The hateful HateMail firebrand has actually gone public to defend her outrageous attack on the ‘gay agenda’. It’s a horrible, mean-spirited defence of a horrible, mean-spirited article. Of course she argues she and her fellow Christianists are the real victims – they have no choice but to say she’s standing up for ‘principles’, ‘normality’ and the country’s ‘basic moral framework’ – it’s pretty much the only way she can defend such naked, anti-gay hate. But read for yourself:
In an email, she wrote: “I’m sorry if what I wrote has offended some of your readers. You tell me that they may regard it as ‘over the top’. In fact, that is how I would describe some of the reaction to what I wrote.
“I have nothing against gay people and would always defend them against true prejudice – as I did in my article, and as I often do when considering the threat posed to them by radical Islamism. What does concern me, however, is the ‘gay rights’ political agenda which, as activists have often made clear, aims to change the basic moral framework of society.
What she means is gay people must know their place. As long as we accept we’re abnormal and unequal she’ll defend us against true prejudice (whatever that is).
“I am very surprised that readers may be offended by my suggestion that this agenda aims to destroy ‘normal’ sexual behaviour; as Andrew Sullivan made clear in his famous book, ‘Virtually Normal’, this is indeed a core aim.
“As for the issue of the teaching materials I would have thought that, given your readers’ concern for civil liberties, they would be disturbed by any manipulation of the school curriculum to promote a particular viewpoint about any group. There is no evidence at all that any such initiative has ever diminished any kind of prejudice or bullying in schools.
Yes there is – such an utter lie, but let me jump on the phrase ‘manipulation of the school curriculum to promote a particular viewpoint about … group’ and the nasty subtext contained therein. First off the Schools Out teaching materials for LGBT History Month are just that – additions which could be made to certain classes to inform children and young people about gay people if they want. How terrible it would be for gay kids to find out about the contributions made to society about other gay people. How terrible it would be for gay kids to be spoken about in classrooms as normal. Yet even that is disparaged by Phillips:
“And I know that many gay people are very decently troubled by my central point, that the equality agenda is depriving Christians of their rights to live their lives in accordance with their principles.
“I hope this helps explain my position more fully.”
It does. She’s arguing that Christian zealots should be allowed to discriminate freely based on belief alone.
Johann Hari on the other hand demonstrates that hate such has hers has consequences:
Jonathan Reynolds was a 15-year old boy from Bridgend in South Wales who was accused – accurately or not, we’ll never know – of being gay. He was yelled at for being a “faggot” and a “poof”. So one day, he sat a GSCE exam – later graded as an A – and went to the train tracks near his school and lay on them. He texted his sister: “Tell everyone that this is for anybody who eva said anything bad about me, see I do have feelings too. Blame the people who were horrible and injust to me, see I do have feeling too. Blame the people who were horrible and injust to me. This is because of them, I am human just like them. None of you blame yourself, mum, dad, Sam and the rest of the family. This is not because of you.” And then the train killed him.
I guess nobody told Jonathan Reynolds that, as the columnist Melanie Phillips put it, “just about everything in Britain is now run according to the gay agenda.” The great Gay Conquest didn’t make it from her imagination to his playground, or any playground in Britain. Gay kids are six times more likely to commit suicide than their straight siblings. Every week, I get emails from despairing gay kids who describe being thrown against lockers, scorned by their teachers if they complain, and – in some faith schools – told they will burn in Hell. Every day they have to brave playgrounds where the worst insult you can apply is to call something “gay”. They feel totally lost. This could have been your child, or my child, or Melanie Phillips’ child.
Melanie Phillips can go straight to hell.
Johann Hari has had enough of Ratzinger ahead of his State Visit:
Some people think Ratzinger’s critics are holding him responsible for acts that were carried out before he became Pope, simply because he is the head of the institution involved. This is an error. For over 25 years, Ratzinger was personally in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the part of the Vatican responsible for enforcing Catholic canonical law across the world, including on sexual abuse. He is a notorious micro-manager who, it is said, insisted every salient document cross his desk. Hans Küng, a former friend of Ratzinger’s, says: “No one in the whole of the Catholic Church knew as much about abuse cases as this Pope.”
We know what the methods of the church were during this period. When it was discovered that a child had been raped by a priest, the church swore everybody involved to secrecy, and moved the priest on to another parish. When he raped more children, they too were sworn to secrecy, and he was moved on to another parish. And on, and on. Over 10,000 people have come forward to say they were raped as part of this misery-go-round. The church insisted all cases be kept from the police and dealt with by their own “canon” law – which can only “punish” child rapists to prayer or penitence or, on rare occasions, defrocking.
Ratzinger was at the heart of this. He refuses to let any police officer see the Vatican’s documentation, even now, but honourable Catholics have leaked some of them anyway. We know what he did. We have the paper trail.
There are people who will tell you that these criticisms of Ratzinger are “anti-Catholic”. What could be more anti-Catholic than to cheer the man who facilitated the rape of your children? What could be more pro-Catholic than to try to bring him to justice? This is only one of Ratzinger’s crimes. When he visited Africa in March 2009, he said that condoms “increase the problem” of HIV/Aids. His defenders say he is simply preaching abstinence outside marriage and monogamy within it, so if people are following his advice they can’t contract HIV – but in order to reinforce the first part of his message, he spreads overt lies claiming condoms don’t work. In a church in Congo, I watched as a Catholic priest said condoms contain “tiny holes” that “help” the HIV virus – not an unusual event. Meanwhile, Ratzinger calls consensual gay sex “evil”, and has been at the forefront of trying to prevent laws that establish basic rights for gay people, especially in Latin America.
the visit has subjected Pope Benedict’s conservatism to intensely unfavourable scrutiny. On Friday he meets the Archbishop of Canterbury, who ought to send him off with a flea in his ear for trying to seduce over to Rome Church of England clergy opposed to women bishops. His beatification of Cardinal Newman for converting to Catholicism is an affront, along with his claim that Britain’s Equalities Act “violates natural law” for banning discrimination against women and gays.
“Pope Benedict XVI does not deserve the honour of a State Visit. He says women are unfit to be priests, childless couples should be denied fertility treatment and potentially life-saving embryonic stem cell research ought to be banned. The Pope insists that rape victims should be denied an abortion, using condoms to stop the spread of HIV is immoral and gay people are not entitled to equal human rights. On all these issues, Benedict is out of step with the majority of British people, including many Catholics.
“Most shockingly, the Pope is accused of covering up child sex abuse by clergy. In 2001, he wrote to every Catholic bishop in the world, ordering them to report all child sex abuse cases to him in Rome. They did. He therefore cannot claim that he was unaware of sex abuse. Moreover, his letter to the bishops demanded that they observe ‘Papal secrecy.’ It did not advise them to report abusers to the police.
“Even today, the Pope refuses to open the Vatican’s sex abuse files and hand them to the relevant police forces worldwide. Many people see his inaction as collusion with sex crimes against children. Such a person should not be feted by our government,” said Mr Tatchell.
They’re all entirely right. Ratzinger has covered up serious criminal offences. He has lobbied to disadvantage minorities he disagrees with on dogmatic grounds. He has argued against means of protecting the health and lives of millions on dogmatic grounds. It’s indeed outrageous that this man should be allowed into the UK at all, given his shameless homophobic preaching, when multiple equally homophobic rappers aren’t. There have been many on TV who have argued that he should be left well enough alone on this unprecedented State Visit, to spare the feelings of the numerous Catholics who unconditionally support him as the spiritual head of their Church. I couldn’t agree less. Noone should be immune from either the rule of law or the consequences of their actions. So Tatchell has acknowledged that he’s not going to be able to pull of a citizen’s arrest – it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean that Ratzinger’s life shouldn’t be made as uncomfortable as possible whilst he’s here, nor that he shouldn’t know just what we think of him and why.
I’ll be attending the demonstration on Saturday. You should too.
@Nick_Clegg tells you to get out and vote (and I’d agree if you haven’t already):
Others aren’t so sure:
Either way, in this election there are vested interests which are terrified you’re going to take their power away from them. So ruin the HateMail’s day. Ruin Murdoch’s day. And at the very least don’t whatever you do vote Tory (or BNP for that matter but I sorta hope that’s self-evident to anyone reading this). Jonathan Freedland and Johann Hari offer last minute salutory reminders why not.
I’ve been told by my polling station’s returning officer that turnout was the heaviest she’s seen. In my constituency – a so-called ‘safe seat’, I really hope that’s a good thing.
The Lib Dem leader puts David Cameron on the back foot on gay rights as it looks increasingly as though cultural divisions will define this year’s general election. Nick Clegg acknowledged how far Labour equalised the legal playing field, with the equalisation of the age of consent, the removal of Section 28, the removal of the armed forces ban an the introduction of civil partnerships, but in interview with Johann Hari offered to go much further, to:
- Force all schools – including faith schools – to implement anti-homophobia bullying policies and teach that homosexuality is “normal and harmless”.
- Change the law to allow gay men and women the same marital rights as straight couples, including the symbolic right to use the word “marriage” rather than civil partnerships.
- Reverse the ban on gay men being allowed to give blood.
- Guarantee any refugees genuinely fleeing a country because of persecution over their sexual orientation asylum in the UK.
- Review Uganda’s membership of the Commonwealth if its government was to bring in the death penalty for practicing gays.
It’s an impressive support of full equality, the likes of which David Cameron and even Gordon Brown would be hard pressed to match. Most interesting I find is his offer to force all schools, particularly faith schools to operate positively against homophobia. It’ll infuriate widely in the religious community, yet Clegg is entirely right when he points out the real battleground in changing attitudes is in schools. It’s where Brown hasn’t risked treading, it’s where Cameron won’t consider treading, and it’s extremely admirable that Clegg should risk losing considerable number of religious votes on this issue. Acting on principle rather than for electoral advantage will put serious weight behind his pledge to want to move past the first-past-the-post strategy of having to court swing voters in marginal seats. The Church of England has already responded:
speaking to The Independent last night, one senior Anglican bishop (who asked not to be named) said: “I think this will go down badly even among the not overtly evangelical. Instituting something that must be taught, come what may, is frighteningly fascist.”
The Rev Janina Ainsworth, chief education officer for the Church of England, said she saw no reason why the current laws governing sex education in schools should change. “The Church’s traditional teaching is that sex should be set within the framework of a faithful marriage, and sex education in church schools will be delivered within that context,” she said. “At the appropriate stage within the sex education curriculum, all students, in all schools, should have the opportunity to examine the full range of views on different aspects of sex and sexuality, and to develop their own considered position. Further upheaval of the guidance for sex education would not be welcomed by many schools, church or otherwise.”
It’s interesting to think that preventing organised religion from permitting homophobia to be condoned in any aspect of children’s education should be somehow ‘fascist’, but arguments such as this may be the shape of things to come. If Clegg persists in his line of constitutional reform and putting his money where his mouth is on matters of equality, we’ll have some genuinely non-technocratic dividing lines opening up in this general election. His interviewer Johann Hari explains why it’s necessary:
41 per cent of gay children get beaten up in school, and they are six times more likely to commit suicide than their straight siblings. He says every school must teach that homosexuality is “normal and harmless and something that happens”. There can be no religious excuses. He wants to see this tightly policed: “We need to put serious pressure on them. It needs to be a requirement.”
And then goes further, identifying institutional homophobia as equally unacceptable as institutional racism:
In the same way, he says the Government needs to drive homophobia out of the police, where a 2005 Home Office study found it to be “endemic”. He compared several recent cases – where gay people were murdered and the investigations appeared to go badly wrong – to the Stephen Lawrence tragedy, and said there needs to be a change of culture “on patrol, on the beat, in the changing room, in the officers’ mess, in the staffroom”.
This is genuinely brave, because Clegg is taking the fight to the last remaining bastions of bigotry. He will get a nasty kick from religious fundamentalists who say that gay couples should never be allowed to marry, and who claim they have a “right” to teach homophobia to children in a way that produces such disproportionate rates of violent bullying and suicide. The right-wing press will savage it as an attack on “freedom” – when, in fact, it is a defence of the freedom of gay people to live their lives free of irrational hate.
It’s a clear dare to David Cameron, and in my mind to gay Tories. If Cameron refuses to accept that everything possible must be done to stop bullying of gay children in schools, and that homophobia should be treated in the same way as racism, will it be morally acceptable for gay people to vote Tory, or even Labour for that matter? Labour has equalised the legal playing field in most respects for gay equality but has barely touched the thornier issue of changing attitudes; the Lib Dems are first out of the gate in offering the next step. Will the ‘big two’ respond cynically and turn the whole election into one surrounding identity politics? I hope not – we’ll have to wait and see. It’s true that gay voters can’t only look at policies relating to their sexual orientation any more than voters who are religious should respond only to parties which offer policies relating to that aspect of their identities. Many gay voters will have never experienced the kind of overt homophobia which used to be omnipresent in society, and will understandably (but sadly) not see the need to vote for Clegg. I would argue however that Labour’s implicit claim to have brought about gay equality has been illusory – on paper it’s highly impressive but the deaths of Ian Baynham, Michael Causer and many others prove how murderous homophobia remains only a footstep away from all of us.
Of course, any move to ensure gay people are treated the same as everyone else is immediately labelled “political correctness” and smothered in exaggeration and distortion. The defenders of homophobia can no longer, in polite society, say they think gay people are disgusting and immoral. Too many people have grasped the simple, humane truth that every human society in history has had 3 to 5 per cent of people who were attracted to their own gender, and it does no harm to anyone. So the homophobes have resorted to other tactics. One that has been growing over the past year is to claim that gay people who are trying to stop bullying and intimidation are “the real bullies”, trying to “silence” poor embattled homophobes.
We’ve got it happening with Christianists through to newspaper columnists – attacking homophobia is being spun as ‘infringing the right to believe’ or ‘breaching freedom of speech’; we do after all live in the age where there are no more universally understood or accepted ‘truths’. Just this week the House of Lords scrapped an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill which would have criminalised incitement to homophobic hatred. The homophobes would have you believe it represented a victory for free speech:
it is defeat for what would have been an undemocratic and quite sinister attempt to prohibit the expression of opinions and feelings of which government disapproves (even though those opinions – disapproval of homosexual practices - constitute religious principles for many Muslims, Evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews). Lesson: freedom of speech must be indivisible – even if it is sometimes hurtful and offensive.
But just look at what the amendment actually said:
“For the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.”
It’s pretty clear where the real bullying is here, and Ian Baynham knew it too, when he stood up for who he was against homophobic hatred. Hari suggests the ‘political correctness’ and religious fundamentalist lobbies legitimise hatred which leads to cases like Ian’s, like James Parkes’, like Michael Causer’s. I would tend to agree. The Christian Institute celebrated the amendment’s defeat however, saying it was a ‘victory for common sense’. Yet Hari points out:
[The] Stonewall study found that in schools with a consistent policy of punishing homophobic language, gay children were 60 per cent less likely to be attacked. That fall in violence could ripple out from the school gates – but today, only 6 per cent of schools adopt this policy. The Government should immediately make it mandatory.
They should indeed – incitement to homophobic hatred must be banned.
Johann Hari has a piece in today’s Independent warning of a real danger of right-right extremists planting bombs.
The campaign I am talking about is not being planned by jihadis or fringe Irish nationalists but by white “neo-Nazis” who want to murder Asians, black people, Jews and gays in the bizarre belief it will trigger a “race war”.
They have struck before. Exactly a decade ago, a 22-year-old member of the British National Party called David Copeland planted bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane (where I live), and a gay pub in Old Compton Street. He managed to lodge a nail deep in a baby’s skull, and to murder a pregnant woman, her gay best friend, and his partner. He bragged: “My aim was political. It was to cause a racial war in this country. There’d be a backlash from the ethnic minorities, then all the white people would go out and vote BNP.”
Hari says that the police have made a number of arrests recently but this have received virtually no media attention. Bombing methods and encouragement circulate on far-right websites.
What has received attention, of course, is jihardist plots. But those who have taken this attention as a reason to blame all Muslims for the actions of a tiny minority are reluctant to apply the same arguments to themselves.
If Martin Amis was consistent, he should now declare: “The white community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order. What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from Hampshire or from Surrey … Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children.”
Saying that the BNP should be allowed into forums like BBC Question Time – so “sunlight” can be shone in their face – he suggests that people like Nick Griffin should be forensically challenged over far-right violence because it tolerates it within its ranks.
He claims he is “strongly” opposed to these freelance attacks – yet he has kept violent attackers in his senior team.
His chief lieutenant for years was a man called Tony Lecomber, who was jailed for three years in the 1980s for plotting to blow up the offices of a left-wing political party. After he was released, he and a gang then beat a Jewish teacher unconscious. When he was freed after another three years inside, he was swiftly promoted through the BNP ranks. He was only ditched after he approached a Liverpool hitman to discuss how they could “take out” a cabinet minister.
One of the leading figures in the BNP’s online operation, Lambertus Nieuwhof, tried to blow up a mixed-race school in South Africa in 1992. The BNP is happy to have him nonetheless. Nieuwhof says: “Everybody should be allowed to make a mistake.”
The BNP is not directly organising violence, but it has tolerated violent madmen in its midst, and its arguments have encouraged violence. Griffin has demanded “rights for whites with well-directed boots and fists”. He reacted to the Soho nail-bomb by one of his own party’s members by attacking the victims, saying they were “flaunting their perversion in front of the world’s journalists, [and had] showed just why so many ordinary people find these creatures disgusting”.
Let Griffin speak his filth to the nation, and sweat under David Dimbleby’s forensic questioning. He will only discredit himself.
Calling for far more attention on this very real threat, Hari says “the next person to bomb Britain might not look like Mohammed Sidiq Khan – he might look like me.”