Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bishop of Hereford should hang his head in shame

The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has welcomed news that the gay man who was refused employment as a youth worker by the Bishop of Hereford has won his case.

Cliff James, secretary of GALHA said: "This important case will tell churches that their prejudice and homophobia will not be tolerated in employment – not even for bogus religious reasons. The bishop of Hereford's actions were a disgraceful display of crude intolerance and we hope that he is thoroughly ashamed of himself. The Church is rapidly having to learn that it is no longer a law unto itself and that injustice is no longer acceptable, even if it is committed in the name of religion."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tube Chiefs Ban Gay Times Advert

From the publishers of Gay Times...

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the legalisation of homosexuality, and the Gay Times team intended on celebrating such a landmark with a loving, expressive London Underground advertising campaign seen opposite. However, the image was rejected.

In response to this, GT have partnered with The London Paper to run a poll on behalf of GT in the paper and online asking readers if they feel this image is inappropriate for the tube. The results of this poll will be published in The London Paper, and will then be put forward to the London Underground to allow for comment.

The Freedom campaign will still be running on the London Underground, but with different imagery to that shown, at a number of stations including Kings Cross, Leicester Square, Charing Cross and Tottenham Court Road.

Millivres Prowler Group (the publisher of GT) feels very strongly about this, and would like to ask for your support. The LGBT community enrich all aspects of society and we feel they deserve recognition for their contributions.

Feel free to use this image as it will be the cover of the August issue of GT magazine, and please mention the poll that will be running all week in The London Paper and on the website – the more opinions we get the better. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank you in advance for your support of this issue.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The global resurgence of religious intolerance

From Washington to Baghdad and beyond, religious intolerance is making a comeback; threatening democracy and human rights.

Peter Tatchell interviews feminist commentator, writer and secularist, Joan Smith on his Talking with Tatchell interview on online TV station 18 Doughty Street.

Two centuries after the Enlightenment, religious ignorance, superstition, sectarianism and prejudice are on the rise again. Reason, science, liberalism, democracy, secularism and humanitarian values are under attack from fundamentalists within many faiths: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. They want to reassert religious dogma, authority and control. More and more of these zealots are prepared to use violence; as evidenced by the growth of religious-inspired terrorism.

Liberal and progressive people of faith are on defensive in large parts of the world; often being eclipsed by the shrill voices of religious fanaticism.

Even in a wealthy, well-educated democratic nation like the US, the Christian Right has succeeded in hijacking the Republican Party and the Presidency, propagandising creationism and sexual abstinence, and securing a prohibition on the federal funding of stem cell research and condom use as a method to prevent HIV.

In Britain, the Church of England bans women bishops, faith schools tolerate the bullying of lesbian and gay pupils, and religious extremists have succeeded in closing down the play Behzti and cancelling regional performances of Jerry Springer: The Opera.

Central to the global resurgence of religious intolerance are attempts to police gender and sexuality; including restrictions on women's reproductive rights and their access to economic and political power, and escalating state-sponsored assaults on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in countries like Catholic Poland, Muslim Iran and Anglican Nigeria.

We also see rising religious sectarianism in countries such as Iraq, where rival Shia and Sunni Muslims are car bombing and assassinating each other in a bitter battle for clerical supremacy and state power; and in Palestine where fundamentalist Islamists have displaced secular nationalists from the leadership of the national liberation struggle and are seeking to impose their particular interpretation of Islam on everyone else.  

To view the programme, click on this link.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A disorderly establishment

"Given that less than 2% of the population now regularly attends a Church of England service each week, it is difficult to know what purpose it serves 'in the national life'," says Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society in his Comment is Free piece today.

Nevertheless, a government green paper says:

"The government reaffirms its commitment to the position of the Church of England by law established, with the sovereign as its supreme governor, and the relationship between the church and state. The government greatly values the role played by the church in national life in a range of spheres."

Rather than witnessing the slow fade-out of superstition and the ultimate end of religious privilege, we may now see the opposite as other religious sects, cults and outfits jockey for position and begin to demand the same privileges and exemptions that the Church of England enjoys.

"Britain is the only country left in the democratic world that allows clerics to sit in its legislature as of right and Mr Brown and his cronies seem quite happy with that," says Sanderson.

Read his full article here.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

George Melly's death mourned by Gay Humanists

The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has expressed its sorrow at the death of one of its vice-presidents, George Melly.

George was an early hero of the gay rights movement with his openness about his own ambiguous sexuality, told with such humour and affection in his autobiography " Rum, Bum and Concertina."

He was also a long-time supporter of secularist causes, not only as a vice president of GALHA but also an honorary associate of the National Secular Society.

GALHA's chairman, Jim Herrick, commented: "We are very sorry to lose George Melly, he was always a colourful character and he took part in our reading of the supposedly 'blasphemous' poem which took place on the steps of St Martins in the Field in Trafalgar Square in 2002. We defied the law in order to mark the 25th anniversary of the prosecution of Gay News - a publication that George contributed to on more than one occasion."

George Broadhead, another of GALHA's vice-presidents and until recently its long-standing secretary, said: "George Melly first joined
our panel of supporting vice-presidents at my invitation in 1983. In his letter of acceptance, he wrote: "I would be delighted to be one of
your vice-presidents as although I am an ex gay, I remain a Humanist."

The following year he agreed to give an interview to myself and the TV columnist of our magazine in his dresssing room before performing at one of his jazz concerts. I still treasure the signed copy of his autobiographical "Scouse Mouse" which had just been published."

GALHA has sent its condolences to George Melly's widow, Diana.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Bishop belongs in the Bronze Age

The Anglican Bishop of Carlisle was mocked today as a "bronze age primitive" by the UK Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA).

GALHA's comments follow Bishop Graham Dow's pronouncement that the recent floods in Britain are a result of the introduction of pro-gay laws. He said that going against biblical standards had resulted in God's judgment in the form of floods.

GALHA's chairman Jim Herrick said: "The Bishop's comments reveal a primitive, superstitious mind that belongs in the Bronze Age. If he thinks these floods are the result of pro-gay laws rather than global warming, then how come far more catastrophic floods afflict homophobic nations such as Bangladesh? And how come ultra-pious nations such as Pakistan suffer catastrophic earthquakes? And the self-proclaimed religiosity of the United States doesn't protect it from lethal hurricanes either."

Mr Herrick said: "People like Graham Dow bring religion into even more disrepute with such fatuous comments. No wonder people are abandoning the Church of England in such huge numbers when it is led by silly people like him."
Commenting on GALHA's press release, a gay Christian blogger asks a key question: "Why aren't Christians protesting Dow's hateful remarks? Why are the protests against hate, bigotry, and inflammatory rhetoric of the Dows and others pretty much consigned to the secular forces within society?"
Why indeed! Could the answer be that the majority of his co-religionists either silently agree with the Bishop? If that is not the case, the only alternative is that the majority of Christians have so little regard for their LGBT brethren that they don't think it is worth the effort to stand up to their homophobic leaders.

Government fails gay children in 'faith schools'

Gay children in "faith schools" have been badly let down by the government, says the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.

Schools with a religious ethos were given permission in recent guidance on equality legislation to continue condemning gay people and expressing disapproval of homosexuality. Now, the new survey from Stonewall, 'The experiences of young gay people in Britain's Schools', shows that pupils in "faith schools" are taking the brunt of the widespread homophobic bullying that is happening in all our schools.

Jim Herrick, chairman of GALHA, said: "This new survey from Stonewall paints a horrific picture of nasty victimisation of gay children in our schools, and it seems to be even worse in so-called faith schools. This makes it all the more unfortunate that the Government recently told these schools that they did not have to tone down their condemnation of homosexuality. In effect, they have abandoned gay kids in these schools – particularly Catholic schools – to the mercies of any homophobe who decides he doesn't  like gay people. This survey indicates that the Government has made a very grave error by permitting faith schools to continue their nasty, homophobic teachings. We recognise that homophobic bullying cannot be stopped  overnight, but bringing faith schools into line would give out a clear signal that such bullying is unacceptable and won't be tolerated."