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Friday, 30 October 2009

The right to be a bigot

This is interesting, but not new. It’s from our friends at the Christian think tank Ekklesia, who tell us that gay-rights supporters have “expressed support for the freedom of those who criticise them, casting doubt on claims by a Christian group who suggested that gay rights activists are trying to stifle free speech”.

The Ekklesia report goes on:

The Christian Institute accused the “homosexual lobby” of trying “to shut down any criticism of homosexual conduct”. The comments were made following a police investigation into a Norwich resident who expressed allegedly homophobic views.

However, several gay rights campaigners have themselves responded to the incident by affirming their support for free speech.

Pauline Howe complained to her local council about Norwich’s first Gay Pride event, claiming that there are only “a minimal number of homosexuals”. In a letter in which she described gay people as “sodomites”, she blamed “their perverted sexual practice” for spreading diseases and for the “downfall of every empire”.

Her cause was taken up by the Christian Institute after she was visited by police who thought her letter to a public body might constitute a “hate incident”. The police decided to take the matter no further.

Ben Summerskill of Stonewall, which campaigns for lesbian, gay and bisexual people’s rights, said that “her views are pretty offensive, but nevertheless this is disproportionate”.

Meanwhile, the gay human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell told Ekklesia that he believes that “freedom of speech is important and must be defended”.

He said that he considers that the police were right to point out to Pauline Howe “the harm and damage such intolerance can cause”, but is glad that they took the matter no further.

“Although Ms Howe used very offensive, inflammatory language to abuse gay people, I would not agree with criminalising her” he added.

We blogged about Howe on Wednesday, and made the point that we may not like what people say but we must defend their right to say it. If we don’t, our own freedom of speech could well get trampled on further down the line.

The nice guys at Ekklesia cite Stonewall and Peter Tatchell, but it would have been nice if they’d cited Pink Triangle, too. We’ve been banging on about it for long enough, and in several posts, even incurring the wrath of the odd commenter. Maybe next time, eh, chaps?

See also Symon Hill’s take on this in another Ekklesia article, in which he says that constant references to Howe’s Christianity can give “the impression that religion is an excuse for prejudice and that Christians can be expected to be homophobic”.

I, for one, don’t believe all Christians are homophobic, or that we should expect them to be so. That many are, and rabidly so, is, though, evident daily, especially when it comes to raving nutcases such as those at the Christian Institute. One thing that can be said for Ekklesia – and this is why we quote and cite them so often – is that there’s no homophobia there, and, while we wouldn’t go along with their explanations for the origin of the universe or who’s making it continue to tick, they often have a lot of good sense to impart.

Other Christians could learn a lot from Ekklesia.

2 comments:

Diesel B said...

Another great piece defending freedom of expression - and yes, Ekklesia are in some ways fellow travellers, their religion tempered by reason and a gentle generosity of spirit, mirroring our own.
What a shame though that the dreadful Peter Tatchell is cited as representing those of us who staunchly defend freedom of speech.
Yes, Peter Tatchell supports freedom of speech - but only when it suits him. I seem to remember he was one of the culprits who put the boot in to the original Gay & Lesbian Humanist Magazine back in December 2005 (along with other die-hard left wingers, angered by some of its contributors' opposition to reckless immigration policies and Muslim extremism), resulting in its closure.
Yet Tatchell and many of his co-travellers still saw fit to speak at the so-called "Freedom of Expression" rally in Trafalgar Square just 3 months later, in March 2006.
Tatchell even had the cheek to "welcome back" the on-line version of Gay & Lesbian Humanist Magazine, published by the Pink Triangle Trust. Until the next time you disagree with something it publishes, eh, Pete?
And why does Tatchell think the police are the right people to lecture batty Christian pensioners, anyway?
Tatchell is that most unpleasant of things, a finger-wagging, authoritarian and doctrinaire leftie, consumed with self-righteousness and prepared to use the apparatus of the state to bully, silence and intimidate people into line - even if they are confused and gaga old women.

truthspew said...

Not all Christians per se, but three remarkable groups pop up.

The Catholics, Southern Baptists and Mormons. Those three Christian groups are for the most part full of homophobic twaddle.

Case in point Bishops Malone and Tobin of Maine and Rhode Island respectively. Their anti-gay screeds are interesting since they always have to say "but we love the sinner" at the end. It smacks of hypocrisy.

And I shall reserve the right to silence Christian bigots with ridicule wherever and whenever possible.