Comments more than welcome.
America is going completely mad. We have a Democrat president who is right wing in most of his approach, but is called a socialist and the Antichrist. We also have a Republican Party which has lost its way so fundamentally its main candidates to challenge the incumbent next year are outright, batshit crazy morons who campaign against gay people and call climate change a lie. The country is screwed. I’m not really in any doubt that Obama, despite waging war at least as gleefully as Bush, is going to be re-elected next year, but you’d have to wonder, given the way these nutjobs have strangled the political system around him, why he’d want to.
The current paranoid climate about Christianity is continuing:
Phones4U has been criticised by the ad watchdog for “mocking and belittling” Christianity in a national press campaign that featured a winking Jesus and the headline “miraculous deals”.
The ad featured an illustration of Jesus Christ grinning broadly and winking with an image of the Sacred Heart on his chest, alongside the headline, “Miraculous deals on Samsung Galaxy Android phones”. It was created by Adam & Eve. Media was planned by the7stars.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the ad after 98 people objected and claimed it was offensive to the Christian faith because of the imagery used, the use of the word “miraculous” and because it was published during the Easter period.
Phones4U defended itself by saying the intention of the ad, which ran in the Metro, was to portray a light-hearted, positive and contemporary image of Christianity.
The phone company issued an apology to all those who complained and withdrew the ads.
The ASA acknowledged that the ads were designed to be light-hearted and humorous, but ruled the ad was “mocking and belittling core Christian beliefs”.
The watchdog said the ad was disrespectful to the Christian faith and likely to cause serious offence and as a result has banned the phone company from running the campaign again.
So 98 people had enough time to burn to be offended and do something about it? The ad is gently humorous, it doesn’t even resort to mockery. It’s abundantly clear it doesn’t ‘belittle’ Christian beliefs, but even if it did – who cares? Since when should Christianity or any of its icons have legal immunity from being lampooned? This is crap of the highest order, and a display of unbelievable cowardice by the ASA. We have laws to prevent incitement of religious hatred, which is correct – we don’t and should not have any laws to protect anyone from being offended.
(via British Humanist Association)
And basically trash the entire concept. One to enjoy and share with the zealots.
Stephen Green, leader of Christian Voice, has never been shy of berating gay people for our immorality. It’s now time to take him apart for his hypocrisy:
Caroline Green, who was married to the anti-gay Christian extremist for 26 years, says she has come forward now because “the people who support him financially and morally should know what he is really like”.
She told the Mail on Sunday that he had beaten her and her children, “brainwashed” them and forced them to live in a dilapidated caravan in remote Wales to protect them from the “evil” of urban life.
Mrs Green described the incident which prompted her to leave him, recalling how he made a list of her failings as a wife and then beat her until she bled with a piece of wood.
She said: “He even framed our marriage vows — he always put particular emphasis on my promise to obey him — and hung them over our bed. He believed there was no such thing as marital rape and for years I’d been reluctant to have sex with him, but he said it was my duty and was angry if I refused him.
“But the beating was the last straw. It convinced me I had to divorce him.”
She also said that he had beaten their eldest and middle sons with belts and broomsticks.
She added: “It was almost like living in a cult. We were all subjugated to his will and cowed by him. Over the years he belittled us and made us feel worthless.
So the next time Stephen Green is interviewed by the BBC as a counter-balance to gay-related news, you know just how severely to condemn them too.
It is unclear to me how expecting pupils to spend time venerating a being in which they might or might not believe develops their sense of identity and self-worth. Wouldn’t the time be spent more effectively giving pupils the space to engage in structured personal reflection. This could mean pupils spending a few minutes silently thinking about or responding to a stimulus chosen specifically for its potential to develop pupils spiritually (and also morally, socially and culturally). The stimulus might be religious or nonreligious, for there is clearly wisdom in both: perhaps a quote from the Bible, Gandhi or even Marx. Pupils could share their insights with each other, discussing and debating their views, making their engagement collective and participatory and building a sense of communal identity. This is surely valuable, it is inclusive to all (religious or not) and, to be frank, it is not worship and it’s not “mainly or broadly Christian”.
We should reject the idea that worship has a place in our schools. We simply cannot expect pupils to engage in activities that venerate a being they might not believe in. Not only does this violate children’s rights, it offers no real opportunity for spiritual development. Rather, let’s open up pupils’ minds by opening up assemblies as opportunities for personal and shared reflection. This is what many schools do already, so let’s not be dishonest and exclude pupils by calling it worship.
I couldn’t agree more. I went to a school which pushed religion very hard in school assemblies and although I wouldn’t say I was damaged by it, would certainly not say that it helped my personal development in any way at all. Quite the contrary – it almost certainly contributed to developing my utter disdain for unquestioning tradition. Perhaps it’s ironic that Christianity made me hate Christmas.
Separately I can’t fathom why schools do nothing whatsoever to teach children and young people about developing their minds. It’s all about knowledge and passing exams but why is there no room for meditation? Surely understanding oneself is more important than almost anything else?!
It should come as no surprise to those of us who track the HateMail’s bigotry, but check out the guy on the left’s right arm.
This is in response to the story about Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy succeeding in their case against Peter and Hazel Bull, zealous Christian B & B owners who wouldn’t let them share a room on religious grounds.
Join with me here in condemning the HateMail yet again, and continuing to encourage everyone we know who still buys that rag finally to stop.
The zealous Christian owners of the Bed & Breakfast which refused a double room to a gay couple have been found guilty of discrimination:
Devout Christian hotel owners who refused to allow a gay couple to share a double room acted unlawfully, a judge at Bristol county court ruled today.
Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, who are civil partners, won their landmark claim for discrimination in a case funded and supported by theEquality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
The ruling, one of the first made under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, is likely to provide those in partnerships with greater protection from discrimination.
The owners of the Chymorvah private hotel in Cornwall, Peter and Hazel Bull, do not allow couples who are not married to share double rooms because they do not believe in sex before marriage.
The Bulls asserted that their refusal to accommodate civil partners in a double room was not to do with sexual orientation but “everything to do with sex”. The restriction, the owners said, applied equally to heterosexual couples who are not married.
In his ruling, Judge Andrew Rutherford said the hotel had directly discriminated against the couple on the grounds of their sexual orientation and awarded them compensation of £1,800 each.
A great result. I’ve heard numerous complaints that the Bulls should be allowed to discriminate against anyone they like, but the Sexual Orientation Regulations of course apply because they are providing a service, which may be conducted within their home, but which constrains their freedom to discriminate there. Ben Summerskill of Stonewall points out:
During passage of the 2006 Equality Act, Stonewall fought hard to secure pioneering “goods and services” protections for lesbian and gay people, protecting them for the first time against discrimination in the delivery of public and commercial services. The preceding legal entitlement to deny gay people a service was every bit as offensive as the notorious signs outside guesthouses that once said: “No blacks. No Irish.” And people certainly took advantage of it, as lesbians denied smear tests and gay men refused holiday bookings were well aware.
The Bulls suggest that it’s their freedom, and not that of a gay couple, that is compromised by the existing law. But no part of the current and carefully calibrated compact in Britain’s equality legislation forces anyone to do anything. However, if a couple choose to turn their home into a commercial enterprise, why should they be any more entitled to exempt themselves from equality legislation than from health and safety laws?
Of course they shouldn’t – common sense says they shouldn’t. But the Christian devout keep protesting their right to discriminate as a necessary component of their religion trumps every right gay people have to be protected from discrimination. We’ve had relationship counsellors, civil registrars and others professing their right not to serve gay people in the same manner as they would others, and they’ve all failed. Judge Andrew Rutherford said:
the right of the defendants to manifest their religion is not absolute and “can be limited to protect the rights and freedoms of the claimants”.
No doubt the devout will continue to insist they’re being persecuted, but I would insist that quote proves conclusively otherwise.
The closer we get to Christmas, the old, familiar Christian whining about persecution once again rears its ugly head:
Christians who believe their faith is “under attack” in Britain are launching a campaign to defend it.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey will launch “Not Ashamed Day” outside the House of Lords.
Campaigners say a mounting number of cases of workers being disciplined over their beliefs show Christianity is being “airbrushed” from UK society.
The National Secular Society said “zealots” were wrong to claim the faith was being deliberately undermined.
The day, organised by Christian Concern, will kick off a campaign to urge Christians to “wear their faith with pride.”
Wearing their faith with pride eh? Their faith is ‘under attack’? Does he think the public doesn’t know he and other bishops have seats in the House of Lords and have a say over legislation which affects us all? Does he believe that the Queen, our head of state, has suddenly given up being Supreme Governor of the Church of England? Just how does this leave Christians in a position where they need to launch a campaign (on World AIDS Day of all days) to defend it?
“Yet what many people don’t realise is that it is the Christian faith that underpins these great strengths and that has enriched our nation in so many other ways.
“This rich legacy is under attack. In spite of having contributed so much to our civilisation and providing its foundation, the Christian faith is in danger of being stealthily and subtly brushed aside.”
What the delightful former Archbishop wants you to believe as well is that any positive social legacy Christianity might have is being attacked without cause. Can I mention faith schools? New Labour and the Tories alike are perfectly comfortable with academy schools teaching children that there was a worldwide flood and that the world is no more than 6,000 years old – how is this an example of the Christian faith being ‘stealthily brushed aside’? Carey and zealots like him are quite simply stamping their feet about no longer having the right to discriminate arbitrarily against minorities they don’t like. They particularly don’t like all their court losses in their attempts to impose their bigotry on gay people, and don’t understand that the reason why people really aren’t going to church anymore is because they’re fed up with them.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey is to launch a campaign that will encourage Christians to “wear their faith with pride” after many Christians expressed concerns that they are being treated with the same sort of contempt they normally reserve for homosexuals.
Lord Carey will launch a leaflet in which he says, “I am proud of our tradition of tolerance towards straight people and our historic commitment to welcoming perfectly heterosexual strangers.”
“Obviously it goes without saying that any strangers would have to complete a questionnaire to ascertain their sexual preference before we start rolling out the red carpet.”
“You should also read nothing into the fact that I’m launching this campaign on World Gay Plague Day – sorry, World AIDS Day.”
by Terry Sanderson, reposted from the National Secular Society
We have reported on Newsline many cases of Christian activists trying to use the law to gain special privileges in the workplace for their beliefs. Examples include Nadia Eweida, the BA worker who was supposedly denied the right to wear a crucifix over her uniform, and Lillian Ladele, the Islington registrar who didn’t want to perform civil partnerships. There seem to have been dozens of these people coming forward claiming religious discrimination.
Self-appointed “defenders of religious freedom”
The Daily Mail and the Telegraph have provided a wide platform for these moans, and helped groups like the Christian Institute and Christian Concern for Our Nation to create in the public mind a whole mythology about the ‘persecution of Christians in the UK’. A couple of weeks ago I witnessed Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, regurgitating it in an Intelligence Squared debate at the Royal Geographical Society.
Such cases tend to come to grief when the full facts are uncovered in court. Freed from the distortions of the right-wing press, these cases nearly always turn out to be nothing more than religious activism posing as discrimination.
The latest case, thrown out of an industrial tribunal this week, involved paediatrician Sheila Matthews, who claims she was “forced out” of her position on the Northamptonshire County Council Adoption Panel because she would not recommend gay couples as adopters, however suitable they might be, because it is against her religion. Tellingly, she was represented at the tribunal by the usual suspects in these cases: barrister Paul Diamond and the Christian Legal Centre.
But once under scrutiny in the court, the carefully edited version of events that had been given to us by the Christian agitators was shown up for what it was – a lot of disingenuous rubbish.
The Head of Children’s Services at the Council, Martin Pratt, stated in a letter to Dr Matthews: “There are three concerns that I have: that we have to comply with the law, that we attract the widest possible range of suitable adopters and that we comply with our own policies. I believe that we could not allow a panel member to continue to participate in the process who is unable to consider, on the merits of the application alone, applications to adopt.” Dr Matthews said she did not think that gay couples should ever adopt.
The judge in the case — John MacMillan —said Matthews had no case against the Council. He said: “The complaints of religious discrimination fail and are dismissed. This case fails fairly and squarely on its facts. In our judgment, at least from the time of the pre-hearing review, the continuation of these proceedings was plainly misconceived… they were doomed to fail. There is simply no factual basis for the claims.”
Mr MacMillan said there was no evidence that Dr Matthews was treated differently from any other panel member who might request to abstain from voting, or that she was specifically discriminated against on the basis of her Christianity. He said the issue “transcended the boundaries of all religions” and ruled that Dr Matthews should pay the Council’s legal costs. And yet still Dr Matthews says she intends to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
The ear-bashing that she got from the judge was well-deserved, but you will notice from theDaily Mail’s account of the case that there is no mention of what he said about the futility and emptiness of Dr Matthew’s legal challenges – but the paper reproduces a lot of her homophobic opinion.
And this is precisely how the mythology of Christian persecution has been created, by partial reporting and gross exaggeration. When the case first comes to public notice those on the other side — usually local authorities or other public bodies — are bound by confidentiality not to give their side of the story until it reaches court. This allows the Christians to have a field day with the facts, carefully editing the tale for their own advantage.
It seems these self-appointed defenders of religious freedom cannot win their cases by telling it like it is (case after case that has reached court has failed) and so have to depend on sympathetic journalists to spread their propaganda for them.
We’ve had marriage registrars, marriage counsellors, and now an anti-gay adoption adviser, who has, following her removal from an adoption panel, after refusing to rule on cases involving same-sex parents, sued for religious discrimination:
She [Dr Sheila Matthews] said: “I understand that legislation permits same sex couples to adopt and they are positively encouraged to apply, but I have professional concerns, based on educational and psychological evidence, of the influences on children growing up in homosexual households and I feel this is not the best possible option for a child.
“I do not consider myself to be homophobic, however I believe that children do best in families with a father and mother playing different roles in a child’s upbringing and committed to each other in a lifelong relationship.”
She added: “My view arose from both a professional one from my reading of the literature, and an historical Christian perspective of relationships, based on the Bible, an authority which our court system still uses today to swear in those giving evidence and juries, based on its authority.”
Of course the homophobia is built in to the second paragraph, but Dr Matthews’ problem, as with the previous instances of Christian soldiers trying to get opt-outs in law to discriminate based entirely on the basis of their crazy belief, is that she was in breach of her contract, as well as of the law. Her view isn’t a medical one (or even a factual one if you want to broaden the argument) which can be substantiated at all, and no doubt she’ll keep insisting it is, but noone has suggested she not be allowed to believe this bigoted garbage – she just can’t act on it in a professional capacity. Although gay and religious rights have clashed here again (and will continue to do so), the reason why her ‘religious rights’ have been placed second is clear:
The employment tribunal, sitting in Leicester, dismissed the claim.
Concluding a two-day hearing, regional employment judge John MacMillan said she had no case against the council.
He said: “The complaints of religious discrimination fail and are dismissed.
“This case fails fairly and squarely on its facts.”
He added: “In our judgment, at least from the time of the pre-hearing review, the continuation of these proceedings was plainly misconceived… they were doomed to fail.
“There is simply no factual basis for the claims.”
Mr MacMillan said there was no evidence that Dr Matthews was treated differently from any other panel member who might request to abstain from voting, or that she was specifically discriminated against on the basis of her Christianity.
He said the issue “transcended the boundaries of all religions” and ruled that Dr Matthews should pay the council’s legal costs.
Message to the legions of Christian soldiers yet to come: your right to practice and believe in your religion do not (in the world of work and service provision) give you the right under the law to discriminate against people for their sexual orientation. So quit it.
The head of Belgium’s Catholic Church is in hot water for saying gay men deserve AIDS for the “travesty” that is homosexuality and that pedophile priests should go unpunished.
A gay rights lawyer is threatening legal action against Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard — a close friend of the pope — for saying AIDS is “justice” for gay men.
Leonard’s press spokesman, Juergen Mettepenningen, has quit over the remarks, saying, “Monsignor Leonard at times acts like a motorist driving on the wrong side of a motorway who thinks all the other motorists are wrong.”
The Archbishop is quoted by the Pink Paper as saying:
“When you mistreat the environment it ends up mistreating us in turn. And when you mistreat human love, perhaps it winds up taking vengeance.
“All I’m saying is that sometimes there are consequences linked to our actions,” the archbishop said, saying of AIDS, “this epidemic is a sort of intrinsic justice.”
It’s almost like he’s trying to divert our attention from something. I wonder what it could be?
Fortunately he’s had somewhat of a comeuppance (albeit a very small one):
I love Marcus Brigstocke:
The Christian bullies can indeed stop their incessant whining about how the BBC society country entire population isn’t Christmassy enough enough like them now. Sublime.
(via Marc Hall)