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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Try to look on the bright side of life

I always thought most people's ideas of Jesus – assuming he existed – were a bit of a joke, but get this.

A poster at a church in New Zealand depicting a jokey Jesus on the cross – due to be put up tomorrow – is likely to get Christian twitching.

The cartoon Jesus, is to be erected by St Matthew’s in Aukland. The figure on the cross is saying, “Well this sucks. I wonder if they will remember anything I said . . .”

Perhaps they should have him singing that song from Month Python’s Life of Brian, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".

“Tomorrow, which is also April Fools’ Day [and also Maundy Thursday in the Christian calendar], St Matthew’s in Auckland will put up its first billboard of the year, designed to use humour to encourage debate and discussion,” reports the UK Christian think tank Ekklesia. “The poster also draws attention to the tendency of some in the churches to focus exclusively on Jesus’s death as the expense of his teachings.

“Christians who believe that Jesus’s words and example of love and forgiveness should be central to their faith have frequently expressed concern about the actions of some churches who they feel do not take their Bibles seriously, particularly with regard to issues of justice.”

Ekklesia quotes Glynn Cardy, vicar of St Matthew’s, as saying: “There is a great tradition in the Eastern Church of cracking jokes at Easter. Laughing proclaims that despite the realities of suffering and death, the power of life, love and liberty is stronger. The tenacity of the human spirit is God given, and will not be overcome by the forces of oppression.”

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Crimes and thought crimes

The conviction and £1,000 fine imposed on a homophobic Christian street preacher in Glasgow has been condemned by the human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell as “an attack on free speech and a heavy-handed, excessive response to homophobia”.

Shawn Holes, an American Baptist evangelist touring Britain, was fined £1,000 for telling passers-by in Glasgow city centre, “Homosexuals are deserving of the wrath of God – and so are all other sinners – and they are going to a place called hell.”

In court, he admitted breaching the peace on 18 March by “uttering homophobic remarks” that were “aggravated by religious prejudice”.

“Shawn Holes is obviously homophobic and should not be insulting people with his anti-gay tirades. He should be challenged and people should protest against his intolerance,” said Tatchell.

“However, in a democratic, free society it is wrong to prosecute him. Criminalisation is not appropriate. The price of freedom of speech is that we sometimes have to put up with opinions that are objectionable and offensive.

“Just as people should have the right to criticise religion, people of faith should have the right to criticise homosexuality. Only incitements to violence should be illegal.

“Mr Holes’s £1,000 fine is totally disproportionate. Even people who commit robberies and violent assaults sometimes get off with lighter penalties. This prosecution was heavy-handed and an inappropriate use of the law.

“If I had known about this prosecution in advance, I would have gone to court to defend Mr Holes’s right to freedom of expression and to urge that the charges against him be dropped.

“Even though I strongly disagree with his views on homosexuality, if he had decided to appeal against either the conviction or the sentence, I would have supported him.

“I urge the police and prosecuting authorities to concentrate on tackling serious homophobic hate crimes, instead of wasting public money on petty, distasteful homophobic ranters,” said Mr Tatchell.

And your humble blogger is inclined to agree. What the “breach of the peace” amounted to other than the utterance of the words, I don’t know. But I suspect it was nothing more than uttering the words, not, say, causing an affray or seriously frightening the horses.

New legislation introduced last week increased the penalties available for people convicted of “hate crimes” against groups such as gay and disabled people to the same level as race crimes. The question is: should this be so? Or should there be just one breach-of-the-peace law, irrespective of the subject being spoken about when the peace was breached – assuming it was breached at all in this case?

It’s not an easy one, and I daresay strong cases could be made for both arguments.

I tend to think that the proof of whether a crime has been committed ought to rest on what actually happened – e.g. did he cause people to do violence, or actually cause a rumpus that scared the hell out of passers-by, or disrupt someone else’s rightful activity? – and not what a person was talking about.

Would he have had to suffer this penalty if he was on a soapbox in Hyde Park, where people are used to seeing ranters and ravers? What if he were in a meeting hall expressing those views? Or in a pulpit, speaking from the conviction of his “faith”, nonsensical though that is?

When is a word crime a thought crime?

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Hard-done-to Christians – again

Christians are rolling out their old argument again: the government in the UK is being beastly to them.

A bunch of Church of England bishops and other befrocked men whose real contribution to society is questionable have written a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, and cite, among others, the case of a nurse who was not allowed to wear a crucifix at work. This was probably for health-and-safety reasons, but Christians always see it otherwise.

Traditional Christian beliefs are being sidelined, say these frothing idlers, who have nothing better to do than compose letters to national newspapers. It shows what a sinecure their jobs really are. You get to swish around in robes or wear a purple dicky and look busy and important and go to meetings, many of them with government agencies and departments, with local government representatives, with MPs, with councillors. Twenty-six of these unproductive individuals sit in the House of Lords as of right.

Oh, I see, that sort of sidelining.

We have countless religious schools – they like to call them “faith” schools – and prayers are said before Parliament proceeds with its daily business. There are those 26 bishops in the Lords. Christian ceremonies are held to mark national occasions.

Yes, I see it now: that sort of sidelining.

“The church leaders said it was unacceptable in a civilised society to dismiss Christians from their jobs over matters of conscience,” says the BBC story I’ve linked to above. Isn’t it unacceptable in a civilised society to allow “conscience” born of beliefs in sky fairies to dictate life for others, when it’s your job to provide a particular service or goods? You can have all the conscience you like, but don’t expect your conscience and the job you’re paid to do to sit happily side by side, because they won’t. Leave the job.

As for the nurse, Shirley Chaplin, they have a point in one respect at least: “They accuse nurse Shirley Chaplin’s employers of treating her beliefs with disrespect, while happily allowing symbols of other religions to be worn.”

If that’s the case, of course, then it’s wrong to discriminate – and it won’t surprise PT readers that authorities in Britain have discriminated in favour of whingeing Muslims, for instance, for the sake of something called a multicultural society (and for political correctness, of course, and for votes). If you’re going to ban religious trumpery, you must ban it for all – or allow it for all. Personally, I have no huge objection to the latter (on the simple grounds that any piece of adornment is potentially going to have some significance beyond its mere appearance) unless it has downsides. And it does.

A Muslim woman can’t be allowed to wear a bin bag while working in a hospital, for instance, or when she’s having her photo taken for ID purposes.

A Sikh man can’t be allowed to carry a knife – the so-called kirpan – around the place, where it can be used to violent ends (if not by him, then by anyone who decides to steal his dagger).

A Christian nurse can’t be allowed to wear a dangly piece of jewellery if it might drop into somebody’s open intestine during an operation (or, more likely, be grabbed in desperation by a struggling patient, causing potential harm to the nurse).

If a Sikh student is to be allowed to wear a bangle in a school that has a no-jewellery policy, then all students at the school should be allowed to.

But, of course, when such objections are put forward, the first thing the religionist bleats about is discrimination.

Pope protestors gather in London today

Protesters gather in London today (Sunday) to accuse Pope Ratzo of covering up child sex abuse by pervy priests, and demand his resignation.

“In a 2001 edict to Catholic Bishops worldwide, the Pope ordered a cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy,” says the human-rights activist Peter Tatchell, of OutRage!.

“He failed to ensure that priests who raped and sexually abused young people were reported to the police. This is why he is not welcome in the UK and why we object to his being honoured with a State Visit in September, especially a State Visit that is being funded by the taxpayer,” says Tatchell.

OutRage! is helping coordinate today’s protest, which is being organised by the Protest the Pope Coalition.

“Pope Benedict has direct personal responsibility for allowing many paedophile priests to escape justice,” said Tatchell.

“If anyone else was involved in protecting paedophiles from prosecution, they’d probably be arrested as accomplices to sex crimes, not lauded with a State Visit. Why should the Pope be treated differently?

“According to a 2006 BBC Panorama programme, Sex Crimes and the Vatican, in 2001, while he was a Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI issued a secret Vatican edict to all Catholic bishops. It recommended that instead of reporting child sex abusers to the police, bishops should report them to the Vatican and encourage the victims to take an oath to not talk about the abuse they suffered. To keep victims quiet, the Pope proposed that if they broke their oath and repeated the sex abuse allegations they should be excommunicated.

“Benedict XVI put the interests and image of the church before the welfare of children and young people. He is unfit to remain as Pope. He should resign.

“The Panorama programme revealed details of the Pope’s leading role in the cover-up of the sexual assault of youths by Catholic clergy. It reported that the Vatican knowingly harboured and protected paedophile clergymen. Priests accused of child sex abuse were mostly not sacked or reported to the police but simply moved to another parish, often to reoffend. The BBC gave examples of church hush funds being used to silence the victims,” says Tatchell.

The world-renowned Swiss Catholic theologian, Rev. Hans Kung, has accused the Pope of “co-responsibility” for the cover-up of priestly child sex abuse and criticised the weakness and evasions of his recent apology. He quotes Kung as saying, “In the name of truth, Joseph Ratzinger, the man who for decades was mainly responsible for the concealment of these abuses at a world level, should have pronounced a mea culpa.”

The protest will take place at 12 noon today, Sunday, outside Westminster Cathedral (the main Catholic church in Britain) in Victoria Street, London SW1.

The Pope recently apologised for priestly paedophilia in Ireland, but failed to silence protests against his planned visit to the UK in September, which began even before the visit was officially confirmed.

It is estimated that the visit could cost the British taxpayer around £20 million.

Friday, 26 March 2010

The country’s going to the gods

Religion moves ever closer to dictating the lives of the nonreligious. There’s new code that will allow pharmacists to continue to refuse to serve people with stuff they don’t believe in.

So, if you had a bit of rumpy-pumpy last night and want the morning-after pill, and the pharmacist is a Catholic fruitcake or born-again nutcase, tough shit!

“A revised code of conduct from the new industry regulator will allow staff to opt out of providing items such as the morning-after pill and contraception,” says the BBC. “But they may in future have to give customers details of alternative shops.”

Great, if theirs is the only shop for miles around in a country area and you either have no car or are not minded to spend several pounds travelling even a few miles in these times of daylight robbery at the petrol pumps.

The BBC story continues:

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is to take over the regulation of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and the registration of pharmacy premises from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society later this year.

Under its new code, pharmacists with strong religious principles will still be able to continue to refuse to sell or prescribe products if they feel that doing so would contradict their beliefs.

But the GPhC says pharmacists who refuse services could be obliged to tell patients where they can access them and it plans to consult more widely on the issue.

I don’t like thin-end-of-the-wedge arguments, because they’re not always valid, but let’s say this could escalate. What will the Deluded Herd be able to claim is against their “faith” in other areas, too? We’ve already seen people who refuse to do their jobs because of some idea that fairy stories come above the job an employer is paying them to do and the public is expecting them to do.

How long will it be before other members of the Deluded Herd latch onto this and start wanting special dispensations? I can’t sell you this sausage, because it has pork in it. I can’t handle this emergency because I have to go to the prayer room and stick my arse in the air for ten minutes.

The country’s going to the gods (anagram intended).

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Let us pray . . .

Dear Lord in Heaven, look down, we beseech Thee, upon Thy humble and devoted servants and lend Thy divine Ear to our humble entreaty.

As Thou knowest, oh Lord, vile and evil poofters do wish to do filthy and abominable things in Thy House. They do seek to insult Thee and take Thy Holy Name in vain by getting “married” in sanctified premises.

Gentle Jesus in Heaven, loving, meek and mild, show now Thine everlasting mercy, benevolence and kindness by killing these spawn of Satan before they soil Thy House with their filth.

Thou knowest in Thy divine knowingness, oh Lord, that the House of Lords in Thy chosen country of the United Kingdom are today expected to execute their third reading of a Bill that seeketh to make legal this repugnant, foul, sickening, disgusting, gross, repulsive and hideous practice whereby abhorrent poofters do venture to visit their vile affections upon Thy holy places – a measure that Their Lordships have already approved in an earlier hearing.

Thou knowest also, sweet Lord and Eternal Father, that the Bill will then pass to the lower house, the House of Commons, for consideration of the amendments appended thereto by the House of Lords.

Verily, we at Christian Concern for Our Nation, though we be mocked and despisèd, do say unto Thee, oh Lord, please show thine eternal love by putting the boot in on these malevolent and sinful degenerates, who are not fit to lick the scrotum of Thy pet hamster. Most merciful and heavenly Father, we entreat Thee to confound their cursèd partnerships; gob on their wedding bouquets; crap on their shiny suits and buttonholes.

Thine everlasting, gentle, kind and most merciful Name be praised! Amen.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Hollow words from an old fart in a frock

So Ratzo has apologised, then. He’s said sorry that his foot soldiers were guilty of ruining people’s lives in Ireland.

Big of him.

He could have done the decent thing and resigned, or topped himself, as some of the victims of priests in several countries have done, according to the National Secular Society (NSS).

But the victims and their families will have to make do with an apology from an old fart in a frock. The trouble is, some of them – good Catholics that they are – will just tug their forelocks and accept it.

Got to hand it to the NSS, though. Its director, Keith Porteous Wood, pulled no punches in Geneva when he spoke this week to the United Nations Human Rights Council on behalf of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which he represents.

“Billions of dollars – and euros – have already been paid out in respect of thousands of victims in the USA and Ireland,” he said. “News of further abuse has since appeared in Austria, the Netherlands and now Germany – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. How much more evidence of children’s suffering at the hands of the Church will the UN and the international community tolerate before fulfilling their responsibility to those children to hold the Vatican to account?

“The Vatican is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child but has contravened several of its articles, and is more than 10 years behind in its reporting. It has habitually compounded the abuse and facilitated multiple reoffending by moving offenders around and shielding them from prosecuting authorities by imposing the ‘pontifical secret’.

“Major investigations in the USA and Ireland have been deliberately and cynically obstructed by the Church at all levels without censure from above. This includes the Vatican’s representative in Ireland, suggesting that he acted under instruction from the highest level in the Church. All this has led to abusers being allowed to continue offending and to escape justice, while their victims despair – some even committing suicide.

“The Church cannot claim it is being victimised. It still places the protection of its reputation, and even more its assets, above the protection of those entrusted to its care. Over 90 per cent of the compensation payments paid by cash-strapped Ireland came from the tax payers, including the abused themselves.

“When we raised this issue at the UN in September 2009, the Church blamed everyone else, but did promise one paltry paragraph on clerical abuse in its report to the UN. Even that mandatory report – already 13 years overdue and promised last September – has still not been filed with the UN.

“Following an instruction from Cardinal Ratzinger when head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, all suspicions and accusations of child abuse were to be sent to the Vatican in secret.”

I’ve embedded a video of his speech below. The CRC you’ll hear mentioned there is Convention on the Rights of the Child.

You may also want to read my own article in the current Gay & Lesbian Humanist. Ratzo, I conclude, is in one important respect no different from Adolf Hitler.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

It’s hard not to gloat

You’d think things couldn’t get much worse for the Catholic Church. But the religious blogger Cranmer has an interesting article with numerous links on just how bad things are for Pope Ratzinger.

Of course, the “global pandemic of priestly paedophilia”, as he charmingly puts it, is very much to the fore.

There are articles all over the world: Time, Bloomberg, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian and Reuters, to name but a few.

It’s hard not to gloat.

Monday, 15 March 2010

On screen and online – the movies and the magazine

The British Film Institute (BFI) has quite a line-up for this year’s annual Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, the 24th, which begins in London on Wednesday – and it includes a world premiere: The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, which will be screened at the Odeon in the West End.

There are several set pieces, including I Killed My Mother, written, produced, directed by and starring 20-year-old Xavier Dolan. The festival ends on 31 March with Children of God, Kareem J Mortimer’s “gorgeously photographed” (according to the BFI) first feature, which tells the classic tale of love unfolding against a backdrop of violent homophobia and social unease in the Bahamas.

The festival will present 75 feature-length films and documentaries, many of which have won awards at other international events, including Brotherhood, Nicolo Donatto’s story of gays in the neo-Nazi movement, and Ander, Roberto Castón’s portrayal of gay rural life in the Basque country.

One of Britain’s oldest gay-campaigning groups, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, is at the festival for a second year, presenting the CHE Film Prize, which offers a £2,000 prize to the film that best reflects the values and objectives of CHE in its fight for social justice.


Talking of films, although this has nothing to do with the festival, have a look at Stephen Blake’s article in the latest Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine on a film called FIT, which looks at homophobia.

Homophobic bullying is rife in Britain’s schools, and it affects gay and straight children alike. This new film by Rikki Beadle-Blair aims to tackle it head on.

Of his own early years, Blake says in the article, “Any young person in this situation [being gay] knows how lonely, debilitating a desperate life can become. It can affect how well a person succeeds at school, and in later life, their self-esteem and how well they get on with their family or friends.”

So it’s a film that’s FIT for purpose, you might say.


Have a look at the other stuff in the magazine, too (just click on any of the logos you see throughout this post). Not surprisingly, the Pope comes in for some fierce criticism, and is compared to Adolf Hitler.

He’s due to come to Britain in September, and the magazine’s writers are not too pleased about it. How, G&LH asks, can Britain reconcile what it would claim is a much-needed increase in value-added tax – or VAT – with a costly visit from the Vatican (the other Vat in the magazine’s theme this time)?

“British taxpayers woke up on 1 January to a New Year present from their New Labour government – a massive tax increase in the shape of a whopping 2.5% rise in VAT,” writes editor Mike Foxwell.

“Of course, in fairness to the government, this followed a temporary reduction last year, allegedly to help the economy, and now the party was over. Back to reality. Great Britain PLC is in a financial mess and can no longer afford such indulgent largesse. ‘Tough decisions’ needed to be made if Britain were to get back on its financial feet.

“One’s mind can only boggle, then,” Foxwell continues, “at the toughness of the government’s decision to pledge an estimated £20 million of hard-pressed public resources to a state-sponsored jamboree for Catholics by inviting the Pope over for a state visit later this year. Of course, the real cost is going to be much higher and the government has indicated its preparedness to sign a blank cheque. Probably quite a big one, as the 2008 Australian papal visit cost nearly six times the £20 million estimate for Britain.

“I wonder why the word ‘hypocrisy’ comes into my head.

“It might just about be possible to stomach such public-spending caprice if the Pope were a force for national unity, be it political or social. But, of course, he is quite the opposite. The Pope has recently single-handedly scuppered the Equality Bill that would have given protection to those gay people unfortunate enough to be employed, or seek to be employed, by religious organisations. I have often wondered about the Orwellian connotation of the ‘New’ in ‘New Labour’ – under their administration, everyone is to be equal, but some will be more equal than others.”

Foxwell continues: “Not content with this, His Hatefulness now wants to ensure that pupils of ‘faith’ schools are kept in the dark about essential sexual-health information, which doesn't accord with the strictures of the fantasy world that is organised religion. And this is exactly what will happen if the pernicious amendment to the Children, Schools and Families Bill now going through Parliament is not scraped.

“I seem to remember that Geert Wilders, a democratically elected European politician, was denied entry to Britain because he was said, rightly or wrongly, by the government to be socially divisive.

“Again, why does the word hypocrisy come to mind?”

Pope likened to Hitler

In the mag’s keynote feature this time, therefore, your humble blogger (er, that’s me, folks) reports on the opposition to the official visit of a man who has shielded child-abusing priests, been responsible for countless deaths in Africa and elsewhere of people who could have been saved from disease and pregnancy through the use of condoms, and created a living hell on earth for gay people, many of whom end up as suicide statistics.

Many gay people who end up taking their own lives are young – often very young – and homophobic bullying at school is a significant factor in many of these tragedies.

The Pope is a monster, he says, but, since most heinous things are carried out in total sincerity, how does Joseph Ratzinger differ in this regard from Adolf Hitler?

Young freethinkers

It is a significant shame that children and young people have so little opportunity to have their voices heard, and are, thereby, under-represented in all debates – even ones that affect them directly! Sadly, this is also the case within the mainstream freethought movement. In our “Blogwatch” feature, Michael Campbell explains how submitting work to the big names in the rationalist press can be daunting for young freethinkers like himself, which is why he set up Young Freethought. This new blog has created a lot of interest and has received a message of support from Richard Dawkins.

Coercive religion

That religion is essentially coercive, judgemental and self-serving is hardly news to most readers of G&LH, but is it necessarily so? Mike Foxwell says: “I have always taken the view that I have no problem with what someone chooses to believe in so long as they don’t expect special privileges because of it, or coerce or harm others with it.”

In a very personal story of his early experience of this phenomenon as a child (in his article “Religious abuse”), Neil Richardson expounds a similar view. Richardson, an ordained Anglican priest, believes that abusive religion follows on naturally from false claims to understand the mind of God, to the exclusion of other interpretations, and the desperate need to build a membership of following that will shelter and sustain their own interpretation and maintain a purity of doctrine. This description applies perfectly to the Catholic Church and its “infallible” Pope, as well as the happy-clappy evangelicals.

Gay Jesus?

Groucho Marx famously said he would refuse to join any club that would have him as a member. Although he didn’t say whether he would join one that didn’t want him, which is exactly what gay Christians seem intent on doing! Many of them reconcile the irreconcilable by dint of denial: they pretend that the Church isn’t really homophobic at all. Others, such as Elton John, who has claimed recently that Jesus was gay, resort to plain delusion. As George Broadhead reveals in his article, “Right to lie”, there simply is no evidence that Jesus was gay or even gay-friendly, but plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Gays in sport

Somewhere else where gay people are not particularly welcome is sport. Particularly the brutal macho-man varieties such as rugby. How ironic that the ancient Athenian games, the forerunner of modern sport and athletics, were essentially a homosexual celebration of maleness – all women were excluded from the precinct of Olympia on pain of death!

It’s hardly much of a surprise, really, that this all had to change following Emperor Theodosius’s statute of 390, which punished gay male sex with death. He followed this act of barbarism a year later by ordering Bishop Theophilus to destroy the Great Library of Alexandria. The destruction of this, the greatest storehouse of knowledge and scholarship in the world, marked the beginning of the Roman Church’s Dark Ages, the greatest intellectual and cultural catastrophe to befall humankind, from which the world has not yet recovered.

For sure, sport has certainly not yet emerged from the Dark Ages, and homophobia is rife in all sport today. So, it takes a brave sportsman or -woman to come out and challenge this anti-gay orthodoxy. Such a man is Gareth Thomas: the most capped Welsh rugby player of all time, currently playing for Cardiff Blues, has come out as gay. In my feature, “Out in touch”, your humble blogger (again) tell the full story of how Thomas has become the patron of UK LGBT History Month and his hope that being visible as an openly gay man will help younger players.

Things looked to be improving in the world of soccer, too, with a much anticipated anti-homophobia film, which was due to be launched by the Football Association (FA) at Wembley Stadium on Thursday, 11 February. Unfortunately, the film was not shown. In “FAgs”, Peter Tatchell tells of the consternation caused by this “postponement” among both football and gay groups, and the controversy over claims that the film itself is actually homophobic.

Manly mag

While on the subject of male bastions, even if you are a bio-male (or not!), are you a “real man”? Are you even sure what “being a man” actually means? The more you try to answer this question, the more confusing it all becomes. But worry not: there’s a new magazine called Spunk!

Spunk is troubled that so few bio-men in our communities are openly questioning, (re)interpreting or disrupting their own and others’ privileged positions and practices. We are inheritors of a range of traditions; from sissy-boys and radical effeminacy, to “straight-acting”, gay hyper-masculinity, butch and dominant straight-male gender roles. Spunk wants to question how we relate to our masculinities. Read more in “Spunk”.

Paul Cadmus

Male nudes were a favourite subject of the artist Paul Cadmus, who died ten years ago. Cadmus is featured in our “Out of print” article by Warren Allen Smith, which first appeared in G&LH, Spring 2000. Smith tells us of Cadmus’s life and work and of how the two of them became friends.

To the woods!

Woodland burial is a subject G&LH has touched on in the past. As green awareness and more enlightened religion-free spirituality grows, it is becoming a far more popular funeral option. Regular contributor Neil Richardson attended the opening of the Chiltern Woodland Burial Park, situated at Potkiln Lane, Jordans, in Buckinghamshire. In “Dead wood”, he presents some beautiful photographs of the facility and tells how the park’s policy is one of respect for people of all origins, cultures, faiths and beliefs.


The plight of gay people in Iran is well known, where many live in fear of homophobic attacks and even death. Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR) works tirelessly to find asylum in the West for gay Iranian refugees. In “Railroad’s journey”, Arsham Parsi, IRQR’s executive director, tells of the organisation’s work, its desperate need for funding and how people can become an IRQR supporter for less that the cost of a cup of coffee.

Pole polishing

Finally, even Steven Dean has been driven up the pole by news of the pontiff’s visit to Britain. Find out why he’s no lover of Polish Catholics but has had more kiełbasa than a delicatessen!

Meanwhile, you can catch up on what’s been happening in the news in our regular “News Watch”, “World Watch” and “On the blog” columns.

Once you’ve entered the magazine, just click on the links down the left-hand side to get to these features.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Straight and gay in Tinseltown

There’s an interesting article in the Independent today about gay actors, straight actors and actors who play gay characters.

They seem to make a bigger thing about it in Hollywood than over here in the UK, it seems. Here, we’ve seen, for instance, Russell Tovey in the highly successful TV series Being Human playing George, heterosexual and in love with a woman. But Tovey the actor is gay.

This kind of thing doesn’t play well in America. In the Indie article, British actor Colin Firth talks about how he’s unwittingly complicit in all of this.

“There might be risks for a gay actor coming out [in Hollywood],” he said. “The politics of that are quite complex, it seems to me. If you’re known as a straight guy, playing a gay role, you get rewarded for that. If you’re a gay man and you want to play a straight role, you don’t get cast – and if a gay man wants to play a gay role now, you don’t get cast. I think it needs to be addressed and I feel complicit in the problem. I don’t mean to be. I think we should all be allowed to play whoever – but I think there are still some invisible boundaries which are still uncrossable.”

Glenn Ficarra, the co-writer/director of I Love You Phillip Morris, starring Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey, said, “People have asked us, ‘Why didn’t you hire gay actors to play these roles?’ Well, there are no gay actors in Hollywood! None of them are out of the closet. With the exception of Ian McKellen, who is too old for the part, it’s exceedingly rare to see that. And it sucks because they’re actors. If a straight guy can play gay, why can’t a gay guy play straight? It’s just as convincing. But there’s this perception in marketing, somehow the public can’t overcome this idea of, ‘There’s a gay guy kissing that straight woman – my God!’ I don’t understand that.”

So what’s the difference between British audiences and American? Why can Russell Tovey, a gay man, play a straight man (well, werewolf) and be seen kissing a woman passionately and not ruffle feathers over here?

I for one find no problem with that, any more than I find a problem with a straight actor playing a gay guy. And that’s the way it should be. Acting is a job. You do your job well, you get the plaudits (and the money), and it shouldn’t matter whether you’re gay or straight.

I wouldn’t wish to see some sort of positive discrimination whereby only gays are chosen to play gay and straights to play straight.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

God, it would seem, favours equality of treatment

So Lillian Ladele has lost her fight to take her employment case to the Supreme Court. You can’t say she didn’t put up a spirited fight, but it’s only right that she should have been challenged when she decided she didn’t want to splice gay couples in her role as a registrar because it went against her Christian “ethos”.

The Supreme Court, the highest court in the UK, has said her case does not raise legal points of “general public importance”. Her lawyers have argued that she was the subject of a witch hunt. She may go to the European Court of Human Rights, she says.

We’ve dealt with her case in several posts before. The obvious moral of the story is that it’s OK to have a religious belief, but it shouldn’t get in the way of others’ freedoms. And, if your job is such that your belief does get in the way of others’ freedoms, you shouldn’t be in the job.

And, when I say “others’ freedoms”, all I’m talking about is the freedoms that are enjoyed as a matter of course by most people, but denied to a few because, in this case, of their sexuality.

So, hard luck, Lillian. But God saw it our way in the end. Perhaps you should revise your own opinions now if the Big Man has decided you can’t take your case to the legal bigwigs.
Relevant links:
Christian bigot wins employment case
The religious control of marriage
Glass houses, stones and Lillian Ladele
Christian homophobe loses appeal
Lillian’s pantomime ping-pong of prejudice
Lillian’s lost cause

From Lady Cumslurp-Bucketminge et al.

Must get this one in well before 1 April, in case you think I’m having you on!

If you go to this Number Ten petition, you’ll see that someone wants the age of consent for gay sex put back to 21.

However, it seems that some of the signatories aren’t taking the proposal too seriously. Here are a few of those who have signed:

Nathaniel Pilchard, Lord Huffington of Feltchingham, Bertha Bumfluff of Twattown, Bumshagger McSpunklover, Lady Cumslurp-Bucketminge, Dick Upmy-CHhocolatestarfish, Bonnie McFlange, Master of BunHoles, Ben Dover, Master MohamE-stim Bukkaka, Bumface McGoaty, Phil McCrakkin, Ben Doone.*

At least it will raise a few smiles in the Number Ten petitions office.
* When I looked in on this on 13 March 2010, these names had disappeared. However, there were others, such as Doggy Poosniffer, Nobby Arsepoke and Hugh G Rection, to mention just three. Maybe some of these will disappear, too. Perhaps the Downing Street petitions office people have detected that it is not being taken entirely seriously. What a surprise!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Alan Louis

From CHE’s website:

Death of Alan Louis

It’s with great sadness that we report the death of Alan Louis, CHE’s Community Liaison Officer and a long-term member of the Executive Committee. Alan had been an active supporter of CHE for many years and took a particular interest in services for older LGBT people and the “murder music” campaign. He died on the 4th of March at Bart’s Hospital. Information about the funeral will be posted here when known.

We don’t have any other details yet. However, CHE committee member, Ross Burgess, asks: “If anyone has any memories, photos etc. of Alan they would like to share, could I please invite you to send them in to” Alternatively, post them here, and we’ll pass them on.

We at Pink Triangle, the Pink Triangle Trust, and Gay & Lesbian Humanist would like to express our sincere sadness at this news. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and loved ones.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Praise the Lord, and pass the dosh

I was talking about loonies earlier. I just had to share this with you.

It’s the same lot – let out of the secure psychiatric unit at their local hospital for a bit of community activity – and they’ve produced this wonderful appeal for funds to help them to continue their lunatic activities. Christian Concern for Our Nation, whose efforts our last post praised so sincerely, and the Christian Legal Centre are linked. I need to explain that before we go further.

Right, with that out of the way . . .

Now don’t get me wrong. Some of the work they do may well be OK – but, then, maybe Hitler picked up the odd cigarette butt and popped it into a waste bin, or made Eva a nice cup of tea – but, generally, these people seem to have sex on the mind. They’ve really got it in for gays, and one has to ask whether they protest too much.

Anyway, back to the appeal. Hands to the chequebook now, get that plastic working, get to your PayPal account and instruct it to send funds immediately, or these poor souls may just find themselves neglected by God.

Here it is, beginning with a jolly little quotation:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph 6.12

These words are a reminder to us that we are in a spiritual battle. And at the Christian Legal Centre we often feel that we are right at the front line of the fighting. We are only able to continue because of the support of people like you who are upholding us with your prayers.

Praise God that in the past few weeks we have seen some great victories in and out of the courts

I want to share with you the encouragements that we have had since the beginning of the year. We have seen victories for Churches oppressed by local Councils, a teacher offered her job back, a strip club refused a licence and an amazing victory in the House of Lords. These are great examples of how God has honoured our work and helped to push back the secularisation of our nation. [My emphasis, to show how they praise His Nibs when things go their way, but don’t criticise him when they don’t.]

I also want to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to you for your part in this. Together with many hundreds and thousands of other Christians and concerned people, the Christian Legal Centre together with Christian Concern for our Nation have been equipped to take on these cases.

However, as ever, in order for us to operate we do need ongoing financial support to pay for our legal costs, our administration, to pay for basic operating costs such as stationery, electricity and rent – without which we would not be able to function. Our legal team work on an extremely small cost base and many people within the profession do not know how it is possible for the Christian Legal Centre to operate and to fight the cases we fight on such a small operating budget.

But we only ever have 2 or 3 months’ [sic] of operating budget at any one time[,] which makes planning ahead very difficult. We have to rely on the generous donations of our supporters literally month by month. For this reason, I am writing to ask if you would consider setting up a Standing Order to the Christian Legal Centre to enable us to plan ahead and to help to pay towards the cost of fighting more of these cases in the coming year.

Please review the cases that I have included below [it lists several and gives a short review of each] and consider how much, with the help of supporters like you, has been achieved on such small budgets and how much more we could achieve if we could plan ahead. We would be able to make more of an impact on the Courts and in Parliament. We would be able to campaign for many of the issues that we are fighting for in Court and to push back the secularisation of the UK. With a monthly donation we will be able to achieve all this and more. If you already give a monthly gift could you please consider making an additional one-off donation?

Thank you for whatever you are able to give. If you do not already give regularly please print and send in the Standing Order form online, visit . . .

And then it gives you details of how to do it. I haven’t given those details, because, sure as hell, some smart-arse born-again will read this, and then leave a snide comment saying thanks for those details; I’ll now go and give them some of my money.

Well up yours!

The cases they list as having “won” include how a church continued to be allowed to make an unholy noise (using amplification equipment, if I remember aright) after an out-of-court settlement with its local council, which had served a noise-abatement notice; how there was “victory” in the House of Lords when it allowed exemptions in employment law just so that religious employers could discriminate against gays; and how a nightclub was refused a strip-club licence.

I do hope you enjoyed that little exploration of how these good Christian folk think they’re saving the world by fighting against equality and hating gays. Tune in tomorrow at the same time, when we’ll be telling you how to exhume Pol Pot and how to send death threats disguised as Facebook “be my friend” invitations.

Whose side is God on now?

I wondered how long it would be before the loonier end of Christianity began to squawk about the decision by the House of Lords to allow religious premises and language to be used for gay partnership ceremonies.

The rather disturbing-sounding (but fortunately so far ineffectual) organisation Christian Concern for Our Nation (CCFON) thinks it’s undemocratic. I’m not quite sure how. It was even more democratic than usual in some respects, in that peers were given a free vote instead of being whipped (although some of them might enjoy being whipped, but that’s another story).

Here’s CCFON’s press release in full:

Last night (2nd March 2010) the House of Lords voted to change the law on Civil Partnerships, allowing them to be performed in Churches and/or with religious language.

The amendment, which was introduced by Lord Alli, an openly homosexual Peer, and backed by a number of liberal Bishops, effectively removes one of the final distinctions between Marriage and Civil Partnerships – introduced just five years ago as being purely secular in nature.

The amendment was voted through at 11 p.m., by 95 votes to 21 – an extraordinarily low number for such an important matter – and was hailed as a breakthrough by homosexual activists.

In January 2010, the Government had resisted Lord Alli’s amendment, reassuring the public that it was “not a workable solution to this issue”. However, in an unexpected move, the government suddenly allowed its Peers a free vote on the issue. The Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats also gave its Peers a free vote.

Ironically, the amendment was advanced as an issue of religious freedom, with some religious organisations voicing their desire to hold Civil Partnership ceremonies.

However, homosexual activists have previously made it clear that any change in the law would only be a step towards forcing churches to perform civil partnerships. For example, Ben Summerskill, Head of Stonewall, recently said: “Right now, faiths shouldn’t be forced to hold civil partnerships, although in 10 or 20 years, that may change.”

Andrea Williams [pictured], Director of CCFON, said:

“What took place last night is nothing short of outrageous and all who care about democracy should be alarmed at the proceedings. At the end of January, Baroness Royall for the Government stated that: ‘Any change can therefore be brought only [CCFON’s emphasis] after proper and careful consideration of these issues.’

“Was this statement deliberately deceitful, or do the Government believe that last night’s [Tuesday’s] debate constituted the ‘proper and careful consideration’ of the issues? The amendment was debated for less than an hour and was voted through literally at the eleventh hour, taking everybody by surprise. To have such a significant change in the law – a change to another piece of legislation no less – take place at the end of the Equality Bill’s passing, without any real debate or consultation, and at such an hour that most Peers were not even in the House, is a disgrace and a clear manipulation of the system.

“We will be calling on the Government to resist these changes, for the good of our democracy as well as for the protection of marriage.”

It is not the first time that constitutional irregularities have been used to force through law that significantly favours homosexual activists. In 2006 Lord Alli introduced amendments to the Equality Bill 2005/6 at the very last moment, which led to the creation of the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007. These highly controversial regulations were passed through on a take[-]it[-]or[-]leave[-]it basis, with no debate at all in the House of Commons[,] and amongst other things have led to the closing of Catholic adoption agencies.

Actually, Catholic adoption agencies have chosen to close rather than offer babies up for adoption to gay couples, who are capable of being equally as good parents as heterosexual couples.

Many pieces of legislation have gone through late at night. CCFON don’t complain about those that either don’t affect their agenda or favour their agenda, so it’s not really democracy they’re concerned about, is it? It’s the fact that it’s filthy pervy poofs that are getting a fair crack of the whip (that word again) this time.

And, yes, Ms Williams (just look at those eyes!), it is an issue of religious freedom. It became so as soon as a religion claimed the right to hold same-sex ceremonies on religious premises. Does that not amount to a claim for religious freedom?

And is it not religious freedom for a religious same-sex couple to want to tie their knot on religious premises? Or is religious freedom only that freedom claimed by religions who find that their cherry-picked biblical views are being challenged?

Obviously, Ms Williams, God was not on your side on Tuesday night, as he clearly was in January, when you were crowing about it. Tee-hee!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Hypocrisy beyond belief

Oh, this is so rich! The Catholic Church telling the rest of us how to live.

“The Roman Catholic Church has launched a strong attack on British society, saying it is suffering from a lack of trust and neighbourliness,” reports the BBC. “Its comments come in a pre-general-election report called ‘Choosing the Common Good’.”

You can read all about it at that BBC link above, but get this:

Members of Parliament have been pilloried for their use of expenses and allowances. Bankers have earned astonishing bonuses and brought the world economy close to collapse. The Catholic Church in our countries, too, has had to learn in recent years some harsh lessons in safeguarding trust.

That is a direct quote from the report. Not from the BBC’s reporter, but from the Catholic Church.

Note how specific it is – and rightly so – when talking of corrupt MPs and filthy-rich bankers who really ought to be made to go back into the sewer they crawled out of; but, when it comes to its own sins, we get abstracts.

No, it’s not merely the case that it “has had to learn in recent years some harsh lessons in safeguarding trust”: it has fiddled with children’s private parts; it has assaulted young people in its care; it has abused children who put their trust it its foot soldiers; it has ruined lives.

And that’s just the kiddy-fiddling part of the Catholic Church’s mission of the past few decades.

Add to that the way the Vatican kills gay Catholics and how it blocks the use of possibly life-saving condoms – plus the many other sins of its fathers – and you have a huge bunch of hypocrisy. It’s enough to make you vomit all over your communion wafer.
Related links:
The evil of Ratzo’s “living and relevant force”
Enter the monster – but let’s not make it easy for him
The hypocrisy of Pope Ratzinger

Want to tie the knot in a church? Soon you may be able to

It won’t be of much personal interest to most PT readers, I know (unless they’ve had a religious conversion overnight), but the UK’s upper chamber, the House of Lords, has approved the use of religious lingo and religious premises for same-sex ceremonies.

As we’ve said before on this blog, this is just an irrelevance to those who can do very well without religion, thank you very much; but we also say that what’s sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.

We await the tumult of protests from the religious lobby – although many religionists are in favour of this, anyway.

George Broadhead, my fellow blogger and secretary of the Pink Triangle Trust, says in a comment on the Pink News story on this, “Lord Ali says: ‘I believe that people want religion in their lives and many gay and lesbian couples are no different.’

“Isn’t his Lordship aware that Britain is rapidly secularising? The recently published British Social Attitudes Survey, one of the largest annual polls in the country and commissioned by the National Centre for Social Research, shows a further dramatic lurch way from religion with 43% saying that they have none – a much greater proportion of the population than all the minority faiths put together.

“It’s high time politicians like Lord Ali took note of this development and stopped making such fatuous claims.”

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Did the big bully hurt the poor ickle Christians, then? Aw, diddums!

Oh, God, here we go again. Everyone’s trying to bully poor ickle Christians. Aw, diddums!

It’s the turn now of the former Archbishop of Canterbury George (now Lord) Carey, who has accused politicians of “trying to bully Christianity out of public life”, according to the Daily Mail.

“He complained of a ‘strident and bullying campaign’ to marginalise Christianity in the name of political correctness,” says the right-wing tabloid.

It quotes Carey as saying, “We have reached the point where politicians are mocked for merely expressing their faith. I cannot imagine any politician expressing concern that Britain should remain a Christian country. That reticence is a scandal and a disgrace to our history.”

He tends to forget – conveniently, as do all the Deluded Herd, when it suits them – that the taxpayer funds schools that are allowed to indoctrinate pupils with all kinds of weird shit, that we still have an established church with 26 befrocked Jesus fans in the House of Lords by default, that the BBC puts out hours and hours of religious programming that, if the National Secular Society is to be believed, few want to see or hear.

Carey made his remarks to the Christian Broadcasting Council.

Welcome, Mr Mayor

When you write for a blog and do things in Twitter you tend to get bombarded with alerts telling you that So-and-so has left a comment or Whatsisname has begun following your tweets. PT gets them all the time.

This morning, I found we were being followed on Twitter by the first openly gay mayor of Portland, Oregon, Sam Adams (pictured).

Adams was elected to Portland City Council in 2004, earning a reputation as a “policy-driven advocate for sustainability, the arts, and gay rights”, according to Wikipedia.

Thanks for following us, Mr Mayor.