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Monday, 30 January 2012

Humanists welcome UN sec-gen's gay-rights support – with reservations

With some reservations, the UK gay humanist charity, the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) – owner of this blog – has welcomed the unequivocal support for gay rights given by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his speech to the recent African Union summit.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation had been ignored or even sanctioned by many states for too long, Ban Ki-moon told the summit. He told delegates that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity “prompted governments to treat people as second class citizens or even criminals”.

“Confronting these discriminations is a challenge, but we must not give up on the ideas of the universal declaration (of human rights),” he said.

Reacting to this support the PTT’s secretary George Broadhead said: “The situation for LGBT people in African states seems to be going from bad to worse and, as in the rest of the world, it is clear that much of the hostility they face stems from religious teachings. Examples are the Anglican Church of Uganda’s support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the Anglican Church of Nigeria’s support for a similar bill.

“With Islam now becoming more dominant in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, the prospect for improvement in these North African countries seems bleak indeed. Whilst the support of such a prominent figure as Ban Ki-moon is very welcome, will politicians and religious leaders in these countries, in which homophobia is so entrenched, take any notice?”

Friday, 27 January 2012

The bishop, the religious ranter and the nice Mr Hill – the tale continues

Further to our story of yesterday about Mr Green and the contrite Bishop Benn, it seems that the latter has now specifically asked the former to withdraw the latter’s endorsement of the former’s idiocy in a booklet called Britain in Sin.

Green, you see – well, you do see if you know much about him – is, ahem, a bit of a, how shall we say, er . . .

He runs this tinpot right-wing outfit called Christian Voice, which is enough to give religion a bad name – if it didn’t already have one, which it does.

One form in which it doesn’t have a bad name is when people just get on with it and believe in others’ freedom to do their thing, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else or frighten the horses.

And that makes me think of a think tank I’ve often quoted in this blog called Ekklesia, which I monitor. You don’t have to believe in a god in order to appreciate the words of some who do.

And it’s Symon Hill’s article on the Ekklesia site that has informed me of the contrite bishop’s wish to wash his hands of the tommyrot that Stephen Green has upchucked into print.

Hill writes:
Along with several other bloggers, I drew attention two days ago to Bishop Benn’s endorsement of a booklet called Britain in Sin, written by Stephen Green of the fundamentalist group Christian Voice. The booklet opposes the welfare state, legislation guaranteeing equal pay to men and women, power-sharing in Northern Ireland and the UK’s membership of the United Nations.
A couple of days ago an email came to Ekklesia from the press office of Bishop Benn (well, Suffragan Bishop, but that waters down the alliteration) to say that, after endorsing Green’s booklet, the good bishop wished to disassociate himself from it. Later, his press officer sent another email, quoting Benn: “I have asked Stephen Green of Christian Voice to immediately withdraw my apparent endorsement of his booklet. I apologise for any hurt caused or misunderstanding given.”

By the way, in my post yesterday I appeared to make light of OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder, and Symon Hill, who suffers from it as a clinical condition, ticked me off in a comment.

No offence meant, Symon. I know it’s listed in clinical circles as a clinical condition, but I dare say we can still use it – as people do with many other bits of terminology – with a degree of levity. And it was so used, diluted by the words “something of a” before it, as well as being a play on several initials: “OTT OCD”.

And thanks for looking in.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The cautionary tale of the bishop and Mr Green

Here is a cautionary tale. If you’re ever asked to endorse something, damn well read it.

The poor old Bishop of Lewes, Wallace Benn, failed to do that with a booklet by Stephen Green, the “foghorn”, as Hugh Muir puts it in the Guardian, for Christian Voice, a grubby little outfit that shouts a lot from a very right-wing Christian perspective.

We all know that Green’s a tiny bit batty when it comes to gay matters – something of an OTT OCD situation with him. Obsessive because he seems to think of little else. Compulsive because he keeps trying to create a stink about such things. Disorder because – well, it’s a disorder.

Muir writes (last paragraph):
Green last crossed our path with claims that Tesco’s profits dropped because it sponsored a gay event. He believes in that sort of thing. Believes in all sorts of wacky things: that we’ve sinned by signing up to European legislation, by banning the cane, passing parking laws, by outlawing marital rape. That the Queen has broken the Ten Commandments by allowing her governments to pass gay-friendly legislation.
He then talks of the booklet, and the fact that the good bishop called it “interesting and disturbing reading”.

However, the good bishop has now been forced to eat his endorsing words.

He “now concedes to the Ekklesia website that he actually hadn’t really read it. Indeed he wishes to ‘completely and absolutely’ disassociate himself from the document. Oh Lord, what a mess.”

You gotta laugh.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

How Ratzo may do Ireland a big favour – by not going there

Pope Ratzinger may may do the Irish people a great favour by threatening to stamp his foot and throw his toys out of the pram if the Irish pursue their plan to shut their embassy in the Vatican.

If they do go ahead with it – and of course they should – he may decide not to attend the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin next summer.

Well that’ll save Ireland a lot of money, if the monster’s visit to England last year (and other countries, of course) is anything to go by.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Abortion ads on TV? Wait for the proverbial to hit the fan

This is going to be a helluva can of worms. God botherers will be out in force.

“Private clinics that charge for pregnancy services including abortions will be able to advertise on television and radio under new rules,” says the BBC.

The new law takes effect in April.

One comment beneath the BBC story says, “Abortion is always a terrible thing whatever your ethical and moral beliefs on the issue.”

And that’s true. I’m not sure about advertising abortion clinics when, say, murderous tobacco can’t be advertised. I’m not comfortable about abortion on demand as a form of contraception. I don’t feel qualified to state an opinion, although such a lack of qualification won’t stop what I expect will be a deluge of protest.

I do believe, however, that abortion should be available on demand when a mother’s life or wellbeing is at stake, where there’s been a rape, even when the baby might suffer a shitty life because of a known serious problem with its brain or limbs. And I believe the Catholic Church should be put publicly in its place when it gets on its high horse about abortion.

I recall one story from Brazil in which anyone who helped a young, frail girl to have an abortion – a young, frail girl who’d been raped by her stepfather and was expecting twins – would be excommunicated, and that meant doctors and her mother. Whatever you think of the damnably silly business of excommunication, it’s a serious thing to devout believers and can ruin their lives.

This little girl might not have survived the birth. Fortunately, the abortion went ahead.

We reported on that in 2009 – rather angrily, as I recall.

But abortion nonetheless is not something that should be taken lightly. And the reason I mention the ads story at all is that it will be the religious element that will bleat the most, as if no one else could put forward a moral case for or against advertising abortion clinics. My reference above shows that religion can’t take the moral high ground in such matters.

Decisions should be taken on medical and social grounds, not because an imagined deity might not like the idea – a deity, it has to be said, that sanctions genocide and other horrors in the Old Testament.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Political correctness and censorship

Oh, dear, it’s time for oversensitivity again. Mo (sorry, Mohammed, pbuh) is depicted with a pint of beer in his hand, so politically correct students get all pompous and silly about it.

I refer to the excellent cartoon series Jesus and Mo, which appears monthly in the Freethinker, has become at least two books, and is to be found online. Your humble blogger has an RSS feed, so he misses not one frame.

Those seeming to be offended are the students’ union at University College London (UCL), the first secular university in Britain.

“UCL was founded in 1826 as a secular alternative to the strictly religious universities of Oxford and Cambridge,” says the National Secular Society in the link above, “despite strong opposition from the Church of England. It was the first higher education institution in England to accept students of any race or religious or political belief and was christened by Thomas Arnold ‘that Godless institution in Gower Street’. It is therefore particularly important to support and defend the right to freedom of expression without religious interference and to make a clear distinction between illegal attacks on individuals because of their religion and ‘offence’ used as a means to stifle this freedom.”

Perhaps anyone choosing to be offended by this ought to see the entire series and engage with the often philosophical conversations that occur among Jesus, Mo(hammed) and the barmaid in the Cock & Bull (with occasional contributions from another Mo, Moses).

See also the Freethinker take on the story here, and sign the petition here.
UPDATE: I'm glad to see that the students' union has now backed off. A victory for free speech!