Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Green doesn't have a prayer

So, as we reported yesterday, the BBC will be giving Stephen Green of Christian Voice a platform to pontificate on the day’s news and events tomorrow on Question Time.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too concerned. If his insight into current events amounts to “it’s my gods will” then his big chance at credibility might be a damp squib. After all, he is one of the loony brigade that postulated that Hurricane Katrina was the result of his god’s wrath. In a particularly odious press release, the idiot preacher rants thus:

There will be more than a few who will have said in the past "If God does not deal with New Orleans, He will have to apologise to Sodom and Gomorrah."  The theme of judgment on New Orleans and warning to the USA has not been exclusive to Christians. 

The vile pig also suggests that gays “partied amid the dead” simply because some communities tried to keep their spirits up amid the chaos. Headlines like this would be deeply offensive if we weren’t already used to them from Green’s opposite number in America, Phred Felps.

But we queers had the last laugh. As my American friend, gay activist Brian Miller, said to me yesterday:

Perhaps they should explain why if God is punishing New Orleans, why he also stripped the Gulf Coast -- buckle of the bible belt -- completely? Something like 15% of bible colleges were destroyed.

Indeed! And of course Green’s loony theory also doesn’t explain why, if this god’s wrath was against the ‘sodomites’, why the French Quarter favoured by these ‘sodomites’ was the least affected area. Perhaps your god is furious about your disgusting treatment of lesbian and gay people, Mr Green! Ever thought of that? Why else would be smite your so-called bible-centre ‘universities’?

But as I said in the previous post, while their views and opinions don’t deserve to be taken seriously by anyone, their potential to cause harm and destroy lives should not be underestimated.

For example, they use veiled threats and intimidation against people they disagree with. When a play they thought was “blasphemous” was due to be staged at regional theatres, they wrote to the theatre managers, saying:

We are at this moment preparing charges of the criminal offence of blasphemy for service upon those responsible for broadcasting the show on BBC2, and those responsible for staging it at the Cambridge Theatre. Should any regional theatre stage 'Jerry Springer the Opera' this autumn, we shall be looking to prosecute them as well. We shall be especially keen to prosecute since the BBC broadcast, because anyone staging the show will now be doing so as a deliberate act of provocation knowing full well that the show is highly blasphemous and extremely offensive to Almighty God and to Christian believers.

For those who wouldn’t fall for the (dubious) threat of legal action, they threatened to harass staff and theatre goers with mass disruptions of the performance:

Out of love and concern for where they live, our members outside London will be keen to stand up for their Lord outside any Theatre which puts on Jerry Springer the Opera, by holding prayer vigils probably at shows running before the event, and certainly during any run of 'Springer’ itself. I shall give them every encouragement.

He reminded the venue management:

You will be aware that Christian Voice organised street vigils in protest against the screening of Jerry Springer the Opera on BBC2 on 8th January. These took place outside BBC premises in London (White City - where 400-500 people attended), Cardiff, Plymouth, Norwich, Newcastle, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast. In all, some 1,500 Christians came out on a cold, and in some cases a wet, Saturday night to stand up for their Lord and Saviour, mindful that He endured agonies for them when He died on a cruel cross on Calvary's hill.

And why all the fuss? Well, Green and his loony-tunes staff at Christian Voice believe that if they don’t act to stop it, a ‘blasphemous’ play will bring down “the judgment of God of our land”.

Happily, not all theatres were intimidated by the threats of legal action and the thought of 1500 ululating Christians disrupting performances. One theatre director (who deserves a medal) wrote back and said:

"I will continue to programme as I see fit and appropriate for the organisation. Neither I, nor the Trustees, will change the programme or the programming policy as a result of threats, bullying or intimidation from any outside body."

A brave move considering a BBC executive, according to the Daily Mail, had to flee his home with his young family when he received death threats after his home address and telephone number were published by Christian Voice.

Though, if you thought it couldn’t get any nastier, it did. A small cancer charity was due to receive a ₤3000 donation after the cast of Jerry Springer: The Opera put on a special benefit performance. Green and his Christian Voice goons attacked the charity and forced them to turn down the donation. Faced with the alternative of having their work to support those affected by cancer disrupted and their volunteers harassed, the charity reluctantly turned down the money. In a statement they said:

Not only were we very concerned about the disruption to our centres and our services, but most importantly, the impact of this disruption on the people diagnosed with cancer who come into our centres on a daily basis.

How dare some nutty Christian group threaten a secular charity and force it to make decisions based on their psychotic fears of divine retribution? And is threatening the sick and grieving a fast-track onto a flagship BBC programme? Perhaps if you publish personal details of BBC staff on your website! Is that the sort of behaviour that does the trick?
If terrorising theatre managers, punters and cancer suffers doesn’t do it for you, these incredibly unpleasant people have more up their sleeves. How about hurling abuse at women seeking advice on how to control their own bodies? You see, a woman seeking a morning-after pill is akin to a Nazi War Criminal inflicting a ‘Genocide of the Unborn’! Or at least it would be if Stephen Green’s perverse thinking invaded your mind!

Like a shaking madman, Green told The Times “The taking of innocent blood brings judgment on our land and cries to Heaven for vengeance,” he bayed before adding that it “wouldn’t take much” to close down abortion clinics – just a few “prayer vigils” outside.

The Scotsman put their finger on the nub of the issue in a recent editorial:

I doubt if Christian Voice and its fellow pressure group, the anti-abortion UK Life League, are worth the publicity they have received, but they are part of a trend which we need to be aware of. In its campaign against the BBC, which screened a TV version of Jerry Springer, it circulated the home telephone numbers and addresses of senior BBC executives to its members. Now it is exerting similar pressure on regional theatres which are considering staging the show. It is campaigning against abortion by proclaiming that it is the equivalent of the Holocaust, and accusing those who practise it of being Nazis. And it uses its website to attack the police for recruiting homosexuals. This is the tip of a very worrying iceberg which, in America, has come to infiltrate politics and social life at the highest level. Right-wing evangelical groups, which insist that the Bible is literally true, and which use their enormous resources to pressurise teachers, doctors and politicians into accepting their views, are, under a Republican presidency, the most powerful lobby group in the country. The extent of their influence is remarkable.

Their kindred organisation – with whom they often jointly undertake actions - UK Life League have used similar tactics, publishing the names and addresses of pharmacists who stock morning after pills and Tesco supermarket managers who allow them to be sold in their stores.

Why are there no laws against this type of blackmail? It has been brought to the attention of our lawmakers. According to the Sunday Herald, Labour MP John Cryer told parliament that Christian Voice’s actions were the work of “fundamentalist thugs,” an act of theological blackmail so far beyond the pale that it beggared belief.

In the same article, media analyst Paul Edwards noted: “This was not democracy or reasoned debate – it was an act of tyranny, a breathtaking demonstration of the power of the mob and a harsh introduction to the unacceptable face of things to come.”

If Edwards is right and this is the future, all secularists, not just LGBT ones are in for a rough ride. As a society we have taken our rights for granted. We think that just because we have won a legal right that we will be allowed to exercise our rights in peace. We won’t. At the beginning of the year, hardly anyone had heard of Christian Voice.

Now, ironically, after they got publicity by bullying the BBC it is now the BBC helping to make them respectable and reach a mainstream audience, or so Green thinks. But perhaps the BBC knows what it is doing. Perhaps they know that the best way to fight Green in the long run is to let him open his mouth.

UPDATE: This just in from Brighton:

There is a peaceful demonstration against the appearance of Stephen Green appearing on such a high profile show on the BBC. It is being held outside the Corn Exchange Brighton, on Thursday 29th September at 6pm. Guest for the show arrive between 6pm and 6.30pm. (The show is recorded as live at 8.30pm and then broadcast later that evening). The Police have been informed that this demonstration is taking place.


At 12:16 PM, Blogger Andy said...

Well, for what it's worth, I've sent an email to the makers, Mentorn, saying Green has no obvous balance on the panel (i.e. he's with politicians, mainly, and there's no one who is per se an atheist or secularist (although there may incidentally be one on the panel), and I hope that Green makes an utter bollocks of it because of his frequent recourse to phrases that are straight out of his mythology: 'our saviour', 'our Lord' and the like. While my complaint is serious, I have ended it by expressing the hope that, if Green does make an idiot (I mean an even bigger idiot) of himself, he may give a great boost to both the gay and secularist causes, and that, if that was Mentorn's intention, and it works, then they can gladly disregard my complaint!

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Roy Saich said...

I agree with most of what is said about Stephen Green, but sadly it is not fair to say, "he is one of the loony brigade that postulated that Hurricane Katrina was the result of his god’s wrath".
As we are told God holds the world together, even caring about our corns, he must have had a hand in the hurricane. The only question for believers is why some were spared and not others.

At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Matt Page said...

Whilst deploring many of the tactics and comments of Christian Voice there appears to be a double standard at play here. Does he not have the right to free speech? If his organisation is wrong to organise peaceful protests (which they were - the threats of violence were shunned even by CV) then surely other groups are wrong to protest his apearance on the BBC? And is not the BBC simply doing for him what they did for Jerry Springer the Opera?

At 1:52 PM, Anonymous Matt Page said...

Also, Question Time tends to acheive balance in the longer term rather than on a show by show basis. Whereas usually (but not always)they will have one tory, one labout & one lib dem the fourth guest is usually a bit different, sometimes green party, sometimes, an independence party (UK, SNP, Plais Cmyru) candidate, sometimes a journalist, and sometimes a religious representative (including humanists and more moderate Christians). Hopefully sometime soon they will balance Green's views out.

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Brett Lock said...

Matt, gave this a lot of thought before posting. I don't think it is the same for two reasons:

Firstly, the right to freedom of speech doesn't include having a platform on the BBC. The media gives space to those who they think deserve space - hence Green's belief that going on QT would give him respectability. We were questioning the BBC's decision to do that. In retrospect, as I noted in a subsequent post, we needn't have worried because he made a fool of himself anyway. In short, there is no 'right' to airtime.

Secondly - and perhaps most importantly - we did not call for the banning of his website or the burning of his brochures. He is entitled to put out whatever he likes (within the law) under his own steam. He has freedom of speech. What CV were trying to do was to block a play that had been produced by others under their own steam and prevent a charity with which he was not connected from taking money from whoever they pleased.

I would also question if his protets are "peaceful". The letter he wrote to the charity was quite menacing and seemed to suggest that he would prevent them doing their important work. His actions of publishing the personal details of private individuals also seems to me to cross the line.

At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Matt Page said...

Thanks for the clarification Brett.


At 11:50 AM, Blogger Zefrog said...

Hi, just come accross your post. very interesting. I have tried to follow Green's activities for a while myself and I have email Question Time to complain about his appearance on the show. I have also formally complained to the BBC about his repeated appearances. I invite you to do the same.

To read more about this, see this post on my blog.



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