Tag Archives: Ben Summerskill

Anti-Gay Theist Marches Into Counselling!

It may seem hard to believe – it sure is for me, having spent some time in the 90s training as a counsellor, but a Christian counsellor for Relate is suing his employers for requiring him to counsel gay people:

Gary McFarlane says the publicly-funded national counselling service failed to accommodate his faith or allow him to try to overcome his reservations.

Mr McFarlane worked for Relate in Avon and is also a solicitor and a part-time tutor on relationships at Trinity Theological College in Bristol.

He said that he has “overcome” his prejudices against same-sex couples since he began working as a Relate counsellor in 2003, but now that he is training to be a psychosexual therapist, he feels he cannot deal with gay and lesbian people.

Fortunately though he was suspended and then sacked. And now he’s decided that his employers have discriminated against him by ‘failing to accommodate his faith’. Excuse me? Did he not have a job description since the start (which applied equally to everyone else) requiring him not to discriminate in the provision of the (public) service? Is Relate not bound by the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations) 2007 to provide a service free from anti-gay discrimination? Why should he get special dispensation? Oh yes, he’s a theist. Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall said:

“It does seem extraordinary that someone who is involved in providing a mediation service should say he cannot do it becase he has unmovable views.

“Given that Relate, since the time he joined it, has always worked with gay couples, he does not even have the Lillian Ladele defence that it crept up on him.

“Relate receive public money and it is perfectly right that they should provide a service equally to the members of the general public who pay their wages.”

I couldn’t put it better myself. But for those of you who aren’t sure though if McFarlane is just a well-meaning Christian, bullied by militant gay secularists (the subject of my next post), here’s a clue:

“If I was a Muslim this would not happen,” he said. “They would find a way to make the system work. But Christians seem to have fewer and fewer rights. Relate needs to be forced to work through stuff like this.”

Christians don’t have ‘fewer and fewer rights’, unless of course you mean their right to discriminate freely against people they don’t like has been removed from them. If so that’s a good thing, and a service like Relate shouldn’t be used as a plaything for selfish theists who think the world should still revolve around them.

It’s an interesting new case, given Lilian Ladele’s counter-intuitive win (which will soon be appealed) against Islington Council in a similar scenario. Ladele’s win set a disturbing precedent, sending out the message that anti-religious discrimination legislation could be used to discriminate against gay people. For the sake of us all, this tribunal must prove that her case was an aberration.

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Homophobic Church Leaders vs. Their Flock

It’s interesting, that at a time when Stonewall has released a report which suggests that Church leaders are significantly more homophobic than their flock, it’s curious to see that the Rt Rev Daniel Deng – Archbishop of Sudan – has demanded at the Lambeth Conference that Bishop Gene Robinson resign for the sake of the Anglican Church:

“The people who consecrated him should confess to the conference because they created an outcry in the whole Anglican world. God is not making a mistake creating Adam and Eve – he would have created two Adams if he wanted. If he was a real Christian he would resign.”

If you’re reading this and gay, this argument will likely be one you’ve had thrown at you at least once before. A variation on Adam and Steve, eh? Such a tedious stereotype, which you’d expect of a child, or a young person, without any experience of self-reflection, not a so-called man of God. He’s actually demanding that Robinson collude in the bigotry of others – the arrogance is breathtaking. However:

Ben Summerskill, the Stonewall chief executive, said: “Witnessing the tragic divisions in the Church of England demonstrated at this week’s Lambeth Conference, it’s telling that so many people of faith say they actually live, work and socialise with lesbian and gay people, and that significantly reduces negative ideas about difference.”

Proof, albeit not necessarily definitive, that people are not as stupid as their representatives, either political or those of faith. In this country at least, it suggests that equality legislation has proven Gene Robinson’s approach right, in demonstrating to his ‘moveable middle’ of the religious community, that with full civil rights for us the world doesn’t come to an end – plagues don’t come down, social order doesn’t break down. Nutters like Deng can’t speak for them, because Stonewall’s side of social change is having an effect, in increasing our visibility through normalising everyone’s treatment before the law. The same approach is needed within the established Church, and Gene Robinson must stay put at all conceivable costs. In a society governed by the rule of law, to exclude religion from the need for equality really must be out of the question, partly on humane grounds, partly on those of diversity – just look how much better society operates when we all are free to take part equally within it!

I can’t help but be reminded by this of the fight in 2004 over same-sex marriage in the US (which of course persists). The persistent argument was that same-sex marriage on equal terms to heterosexuals would undermine heterosexual marriage – somehow if we were granted equal rights, it would be at the expense of those who already had them. It was homophobic nonsense when articulated by George W Bush, it is homophobic nonsense uttered now by Archbishop Deng.

Perhaps most alarmingly from the Archbishop:

Deng said there are no gay or lesbian people in Sudan.

Like Iran eh? Uganda? Nigeria? This claim, if not countered, is the most dangerous of all because it doesn’t allow for a difference of opinion, for shades of grey, or any scrutiny at all. He could say Robinson should resign because it’s politically necessary at this time in the Church’s history. My opinion in response would be to disagree – the opposite is politically necessary – but instead he’s playing up to homophobic superstitions, no doubt shoring up a cheap power base, which only encourages those who would dehumanise us. In Iran Ahmadinejad’s identical claim legitimises the torture and execution of gay people; for a man of God to offer the same argument is beyond shameful.

Heinz and Homosexuality

Heinz on Friday decided to withdraw this ad, after about 200 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. Of course considering this was a man acting the character of a woman, it begs the question as to why there were so many complaints about the kiss. More important however is why Heinz decided to pull it at all.

The Heinz Deli Mayo was pulled after less than a week on air after viewers complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that it was “offensive” and “inappropriate to see two men kissing”.

Other complaints include that the ad was “unsuitable to be seen by children” and that it raised the difficult problem of parents having to discuss the issue of same-sex relationships with younger viewers.”

It is our policy to listen to consumers. We recognise that some consumers raised concerns over the content of the ad and this prompted our decision to withdraw it,” said Nigel Dickie, director of corporate affairs for Heinz UK.

Sorry but that’s just not good enough. What on earth was offensive? What was inappropriate? Did people just not get the ad? And why is it their policy just to listen to the goddamn stupid consumers? What about the rest of us?

Ben Summerskill quite rightly points out that:

Heinz’s decision to withdraw the ad might be seen by them as an easy way to palm off 200 fundamentalist Christian complainants, (but) it seems to have been made under the quaint impression that it will cause no offence to Britain’s 3.6 million lesbian and gay consumers. Or any of their friends. Or families. Or colleagues.

And don’t forget that the product itself is so unhealthy that it wasn’t even allowed to be advertised around children’s programming, which should surely have invalidated a whole swathe of the ‘complaints’. But Heinz thought it was just plain easier to offend their gay consumers instead. Summerskill is advocating a boycott of Heinz in retaliation (and I agree).

If you want to complain directly to the company however, their customer careline is 0800 528 5757.

Jacqui Smith is a Killer

It should surprise noone, given her track record as Home Secretary, but today Jacqui Smith proved once and for all just how ruthless she can be. Having received limited kudos for her finally granting asylum to Mehdi Kazemi, the question remained – would she institute a moratorium on deportations of gay asylum seekers to Iran and similar Middle Eastern (and other) countries, where to be gay is to court the probability of death? After all the Netherlands proved they could do it. The answer was ‘no’:

“With particular regard to Iran, current case law handed down by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal concludes that the evidence does not show a real risk of discovery of, or adverse action against gay and lesbian people who are discreet about their sexual orientation.”

Sorry but she’s fucking retarded. I’ve tried to use more temperate language about this woman until now, but this is just ridiculous. Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive quite rightly pointed out her stupidity:

“You only have to listen to people who were terrorised by the Metropolitan Police in the 1950s and 1960s to know that telling gay people to live discreetly is quixotic.”

It’s a cavalier and inhuman means of avoiding living up to the human rights obligations she’s tied into, as well as the European Commission’s ruling in January that:

“Member States cannot expel or refuse refugee status to homosexual persons without taking into account their sexual preferences, the information relevant to the situation in their country of origin, including the laws and ways in which they are applied.”

And why would she refuse a moratorium (other than to prove her political brutality, lining up behind her boss, having proven his ‘strength’ with his pyhrric victory on 42 days)? Does she believe there’ll be some sort of ‘flood’ of asylum seekers, to ‘swamp’ the notoriously bad UK Border Agency? Paul Canning of Gayasylumuk points out:

“The Dutch experience shows that a proven, tested model exists of how to operate a humane asylum policy for gays and lesbians – and they haven’t had a ‘flood’.”

“Similar policy and practice exists in the United States, Canada and Sweden – why is the UK alone in being inhumane and disregarding international law?”

Opposition parties have lined up to condemn the Home Secretary. Stephen Crabb, the Chairman of the Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission said:

“Asking minorities to live their lives discreetly is to give in to the tyrants and bullies who sustain their positions through fear and coerced conformity.

“It demonstrates both an unelevated view of the importance of human rights and cowardice in championing our own system of values.”

Whilst Phelim Mac Cafferty, media spokesperson for LGBT Greens said:

“Her claim that as long as people are “discreet” a regime notorious for its treatment of LGBT people will somehow stop persecuting them is misled at best and homicidal at worst.

“Instead of this macho posturing from the Home Office on keeping asylum figures down, we desperately need a Home Secretary prepared to look the Iranian regime in the eyes and stand up for what’s right for LGBT people.”

And this is what it’s all about. It’s why Peter Tatchell’s claim about the treatment of gay asylum seekers is more salient than ever. The New Labour government has been attacking the 1951 Geneva Convention since 2003 and they’ll do whatever they can to keep it that way. It’s an outrage essentially to blame gay people for their own persecution and it deserves the most thorough condemnation. This is what Iran does to gay people, a fact which the Home Office denies.