On the set of The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud…
We’ve had religious zealotry turning up in art galleries, registry offices, Stormont, counselling organisations – now we can add paediatric medicine to the list of areas of work which Christian fundamentalists seem desperate to colonise:
Sheila Matthews, who sat on an adoption panel in Northamptonshire, lost the job when she asked to abstain from voting in cases where same-sex couples were planning to adopt.
Now she has been reinstated, although Northamptonshire County Council will not allow Dr Matthews to vote on future cases.
Dr Matthews, 50, is a community paediatrician with more than 18 years’ experience advising parents and children. She had worked on the adoption panel for five years, before she was removed earlier this month.
Dr Matthews said: “As a professional I have done a lot of reading around the subject and am satisfied that there are research findings which support my position that a same-sex partnership is not the best family setting to bring up children. As a Christian and a paediatrician I believe that children do best with a mother and father in a committed, long-term relationship.
“I cannot recommend a same-sex household to be in the best interest of a child, despite what politicians may have legislated for, and as those on the panel have a legal obligation to do what is in the best interest of the child, then I am not able to vote in favour of such placements.”
Fine, perhaps firing her from the adoption panel was wrong under the law. It’s right however that she not be able to vote in cases where same-sex couples are planning to adopt, given that her ‘belief’ is based entirely on bigotry and not the rule of law. I’m sure that she can find research findings hostile to same-sex adoption – it doesn’t make them reliable though, particularly if written from a religiously zealous perspective. Ultimately it’s reassuring that although she’s managed to keep her job, she’s been prevented from behaving in a homophobic way towards gay couples who are objectively as good at parenting as heterosexual ones. You don’t need research findings to prove that one.
Jason Saunders, aged 18, was left with a broken nose and bruising after being jumped on by a five-strong gang after they started shouting abuse at him as he walked to work from the Sydenham area of Bridgwater with his partner, Gary Holman. The attack happened on June 23 at around 6.40pm.
Turning on to College Way, he walked past a group of five people. The group started shouting abuse at him, calling him “queer” and “ginger”, telling him to “sort out his hair colour”.
Jason said: “I asked them why they were shouting abuse at me and the next thing I know, all five people were attacking me.
“They were kicking and punching me in the face and still calling me names.”
After the attack, Jason was rushed to Bridgwater Hospital, before being taken to Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton as doctors were worried about him drifting in and out of consciousness.
He has been left traumatised and in fear of his safety. Left with a broken nose and bruising, he has become totally reliant on other people.
(article by Thomas Justice, Bridgwater Times)
I wonder if the Bishop – a supposedly Godly man – will apologise to Jason Saunders for his homophobic attitudes, his need to make them public, and to justify them? Those vocally opposing him are growing in number:
Labour MEP Michael Cashman accused the Bishop of Rochester of being “selective” about which parts of the Bible he upheld. “When he calls for the closure of all the banks, finance houses and credit card companies because of what it says in the Bible about usury, then I’ll take him seriously,” he said. “Until then, unless he can say anything good, he should shut up.“
We’re apathetic, and it’s both costing and shaming us. Remember Michael Causer’s brutal murder? The nigh-dismissive court case in its wake? Remember how Jacqui Smith tried every trick in the book to send Mehdi Kazemi back to Iran and a probable death? Seen the stats on homophobic bullying in schools? Noticed the ultra homophobes the Tories are palling with in Strasbourg? That the BNP have two EU Parliament seats? Well after a history of political campaigning, this year’s London LGBT Pride was about partying. It hasn’t gone down well in some quarters:
Peter Tatchell, of the lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights group, OutRage, and a patron of Pride London, condemned this year’s slogan “Come and Play” as “totally anodyne” and accused the LGBT community of “huge apathy and complacency”.
He said: “I’m shocked that Pride London has hardly mentioned the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots on its website or in its magazine. Most of the content is about entertainment and partying. To ignore and downplay this important anniversary is an insult to the veterans who began our momentous fight for freedom.”
What it is is naive and counter-productive – encouraging non-engagement in the wider community and political ignorance. We have Churchmen who want to brainwash us, politicians who call us an ‘abomination’, yet on the one occasion we have to come together our only object is to party?
Things may be better, equality laws are all over the statute books and gay people are in government. But kids are still being bullied and killed for who they are. It’s disrespectful to them, as to those who got us here to be concentrating on ‘playing’. As Tatchell himself has pointed out recently, because of our unique process of ‘coming out’ we are able to offer an unmatched social/political analysis of the world around us – why dumb that down? The Proposition 8 calamity in California has shown an entire generation in the States that our current rights and acceptance could disappear in a stroke -we in the UK should take it as the warning that it is, and move on from our complacency.
Curious timing for the Anglican Church to tack back towards blatant homophobia:
Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester called on gay people to “repent and be changed” saying the Church of England must not be “rolled over by culture.” Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell called on the Bishop to “repent his homophobia.”
Dr Nazir-Ali told the Sunday Telegraph: “We want to uphold the traditional teaching of the Bible. We believe that God has revealed his purpose about how we are made.
“People who depart from this don’t share the same faith. They are acting in a way that is not normative according to what God has revealed in the Bible.
“The Bible’s teaching shows that marriage is between a man and a woman. That is the way to express our sexual nature.
“We welcome homosexuals, we don’t want to exclude people, but we want them to repent and be changed.”
He added: “We want to hold on to the traditional teaching of the Church. We don’t want to be rolled over by culture and trends in the Church. We want a movement for renewal. We need a reformation of the Church and the life of the Communion.”
‘We welcome homosexuals – we want to stop them being homosexuals.’ Anyone else see what’s wrong with this picture? I think it’s shocking that such a senior Churchman should actually admit he rejects social change. He doesn’t want to be rolled over by culture? Sounds to me like he picks and chooses which culture he accepts and which he doesn’t – not very Godly if you ask me. He has no choice – the clock can’t be turned back to a repressive time when gay people couldn’t be out, nor are we living in a society as Iris Robinson would wish, where we could fix people’s natures as they suit us. Is either option what Christianity is supposed to be about? An Asian man who must understand discrimination should be ashamed of himself to preach homophobia, particularly when his religion does nothing of the sort.
I can still remember my first Pride in 1994. Stonewall‘s Michael Cashman said ‘we are everywhere’ – I’d never been so inspired in my life. Nowadays Pride is only faintly political, although there were political interests on display in the parade – largely basing themselves on Stonewall’s campaign against homophobic bullying in schools – but we really did show we were everywhere. Gay Christians, Muslims, Hindus, soldiers, nurses, teachers, you name it – being gay was very clearly mainstream in ways it wasn’t in 1994.
I have my own reservations about the event being apolitical, much of which I’ll explore in my next post, but Tom suggested a very good point about it yesterday: that isn’t the way forward anymore. The haters really aren’t going to be swayed by Pride marches or gay visibility – not the true ones anyway. That’s down to better policing and better community organising, and of course the more the police for example are integrated into gay community events like Pride the better. So the awful standard of stewarding ultimately didn’t matter that much – it was not just a party but a great event, further mainstreaming gay visibility in areas of public life previously unthinkable. The usual Christianist haters were there, but barely noticeable this time, and clearly ever more out of step with the public mood. Being out is a good thing.
Lillian Ladele may be defeated, but she was never alone. In fact it turns out she wasn’t even alone at Islington Council:
Theresa Davies, a registrar for Islington Council, has claimed she was forced out of her post as registrar because of her religious beliefs against civil partnerships.
Davies, who had worked for Islington Council for 18 years, said she had asked to opt out of performing civil partnerships in 2006.
While her request was being considered, Davies took four months off work due to stress. On her return she was told that she would either be demoted or dismissed.
Instead of leaving the council, Davies chose to take on the offered position of receptionist, which she described as “humiliating”.
Last July, she was put back on the general rota. However, in January this year she failed to turn up to a ceremony she was supposed to be overseeing. Consequently, she was told that unless she presided over civil partnerships she would be demoted from her position.
“I know of other councils that have allowed Christian registrars to carry on by ensuring that colleagues are given civil partnerships,” said Davies. “But I was told this was not Islington’s policy.”
No, we know that Islington Council’s policy was, in the case of Lillian Ladele, to offer different work for the same pay, when she decided that she wanted to breach their policy of providing an equal service for all members of the community, rather than ones that she wanted to pick and choose. Davies may not have liked the ‘humiliating’ new work, but this has already been established not to be discrimination on the grounds of religion. The devoutly religious do not have the right under the law to behave as though they are a special case in who they provide services for. I look forward to her grievance failing equally badly.