More tea, Vicar? No, thanks. I’m on a work to rule.

I’m a bit bored after that whole Nikkogen thing and looking for something fresh to get my teeth into, something new. Even the intellectual charnal house that is Mad Mel Phillips is not going to be enough today.

So, I as delighted to stumble across the sententious musings of Anthony Browne, chief political correspondent in The Times, on the subject of Christian opposition to the upcoming Sexual Orientation Regulations, or as we prefer to call it at the Ministry, flagrant homophobic bigotry.

Emboldened churches join forces to scupper new law on gay rights

The letter from Haringey council came as a shock. Gosia Shannon, a Polish immigrant, had been running a flourishing centre for isolated Eastern European families with pre-school children in the North London borough. But the council was threatening to withdraw all funding and close the group by the end of this month.

A fortnight earlier the group had made the mistake of voting to include the word “Christian” in its name, and the council discovered that it had a habit of singing songs about Jesus. In particular, a council official said that “Gosia’s attitudes toward gay parents worry me”. To keep its funding, the group would have to stop all religious activity and pledge to be open to Eastern Europeans regardless of their sexual orientation.

Ms Shannon insists that she welcomed the one lesbian couple who visited. “We don’t promote homosexuality but we welcome homosexuals. They are trying to impose their own culture on us, not the culture the community wants. Christianity is part of who we are.”

And we’re off to the flyer with that grand old staple, the ‘loony’ left, obsessed-with-political-correctness, Labour-controlled, London Borough Council.

Except…

This has almost certainly got fuck all to do with the views of a single, unnamed, council official on whether or not the group is sufficiently open to the gay community.

It turns out this particular project is funding via Sure Start, and in common with many, if not most government funding programmes, one of the many things that is excluded from being funded by such programmes are specifically religious activities.

Playgroup = money. Godbothering = no money.

This is not difficult to understand.

One might well think that the officer who wrote to the group threatening to pull its funding was being rather overzealous, and indeed, within a day of the letter going out, Haringey Council withdrew it and invited the centre leader to discuss their funding situation, and I can’t say that I’d disagree overmuch in relation to the main issue that was raised, that of teaching tots traditional Polish Christmas song – it’s a catholic country, for fucks sake, so what do they think they sing about at Chrismas? Tractors?

Nevertheless, other advice given to the group, about the inadvisability of making too much of its Christian values and the seeming omission of a statement in its constitution committing it to not discriminate against homosexuals is actual valid advice. The fact is, a Christian voluntary groups know this perfectly well, many funders will not give funding for specifically religious activities. The Awards 4 All programme, which distributes small ‘lottery grants’ will not fund ‘activities promoting religious beliefs’, thats the exact statement in their guidance for applicants.

That doesn’t that religious groups cannot get funding, far from it, but it does mean that the primary purpose of the funding must not be simply to push their beliefs down the throats of others, it must do somethiing else, like provide a playgroup, or a bingo club or lunch club or any one of myriad of other things, just not primarily or exclusively promote religious belief.

Likewise many funders want to see an equal opportunities statement, either in the group’s constitution or as a separate policy, and those funders do look for significant omissions in the wording of such a policy. You won’t, usually, hit a problem if you neglect to mention trans-gendered people explicitly – who can recall everyone? – but miss out on any of the main classes of discrimination; gender, ethnicity, disability or sexuality, and you could hit problems.

It’s perfectly reasonable to point out the facts of voluntary sector funding, and its then up to the group to decide whether to come into line with mainstream funder’s expectations or take their chances and leave themselves with a much smaller range of funding opportunities.

What Haringey council is trying to enforce with its purse strings, the Government is attempting through legislation. Religious groups are outraged that, from next April, it will be illegal to discriminate against homosexuals or transsexuals when providing goods and services. The clash between religion and secular liberalism is stirring high passions and has even brought threats of civil disobedience.

What a load of bollocks. Haringey isn’t trying to enforce anything with its purse strings – its a take it or leave it deal, you either meet the criteria under which we give you taxpayers money, or you don’t and you raise the money you need somewhere else. There is no basic right, divine or otherwise, to local government funding for a voluntary sector playgroup or any other project for that matter.

And as for this presumed clash between ‘religion’ and ‘secular liberalism’, why don’t we just call it for what it really is, a clash between archaic, irrational bigotry and common-sense rationality.

The row has been rumbling on since the law was proposed last year, but exploded this week when the Government laid down the Sexual Orientation Regulations for Northern Ireland, to come into force from January 1. It provoked a political storm in the Province, while a group of black pentecostal churches took out a full-page advertisement in The Times in protest that the rest of Britain would follow.

The Catholic and Anglican churches have said that their adoption agencies, youth clubs and hospices might have to close. Christian bed-and-breakfast owners say they would shut rather than be forced to allow gay couples to sleep together in their house. The churches claim that Christian printers could be sued if they refuse to print gay literature, and that Christian bookshops could be sued for stocking denunciations of homosexuality.

Reading crap like this generally only provokes one reaction from me; ‘Well that’s real fucking Christian of you, isn’t it?’

The simple fact is that there are very few references to homosexuality in the Bible and most of them are, in one way or another, open to interpretation and subject to a degree of dispute as to the precise meaning of the passages – more often than not, what has been presented as general injunctions against homosexuality appear to relate far more to practices such as temple prosititution and have their historical origins in the rivalry between the Jewish priesthood, which eschewed homosexuality, and that of the priesthhood of Baal, which celebrated it.

It’s also the case that the vast bulk of these references come from either the Old Testement or from St Paul, who really was a dreary old mysogynistic bigot anyway.

As for the number one guy, Jesus, he had next to fuck all to say on the subject, and the four gospels certainly do not contain a reference to him every saying ‘suffer the little children to come unto me… only not the shirt-lifters and carpet-munchers’.

In fact, if there is anything in the gospels that deals with Jesus’ attutide towards homosexuality it lies in a story told in Matthew 8:5-13 and again in Luke 7:2, which tell of a Roman Centurion asking Jesus to cure his ‘pais’ (that’s Greek, BTW) who lay paralysed or in agony and who was praised by Jesus for his faith.

Pais, which is the word used in the original Greek text of the passage in Matthew, translates roughly as a young male kept for sexual purposes by his adult ‘owner’ – ‘pais’ is the greek root word fron which the English word ‘pederasty’ is derived. In the version that appears in Luke, this word is omitted and the boy was altered to be a slave of interdeteminate age who was, eupheistically ‘dear to’ the centurion; one might say they were both very ‘earnest’ in their affections for each other.

This is the latest conflict in a wider war. Religious groups have been emboldened by their successes in forcing British Airways to drop its ban on a worker wearing a cross, and in getting the Government to backtrack on its threat to faith schools.

Andrea Williams, of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, which has led the campaign against the gay law, said: “This is truly a clash of fundamental human rights. It would seem that, when these rights clash, the homosexual person’s rights trump the religious person’s rights.”

Oh look, its Andrea Minichiello Williams of the Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship, yet again.

I do love this particular organisation – a Lawyer’s organisation that doesn’t understand a very basic principle of human rights law; the right to hold a particular belief does not necessarily confer a right to manifest that belief in actions if such actions are unlawful and held to be contrary to the common good.

Rastas believe ganja to be a gift from god and an important part of their spirituality – doesn’t stop them getting nicked for possession.

Satanists might go in for sacrificing chickens – they’re still fucked if the breach animal cruelty and health and safety regulations when they do it.

And some Christians might believe they have a god-given right to act like a bunch of bigoted arseholes – doesn’t make it right and it certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t screw the bastards to the wall for unlawful discrimination just because they’ve got a book that says its okay. If someone owns a book on cannibalism, that doesn’t make it right to eat people, does it?

This seems to be the bit that these idiots struggle with, comprehension-wise – ‘god says so’ is not a rational argument and suffers from one major flaw, if someone doesn’t believe in your particular version of god then arguments like that cut no ice at all.

The campaign to bring in the Sexual Offences Regulations was led by Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights group Stonewall. Mr Summerskill reels off examples of anti-gay discrimination he encountered when he took up the job: “We were dealing with lesbians who were denied smear tests, and gay people being struck off GPs’ lists. Household insurance was refused. Older people were not being allowed to share rooms in a care home. These weren’t exceptions.”

Yoe see that’s really what we’re talking about here. Not some pissy bullshit about bed and breakfasts but crap like this, for which there is no possible justification. Yet to hear these bastards going on, you’d think that’s there an army of queers out there, carrying maps of every Christian-owned B&B in the country, just itching for the chance to pile in there and soil their nice Christian bed-linen with their abominatory bodily fluids.

“We going cottaging tonight, Lance?

Nah, fuck it. I thought we’s try that Christian B&B by the chippy, just to piss them off…”

As if…

So when the Government was legislating to introduce a commission for human rights, he persuaded the gay Labour peer Lord Alli to tack on an amendment to make it illegal to discriminate against gays when providing goods or services. The Government put it out to consultation and held a series of often embarrassing meetings with church leaders and gay lobbyists. It got such a huge response that the legislation was delayed by six months. A long official silence followed, only broken with the Northern Ireland decision last week.

Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, has threatened to withdraw co-operation over schools and adoption agencies. Catholic priests are being urged to preach to their congregations and ask them to write to the Government.

In the Church of England, the Right Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, has said that church youth clubs and welfare projects may have to close. “In these proposed regulations there is no clear exemption for religious belief, even though it is widely known that several of the faiths in this country will have serious difficulty.”

And that’s the threat is it? Do what we say or we’ll take our ball home?

Fuck ’em, much of this stuff they’re talking about relies on state funding in the first place, and if they’re not going to do it, there’s plenty of voluntary groups out there that would be glad of the cash injection and the chance to do a bit of good for all their local community. not just those who buy into godbothering in a big way.

If the Catholics don’t want to cooperate on schools, don’t fund their schools – it’s not as if the fuckers are short of few quid, so let’s see the Vatican sticking its hand in its pocket if its so all fire keen to run schools.

Seriously, if they want to play hardball then lets just call their bluff and pull the plug on public funding for faith groups that won’t accept the new regulations. Look at it this way, if what these groups are genuinely about is social welfare, good works and charity then it shouldn’t matter one bit who comes wandering in the door, gay, straight, black, white, whatever. The Bible says ‘love thy neighbour as thy self’ and doesn’t carry on to say, ‘…but not the queers, obviously – you can hate them if you like’.

The right to discriminate only matters if you’re not really, deep down, motivated by Christian charity but see your little community project as kind of religious timeshare presentation to sucker in the unwary so you can preach at them, and if that’s you’re motivation then you can fuck right off as far as I am concerned, especially when you want the taxpayer to cough up for it.

But the strongest reaction came from Britain’s conservative black church groups, who took out the Times advertisement. One of the leaders behind it, Alfred Williams, of the Christ Faith Tabernacle in New Cross, said: “People think it is better to die than to sin against their God.There will be a spontaneous reaction. There will be civil disobedience.”

Better to die than sin against god? Not the best thing to be saying right now, not if you don’t want MI5 round to pay you a visit.

There will be civil disobedience? Oh this is too fucking good for words. The Christians are planning to go on strike…

Mwahahahahahahaha!!! Who the fuck’s going to notice.

Can you just imagine this shit in practice?

More tea, Vicar?

No, sorry, I can’t. I’m on a work to rule… 

What are they going to do. Shut all the churches on Sunday?

You just imagine the owners of Ikea reacting to that, ‘Oh, be still my beating profit margin’.

Cancel Christmas?

We’ll just have a week long Saturnalia party instead, I’m sure the Romans won’t mind…

Shut down the God Channel? Hey this is sounding better and better as it goes along.

How about mass suicide? They did, after all, say that Christians think it would be better to die than sin against god. In fact, after saying something like that, isn’t, ‘there will be civil disobedience’ just a bit of cop out? I’m prepared to die for what I believe, just not quite yet. Maybe in thirty or forty years time… peacefully in my bed… of natural causes…

Lets face it, martyrdom just ain’t what it used to be. There’s no sense chucking yourself fearlessly into the gaping maw of a hungry lion shouting defiently that yours is the one true god, not when you can stand outside your local church hall in the freezing cold with a few homemade placards, a flask of tea and a junior reporter from the weekly free paper.

The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association urged “massive resistence to this religious pressure”. George Broadhead, its secretary, said: “This is a truly poisonous campaign by a large number of Christian organisations. They are seeking to rob gay people of their basic right to protection from unjust treatment.”

And lest we forget, that’s what’s really at stake here -not special or extra rights for gay people, just the same basic rights to live their lives free from irrational and unlawful discrimination that are enjoyed by everyone else.

That’s the real issue, the hypothetical B&B owner so beloved of these idiots campaigners – no I was right first time – idiots could not legally turn someone away and refuse them a booking because they’re black, or female, or have a disability, or , now, because they’re too young or too old, or even because of their religion, so why should we not extend the same basic legal protections against unfair and unlawful discrimination to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

Give me a rational argument, here. One that doesn’t involve quoting mistranslated scriptures, the so-called word of a god I don’t believe it or which claims, falsely, that homosexuality is a mere lifestyle choice, something akin to choosing to wear a beret or drink Tia Maria or watch Countdown.
You can’t can you?

Not without arguing that its your inalienable legal right to be a bigoted, homophobic twat…

…which is true, you can’t legislate to prevent people being assholes, but you can legislate to stop them behaving like one, which is precisely what these regulations are intended to accomplish.

4 thoughts on “More tea, Vicar? No, thanks. I’m on a work to rule.

  1. I find the name ‘Sexual Orientation Regulations’ somewhat sinister, with overtones of 1984. How soon before some bowler-hatted chap from the Ministry arrives to administer the floculation test in order to determine your sexual orientation and get you properly categorized on the National ID database? All the better to regulate you by. I don’t think the State should be regulating anyone’s sexual orientation.

  2. I wrote an article for the rather bombastically liberal Muslim Wake Up site a while back on gay Muslims in the UK – yes, they exist, and their mummies love them. And what shocked my brothers/sisters was not the idea of gay Muslims, but that sexuality is a HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE.

    As from Anthony Browne, I once wrote a bit on Indymedia drawing attention to what an ignorant little twerp he is vis-a-vis my religion, and he emailed me asking to talk to me over the phone. In those days, I was new to all this and backed off, then I heard he was going on the Islam Channel. Ah! His come uppance is nigh, me thought.

    And Yvonne Ridley was a completely damp squib. As always. I hope he goes on al-Jazeera! Thank God she isn’t.

    Wasalaam

  3. Fellow traveller, I think the point of the regulations is to stop people from imposing different rules on you based on your sexual orientation. As such, it’s almost the exact opposite of what you’re suggesting.

    I’m no fan of this government but when it comes to sexual tolerance and equality they seem to have it about right, largely because the Equalities Minister doesn’t get to decide policy.

    I’m all for bashing the politically correct nanny state over the head but making religious organisations jump through a few hoops before they get state funding doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. Any religion worth its salt should be sitting on squillions in tithes, bequests and plundered gold anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.