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Saturday, 28 May 2011

Many teachers think the detested Section 28 is still on the statute book – claim

Incredible though it sounds, it seems that the hated piece of British legislation known as Section 28 is still in force in the minds of some teachers – people who ought to know better.

Section 28 of the Local Government Act of 1988 sought to outlaw the “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities, and was widely interpreted as prohibiting discussion of the subject in schools. No prosecutions were ever brought under the hated measure, which was eventually repealed.

As part of its work in support of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), the British Humanist Association chaired an event exploring issues of religion, sexuality and education. And it was here that the extraordinary claim was made.

The event was organised by the Cutting Edge Consortium, which brings together religious and non-religious groups, including the BHA, human rights campaigners and trades unions, to work for the elimination of any faith-based homophobia or transphobia and institutionalised prejudice towards gay and transgendered people.

The event, led by Naomi Phillips, head of public affairs at BHA and a trustee of the Consortium, kicked off the meeting with the wider context, criticising in particular the religious lobby, including the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales, which seeks even wider exceptions from law to allow them to discriminate against employees and service users, including on grounds of sexual orientation, than they already have.

Elly Barnes of Schools Out warned that “lots of teachers don’t know Section 28 has been repealed”. That was a sentiment echoed by Jennifer Moses from the NASUWT teachers’ trade union, who said that the legacy of Section 28 was “ingrained in the minds of senior school leaders especially”.

Sharon Ferguson of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement spoke about their new online resource which aims to support Christian, Jewish and Muslim gay young people, and Martin Pendergast, chair of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality, spoke on sexuality and theology.

Alison Ryan, who sits with the BHA on the steering group of the Accord Coalition, said that there was a higher incidence of homophobia in “faith” schools and that the “privileging of traditional religious views over the rights of other groups” is a contributing factor to this.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Archbishop’s ‘appalling hypocrisy’

Gay humanists have hit out at the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for his “appalling hypocrisy” over Uganda.

According to his website, Williams is very concerned at the news that the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill is once again under consideration by the Ugandan Parliament.

Williams wishes to reiterate his views, first expressed in December 2009 and has issued this short statement on Uganda’s pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill: “Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades. Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.”

Commenting on behalf of the UK gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust – owner of this blog – its secretary George Broadhead commented: “What appalling hypocrisy! Why is Rowan Williams ignoring, or refusing to condemn, the damaging role in this played by a branch of his own Anglican Church – the Church of Uganda – whose website makes it clear [PDF] that it is supportive of the Bill?”

Monday, 9 May 2011

Gay humanists shocked at prospect of legalisation of Uganda Anti-Homosexual Bill

The gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) – owner of this blog – has expressed shock at reports that a viciously anti-homosexual bill is shortly to be introduced in Uganda.

The Anti-Homosexual Bill was first introduced as a private member’s bill by MP David Bahati in October 2009. Bahati is an Evangelical Christian and a member of the Fellowship Foundation, also known as the Family, a US-based Christian and political organisation that arranges the annual prestigious National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

The Anti-Homosexual Bill was ostensibly “shelved” by Uganda’s president Yoweri Musveni following an international outcry. However, it seems that public hearings on the bill have recently taken place in the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and the remaining stages of the legislative process could be completed soon.

If enacted, the bill would greatly broaden the criminalisation of homosexuality by introducing the death penalty for people who have previous convictions, are HIV-positive, or engage in same sex acts with people under 18. The bill also includes provisions for Ugandans who engage in same-sex sexual relations outside of Uganda, asserting that they may be extradited for punishment back to Uganda, and includes penalties for individuals, companies, media organisations, or nongovernmental organisations that support LGBT rights.

The PTT’s secretary George Broadhead said: “We are shocked that after such a long time this heinous piece of legislation may still become law. Much of the homophobic bigotry which is rife in Uganda and other African countries emanates from religious sources, including US Evangelical Christians.

“It certainly emanates from the Anglican Church of Uganda which states on its website: ‘The Church of Uganda appreciates the spirit of the Bill’s objective of protecting the family, especially in light of a growing propaganda to influence younger people to accept homosexuality as a legitimate way of expressing human sexuality. We particularly appreciate the objectives of the Bill which seek to provide for marriage in Uganda as contracted only between a man and woman; prohibit and penalize homosexual behaviour and related practices in Uganda as they constitute a threat to the traditional family; prohibit ratification of any international treaties, conventions, protocols, agreements and declarations which are contrary or inconsistent with the provisions of the Act; prohibit the licensing of organizations which promote homosexuality.’

“Unfortunately,” Broadhead continued, “the vast majority of the population are Christian and clearly greatly influenced by these malign Bible-based policies.”

Monday, 2 May 2011

Ratzo and Mugabe – perfect bedfellows

The gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (owner of this blog) has noted without surprise that the president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has attended the beatification of John Paul II, which was held in the Vatican on 1 May.

An EU travel ban forbids Mugabe from visiting member states, but the Vatican is a sovereign state and not in the EU. The ban was imposed in 2002 on account of Mugabe’s gross human-rights abuses but Italy, a founder EU member, granted Mugabe an exemption to transit through the country. A Vatican spokesman said Mugabe had not been personally invited but as the head of a state with which the Vatican has relations he was entitled to attend.

Commenting on behalf of the Pink Triangle Trust, secretary George Broadhead said: “Mugabe’s attendance at the ceremony comes as no great surprise. As a fellow Roman Catholic, he shares at least one trait in common with both the late beatified pope and the present one – an entrenched homophobia.

“He is viciously hostile to homosexuality, declaring on one occasion: ‘I find it extremely outrageous and repugnant to my human conscience that such immoral and repulsive organisations, like those of homosexuals, who offend both against the law of nature and the morals of religious beliefs espoused by our society, should have any advocates in our midst and elsewhere in the world’; and on another occasion: ‘It [homosexuality] degrades human dignity. It’s unnatural, and there is no question ever of allowing these people to behave worse than dogs and pigs. If dogs and pigs do not do it, why must human beings? We have our own culture, and we must re-dedicate ourselves to our traditional values that make us human beings . . . What we are being persuaded to accept is sub-animal behaviour and we will never allow it here. If you see people parading themselves as lesbians and gays, arrest them and hand them over to the police.’

“Only last month at the funeral of his deputy intelligence chief,” Broadhead continued, “Mugabe described Britain’s tolerance of gay rights ‘unnatural’ and ‘filth’.

“Though rather more restrained in his choice of words, the present pope has shown himself to be equally homophobic, so Mugabe will have found himself in good company. It seems that the Vatican has chosen to ignore Mugabe’s gross human-rights abuses, just as it ignored those of the Roman Catholic fascist dictators Adolf Hitler, with whom Mugabe has compared himself, Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet. By granting an exemption to the travel ban it seems that Italy has also chosen to ignore the human-rights abuses.”