GAY TIMES November 2004

The war that religion has declared on homosexuality is intensifying around the world. Wherever gay rights are progressing, religion is reviving itself on the back of opposition to them.

The Anglican Church is about to detonate another bombshell, the Eames Report, that will convert the Anglican Union into the Anglican Disunion overnight. If preliminary reports are correct, it will also represent the greatest betrayal of a minority (gays) by a religious body since the time Pope Pius XII decided to throw in his lot with the Nazis against the Jews.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams has been a big disappointment to gay people. Despite early promise, he has now firmly sided with the evangelical bigots who are pushing to take over the Anglican Church, and who have ruthlessly used homosexuality as a means of doing it.

Indeed, the former Bishop of Newark in New Jersey, John Spong, was reported in The Sunday Telegraph to have said of Williams: “His actions have revealed a fatal character flaw. He has no courage, no backbone and no ability to lead. He is now destined to be a long-serving but ineffective and empty man who has been revealed to be incapable of carrying the responsibility placed upon him.” I think that is a fair summation of the invertebrate occupant of Lambeth Palace, who is about to sell us down the river to his hate-filled fundamentalist friends.

Over in Rome, the repulsive old geezer tottering on the Throne of St Peter is even worse. But at least he is straightforward with his detestation of homosexuals. His brutish campaign against us is open, upfront and as raw as sewage.

In Spain, however, there is a fightback against the Vatican’s political ambitions. The new socialist government there is trying hard to wrench the ‘Holy See’s’ grip from the country’s throat. The Spanish cabinet has agreed to bring forward plans for gay marriage (not the inferior civil unions that we’ve been offered, but the real thing).

This has given the Catholic Church the opportunity to vent all its seething homophobia.

The Times reported the Spanish house of bishops as saying that if the Gay Marriage Bill is passed it would be like “releasing a virus into Spanish society”.

The Guardian quoted priest, Father Antonio Seijas of Galicia, as saying “This government is disgraceful, pornographic. It is not just Catholic values that are being destroyed but human ones,” while on Ireland Online, the Vatican’s “top official for family issues”, Cardinal Alfonso Trujillo said: “They present [gay marriage] as if it were a conquest of modernity and of democracy, but really they are falling into deep dehumanisation.”

So there we have it, gay relationships are not even human.

But the government of Spain’s handsome Prime Minister Zapatero is determined. The Guardian also quoted the justice minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar as saying: “Our constitution guarantees the right to marriage… We’re going to extend that right to people who historically have been discriminated against: homosexuals.”

The Churches in Spain now have an issue around which they can unite in righteous hatred, and they have promised that they will bring the population onto the streets in protest. They may find it difficult, though, as polls show that 70% of the population support the government’s plans. That’s democracy for you. But what does democracy mean to the Pope? Answer: nothing.

The Pope was quick off the mark in New Zealand, too, when the government there announced it wanted to introduce civil unions for homosexuals and heterosexuals. The pontiff said, in The New Zealand Herald-Sun, that such arrangements “violated God’s plan”. So, now not only are we sub-human in the eyes of the Church, we are also a violation of divine will. And just to make sure New Zealand gays understand their inferior status as Christians, the Guardian reported that the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church “voted to bar from leadership posts people living together in gay or unmarried relationships.”

In Australia, Bishop Christopher Prowse was complaining about the “prevalence of gay characters on prime-time television”. He told The Sunday Herald-Sun that showing gay relationships in a positive way could “undermine society”. A Catholic colleague, Babette Francis, called on viewers to campaign to have gay characters taken off air completely.

In Canada, where “gay marriage” is legal in three provinces and one of the territories – and may soon be legalised throughout the country, the debate has caused endless religious opposition. When the new Canadian ambassador to the Vatican, Donald Smith, met the Pope for the first time, he was given a lecture about the “evils of homosexual unions”. (That’s right, add ‘evil’ to the list).

Over in the United States, the Pentecostal churches must think all their birthdays have come at once since the President made “gay marriage” a central plank of his election campaign. All over the country there are court cases raging, mostly brought by religiously-motivated politicians, trying to outlaw gay marriage or civil unions.

Then came the televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who said on one of his nightly TV rants: “I’m trying to find the correct name for it … this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. … I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I’m gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I’m gonna kill him and tell God he died.”

Despite the general senselessness of the statement, the message that Braggart wants to convey – that he hates gay people enough to kill them – came over loud and clear. The uproar was such that he was forced to apologise, but there is little doubt the apology was made through gritted teeth (and he probably had his fingers crossed behind his back in the way that superstitious people do). We shouldn’t forget that Swaggart is trying to rehabilitate himself after he was caught visiting a prostitute in 1988 and was also found to have a prostitute in his car when stopped over a traffic violation in 1991.

Meanwhile, the man at the centre of the Anglican hurricane in America is Gene Robinson, who was consecrated as Bishop of New Hampshire, despite being openly gay. He has remained steadfast throughout all this, maintaining his dignity and refusing to accept that he is the sub-human the evangelicals have tried to portray him as. On the Radio 4 Sunday programme, Robinson said: “The God I worship doesn’t ask me to sacrifice justice to achieve unity and I would be highly surprised if, in my prayer life, God was asking me to do so.”

Of course, God always seems to tell Christians to do what they were going to do in the first place, so it is assured that Gene Robinson will not resign.

But he could certainly be kicked out. Now, as he waits for the slug from Canterbury to come for his head, he has received no support from the other gay priests in his diocese. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement even went so far as to call on the episcopal closets of New Hampshire to make themselves known. “When Gene was consecrated we expected other bishops to put their heads above the parapet”, said LGCM spokesman Martin Reynolds in The Observer. “We’re dismayed that Gene has been left to stand alone.”

Perhaps this is a job for the American branch of Outrage! And maybe the British branch ought to get its “outing” boots on, too, and show the cowardly queer acolytes of the blessed Rowan just what shits they are for staying silent.

Come on boys. Time to remove the velvet gloves and show the iron fist.

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