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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Scotland’s Catholic head honcho tries to out-Pope the Pope

The Pink Triangle Trust reckons the nutter who leads the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland – Cardinal Keith O’Brien – is trying to out-Ratzo Ratzo.

O’Brien has said on the BBC: “Perhaps more than ever before there is that ‘aggressive secularism’ and there are those who would indeed try to destroy our Christian heritage and culture and take God from the public square. Religion must not be taken from the public square.”

PTT secretary George Broadhead said: “It seems as if O’Brien is trying to outdo his boss in the Vatican with his anti-secularist and anti-gay rhetoric. When referring to the enemies of the Christian faith in Britain, he no doubt has in mind organisations like the National Secular Society, which campaigns for a society where everyone is free to practise their religion, change it or not have one, but asserts that religion must not have privileged influence in the public and political arenas where it can so easily become an excuse for conflict, inequality and injustice. The National Secular Society provides some of the most vociferous support for LGBT people and their rights.”

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Doctor Who’s Sarah Jane is dead

Elizabeth Sladen: 1948–2011
Those who aren’t Doctor Who fans can look away if they wish, but there are many gay people who are fans (a disproportionate number, some have said), so it’s sad news that Doctor Who companion Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith, has died of cancer.

She was one of the early companions when she was young, but a spin-off series called The Sarah Jane Adventures came about only a few years ago and was shown on the BBC kids’ channel, CBBC. Although an adult approaching my prime (ahem!), I watched it, because I loved her character (and it was part of my longstanding loyalty to the Who franchise). As well as being, for me, a wonderful actress in this role, she was very attractive, and didn’t look her 63 years (probably 59 or 60 when she began in The Sarah Jane Adventures).

Sometimes, the death of one person you didn’t know affects you more than that of another person you didn’t know. It’s subjective, but there it is.

One scene sticks in my mind. When the older Sarah Jane met the Doctor again for the first time in years (it was the David Tennant Doctor, the tenth), there was a kind of electricity between the two actors’ faces. She knew who he was, of course (probably his having just stepped out of the TARDIS was a bit of a giveaway), but that brief moment displayed in a few facial expressions something of her power as an actor – something maybe not as easy to achieve in the clinical, stop-go environment of a studio as on a stage, where an actor is very much immersed in the character from 7.30 to 9.30.

I suspect the Doctor Who fan sites are lit up with tributes. You can make a start, if you’re interested, by going to this one, which gives a roundup of the press reaction to Sladen’s death, and links to obits and tributes galore.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Nifty nuptials

If you really feel you must mark the wedding of two people you don’t know, who are tying their knot later this month in London, where traffic will no doubt be held up for the duration and taxpayer money will be spent on the lavishness of it all, then watch this video instead. OK, it’s an ad for T-Mobile, but you don’t have to rush out and buy one. Just enjoy.

I suspect most will have seen it, anyway, because it’s just about gone viral. However, I’m impressed by the lookalikes they’ve found. Often, not even comedy programmes on the telly get things as close as some of those dancing down the isle of Westminster Cathedral, er, Abbey, er Parish Church, whatever.

Meanwhile, it seems Britons are more sensible than many give them credit for, if this report is anything to go by. There won't be many of us celebrating, it seems.

Why gay kids commit suicide

Suicide attempts by gay teens – and even straight kids – are more common in politically conservative areas where schools don’t have programs supporting gay rights, a study involving nearly 32,000 high school students found.

So says an Associated Press report on 365 Gay.

Hardly surprising, really, is it?

The study focused on the state of Oregon, and “found a higher rate of suicide attempts even among kids who weren’t bullied or depressed when they lived in counties less supportive of gays and with relatively few Democrats. A high proportion of Democrats was a measure used as a proxy for a more liberal environment.”

Monday, 18 April 2011

Wise counsel?

Giving Catholics a contract for sensitive counselling of possibly vulnerable people is like putting a lunatic in charge of the asylum, a paedo in charge of the nursery, a klepto in charge of the shop.

But Richmond Council in England has done just that, and the gay humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust is not a little dischuffed about it.

The silly councillors think the Catholic Children’s Society will handle it better than a secular organisation, Off the Record, which has been providing the service for the past two decades.*

Let’s just clear one thing up: secular doesn’t mean atheist, and a secular organisation will very likely contain religious people as well as atheists and agnostics. But a religious organisation is going to peddle a position, and would you want a gay kid, say, being advised by an active Catholic?

Oh, it’ll be all right, son, you’ll grow out of it; Jesus will help; pray to God; it’s a phase; God meant you to love a woman (et cetera, et cetera, reversing the genders as necessary).

George Broadhead, secretary of the PTT – which is this blog’s parent body – said, “The issues on which counselling service will be provided to teenagers include contraception, unwanted pregnancy and homophobic bullying.

“Given the dogmatic and reactionary stance taken by the Catholic Church on abortion, contraception and homosexuality, which will clearly be strictly adhered to by the CCS, the decision of the Council is outrageous and beggars belief. I hope that young people will be well enough informed about the Church’s stance to give the CCS a very wide berth indeed.”

We have to entertain the possibility that there were other reasons why Off the Record was not chosen this time. That’s something between OTR and the council. But choosing an organisation whose ethos is so anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-contraception to counsel vulnerable people whose problems may well concern these things seems unwise in the extreme.
* Corrected from my original “two years”. Mea culpa. Thanks, George (see comments).

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Burning issue

Well, things have reached a pretty pass when you can’t burn a bit of rubbish in your back garden for fear that a left-leaning Sunday newspaper will grass on you in its zeal for political correctness.

It happened to British National Party candidate Sion Owens – who is standing in the Welsh Assembly elections next month – when the Observer shopped him, apparently, after receiving a leaked video of him burning a copy of the Koran.

Not many people – this blogger included – have much positive to say about the BNP, but it comes down to freedom of expression.

And, yes, no one can forget what happened in Afghanistan after Pastor Terry Jones of Florida presided over the burning of a copy of the Koran last month. However, the killings were not Jones’s fault, any more than similar atrocities – if they happen – will be the fault of this BNP thug.

Owens had the case against him dropped. The BNP says on its website that the police have realised that you can’t make a racial-hatred case – as it says they were doing to do – if Islam isn’t a race. True.

And what Owens did was provocative, and no doubt he’s chuffed to bits that his party is getting publicity out of his act. He’s probably chuffed to bits, too, that he’ll have achieved his fifteen minutes of notoriety.

And, no, I will not say he shouldn’t have done it, any more than I’d say Pastor Terry Jones shouldn’t have presided over a Koran-burning incident in March. All I’d say is: is there a real need to?

If you didn’t feel the need to do it in the first place, you couldn’t be accused of self-censorship by then not doing it, any more than I am guilty of self-censorship by not burning a copy of the Koran or a bible.

I just don’t see the need, think it would be futile and can’t be arsed to do it.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Is barmy pastor to blame for barmy Islamists’ murders?

Pastor Terry Jones is that chap who threatened to burn a copy of the Koran last year, decided against it (after some pressure, it has to be said) and then, last month, presided over a burning of it, anyway.

But should he be condemned for the violence that resulted on 1 April in Afghanistan, caused by people who don’t like his sentiments or that he presided over the burning of some sheets of paper – as if they were the only sheets left containing historic scripture?


Digital Journal has a longish think piece on it, discussing the New York Post’s barmy idea that Jones has blood on his hands and a Telegraph piece by Brendan O’Neill (editor of Spiked), which says he doesn’t.

Homophobe couple still want to adopt kids

Eunice and Owen Johns
A Christian couple from Derby, England, who were at the centre of a row over fostering are reapplying to be able to foster kids, even though their religious principles tell them they can’t talk positively to their charges about being gay.

“Owen and Eunice Johns, together with Derby City Council, had previously made a joint application to the High Court, asking the Court to make a declaration on how the Council should treat an application from potential foster carers who were unwilling to promote the practice of homosexuality to a small child,” says Christian Concern.

Their report continues:

As was widely reported at the time, although the particular Judicial declaration on the balancing of rights that the parties sought was not given, the Judges used the opportunity provided to make a forceful case against the right to manifest Christian beliefs in the face of equalities legislation, stating that homosexual rights trumped freedom of religion in the context of fostering, that Councils can require the promotion of homosexuality and that it would be legal for Councils to reject foster applications from Christians on the basis that they would not promote homosexuality.

The Johnses say in a letter to the council:

You know that we would love and care for any child in our care and you are aware of our views on sexual ethics. However, the National Minimum Standards (NMS) on fostering, the Statutory Guidance, the Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010 and the Council’s own Equality and Diversity Policy do not require that “positive attitudes be demonstrated towards homosexuality” (paragraph 101 of the High Court judgment). Such a requirement is not mandatory.

We believe that there is still space in the law for Christians to be accommodated in the fostering process and that the Council can make a “permissible accommodation” which would conform with NMS 7.2 and the Council’s Equality and Diversity Policy and that it can interpret the relevant policies in a manner that balances the rights of the homosexual community and the rights of those who subscribe to biblical views on sexual ethics. The Council can still comply with their duties under the Children’s Act 1989.”

As far as we can see, Christians are not being discriminated against, as these homophobes seem to think. Only homophobes are being discriminated against, because homophobes want to discriminate against gay kids.

It’s a no-brainer, really. They shouldn’t foster unless they could show that they’ll change their ways.

They may well be very loving in all other respects, but, if a kid is showing signs of being gay, it’s up to loving parents to give support, because to refuse to do so could mess up the kid’s mind. And that is not loving.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Let them not eat cake!

A wedding cake
Christians are up in arms over an abandoned scheme to hand out pieces of a huge wedding cake – baked to commemorate the forthcoming royal wedding – to UK citizens.

The massive confection has been baked at a secret location in Scotland, and the intention was to mail out a minute portion of it to every citizen in the UK.

Now it’s emerged that, as part of its comprehensive spending review, the government has scrapped plans to distribute the cake, which would have cost an estimated £40 million.

This isn’t the first time the government has scrapped something that’s already been produced. Earlier this year it emerged that four brand-new Nimrod spy planes were to be dismantled as part of the cuts programme, despite the fact that they’d never been used.

Apparently, the cake – so big that it had to be baked over two weeks in several production runs – will now go into landfill. And this is what’s upsetting Christians. But more on that in a moment.

Anti-cuts protestors are not pleased with the decision even to make the cake in first place, but are even more upset by the decision to throw it into landfill.

“It’s an outrage,” said Jonathan Couper, spokesman for Britain’s newest anti-cuts protest group, NoMoreCutsUK.

Couper told PT: “While we’re suffering welfare cuts and cuts in the defence of our country, this government can afford to throw millions of pounds at producing something as trivial as a wedding cake, and then scrap the idea. It shouldn’t have been baked in the first place, but at least the government ought to sell it off in some way.”

But why are religionists up in arms? Well, since the coalition government’s decision to scrap the huge mail-out plan, it’s been decided instead that the huge cake will be transported to a landfill site in northern England.

However, the right-wing Christian organisation Traditional Marriage Matters is furious, because it sees the destruction of the cake as sacrilege. Its spokesman, Rev. Jonah Wales, says the wedding cake has huge significance for traditional marriage and to put it into landfill would be tantamount to blasphemy.

“It emerged in Roman times, when the bridegroom broke a loaf of bread over the bride’s head to symbolise his dominance in the marriage. And that is as it should be: traditional marriage deems the man to have dominance over the subservient woman.

“Far from breaking it over a bride’s head, tipping this beautiful object into landfill is a travesty, an insult to traditional marriage and all that it stands for. We will be fighting for the cake to be cut up as planned and sold on eBay, so that people all over the UK – even the world – have a chance to partake in the wedding of the century. A traditional wedding, between a man and a woman, as God intended.

“At least that way the government stands to recoup some of the money it spent on this project.”

And Mary Croquembouche, president of the Celebratory Cake Bakers’ Association, said, “This would have been a boost to our members at a time when many of them are struggling to keep their businesses afloat during these austere times.”

Angela Battenberg, a former UK parliamentary candidate, added to the protest: “We hear all the time the government going on about how we’re ‘all in this together’,” she said, “but the great and the good will be getting cake at the wedding, something the rest of us will be denied.

“Even Marie Antoinette was in favour of the poor eating cake,” she said. “But not this mean-spirited coalition government, it seems.”

By the way, we did check out that claim about breaking a loaf of bread over a bride’s head. Seems it may be true.
Update: I see Digital Journal, no less, has now picked up our story about the royal wedding cake.