused church building in Bournemouth in the South of England.

I’m not so sure.

Oh, yes, it’s good to see religion’s hold on us diminishing to the extent that buildings are falling into disuse. It’s good to see buildings put to a purpose other than propagandising on behalf of superstition.

However, if the religionists concerned – in this case it’s a former Methodist church – want to meet in a building to do their thing, I see no problem, other than that, by dint of being a religion, it gets special tax advantages paid for by you and me. If it weren’t for that, I’d say good luck to them. Just don’t try to impose your beliefs on me and others and on our schools, and don’t try to gain unfair advantage. Just enjoy your religion.

My main concern, though, is that it’s just another milestone on the road to total Tescopoly. Sometimes, yes, a Tesco store is the only place you can get this or that, although one can’t help but wonder whether, if it weren’t for the existence of an edge-of-town one-stop supermarket with handy free car parking, more shops would exist in the high street of said town to provide the this and that you can now get only at Tesco.

So – short of having it as something more useful such as a farmers’ market, selling local produce and helping the local economy – maybe the building would be better being used as a church after all (with all the above caveats, of course).

Having a bunch of people singing and doing their mumbo-jumbo is probably far less harmful to the fabric of our traditional shopping areas, which just cannot compete with Tesco on the fringe, sucking the lifeblood from them, as has happened in towns near where I live.

Now Tesco – in the guise, in this case, of its Tesco Express stores – is moving into hitherto untried territory in the form of churches, it’s just strengthening its hold.
* John 2: 16: “And [he] said unto them that sold doves [in the temple], Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.”