Thursday, 18 February 2010

What the Uganda anti-gay bill is about in 3min

Stephen Gately, Jan Moir, the Daily Mail and the Press Complaints Commission [updated]

As expected the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has delivered a whitewash for the Daily Mail after receiving 25,000 complaints against the Jan Moir article on the death of Stephen Gately.

The PCC's adjudication is available here. Interestingly the PCC seems to have ignore the complaints from the public and to have only focused on that by Gately's husband, Andrew Cowles.

The PCC is founded on the principle of self-regulation; this means that the press adjudicates on what the press does. Let me rephrase that: the accused decides if the accused is innocent or not.

More over and despite the claims of unacceptable censorship used to justify yesterday's decision, it seems that the only sanctions that the PCC has power to inflict on a guilty paper is to get it to publish the adjudication. This from the Editors' Code of Practice (pdf file):

Any publication judged to have breached the Code must print the adjudication in full and with due prominence, including headline reference to the PCC.
And having vainly rooted around the PCC's website for a while it seems that this is it. Nothing else and certainly no financial sanctions against which the website actively advocates.

This morning on Today (just before 8am if you want to look for the interview), the chairman of the PCC (Baroness Buscombe), in response to the argument that self-regulation doesn't work, boasted that the PCC does indeed work and that this is because it is independent of the state…. She stated this in total disregard to the fact that the PCC is not adjudicating on the state's actions. So how can this be relevant?

The PCC, whose strapline is "free, fast, fair" (I kid you not), is a toothless irrelevant joke. How can a system where poeple are judge and party (in a commercial environment) be expected to work? How can an organisation whose Chairman of its Editors' Code of Practice Committee is also the editor of the Daily Mail be expected to deliver a "fair" and inpartial ruling against the Daily Mail?

I don't think they can and we got a flagrant proof of this last night.

See The PCC's Jan Moir FAIL on Clapham Omnibus for an analysis of the adjudication itself

Sunday, 14 February 2010

London for a Secular Europe


Due to a misunderstanding, the kiss-in (for the organisation of which I have been called an "extrèmiste sodomite" - article in French on a fundamentalist blog: you've been warned!) did not take place but the protest it was a part of did go on and was indeed much fun.

Many friendly and familiar faces were there and it was in the end about 300 people who took to the wintry streets of London (between Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Italian Embassy in Grosvenor Square) to voice their opposition to the undue influence of the Pope and the Vatican in European and British politics.

It was interesting to note that despite the wider purport of the protest, a vast majority of the participants seemed to come from the LGBT community.

My pictures of the event can be seen in this set of my flickr account.

(Image above: Peter Tatchell speaking against the Pope outside the Italian Embassy)

Friday, 12 February 2010

Valentine's kiss-in at the Cathedral | LONDON FOR A SECULAR EUROPE

I have done it again. I find myself organising a protest, albeit a small one part of a bigger one. And one to which I can't take part(!)

The Catholic Chruch is supposed to be spreading a message of love. Yet more and more it's message seems to be going from this towards something more sinister.

On Sunday, a demonstration will be taking place outside the RC Cathedral in Westminster (Victoria Street - not the Abbey) before moving to the Italian Embassy.

We suggest that straight and gay couples come together for a Valentine Day kiss-in to remind the Church what love is really about.

The Kiss-in will last about 5min before the protest moves on to the Italian Embassy.

A similar event is taking place in Paris this week-end.

There is a Facebook Event for this.

Find out more about the main protest here (also on Facebook).

(note: the organisers of the main protest have given assent to this)

Press coverage:
- Protestors will tell Pope to 'snog off', Pink News
- Valentines Day Kiss-in at Cathedral, Homovision
- Valentine's Day Kiss In, Londonist

For those wondering, the reason I can't take part is that I am single and therefore have no one to kiss... boohoo! I'll be taking pictures instead.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Stephen Fry Takes on the Catholic Church

In October last year, a debate was organised in London around the motion that 'The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world'. The pannel was made up of Anne Widdecombe and Archbishop John Onaiyekan supporting the motion and Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry speaking against it.

I have only just come across Fry's contribution to the debate but it is absolutely superb and so I have decided to include it in those page. It lasts about 15 min and has been truncated in two by Youtube; see below:

For reference at the start of the debate the audience was asked to vote for or against the motion.


The full debate including the other speakers, a Q&A bit and closing statements can be found on the Intelligence2 website.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The Pope and "Natural Law"

It might just be the way this story is being reported but once again it seems that the Pope has come out (pun intended) with a few empirical sentences, this time against equality laws in the UK, without providing any support or explanation to his views.

These however do not stand to the meerest hint of scrutiny.

First of all, I am led to wonder what those so called "natural laws" he speaks of are. Where are they defined? And if they have been defined, by whom?

Could it be something of the Bible perhaps? His own literature then, to which most of the world only pays a limited amount of attention due to the high cultural impact it has has over the centuries?

The very same Bible that was used to justify slavery right up until the end of the 19thc century (and some claim that the Catholic Church itself did not properly condemn slavery until Gaudium et Spes, one of the four Apostolic Constitutions resulting from the Second Vatican Council in 1965!!!). The very same Bible that forbids all sort of things (eating pork and seafood, adultery, lying, mixing fibers) that 'good' Christians are quite happy to ignore.

But no, gay people, since the Pope's thinly veiled attack, although not explicitly naming us, is clearly directed at us, are a violation of ‘natural law’.

One could of course argue that the fact that gay people (and homosexual activities in the animal kingdom) stubbornly continue to exist rather undermine the idea of homosexuality not being natural, not being part of the 'natural law'. Indeed one could even argue that his own god is responsible for creating the likes of us, repeatedly.

Ratzinger's answer to that, as we all know, is probably that homosexuality is a choice, that people are not born this way.

Does that mean that animals choose to have same-sex relations, then? Or do they simply respond to their instincts?

From a human perspective, I shall repeat a point I have made again recently on these pages, which to wonder why people would choose to be gay considering the social consequences they have been very likely to face because of the reactions stoked up by people of Ratzinger's ilk towards that so-called choice.

Furthermore, following Ratzinger's logic, if choice is a ground on which to decide whether someone has rights or not, then perhaps religous people should not have rights at all after all.

Because religion is indeed a choice. People are not born Catholic or Muslim or Raelian. Indeed the Catholic Church has a specific ritual (one of its seven sacraments) to welcome babies to the communion: baptism (not that those babies are given any choice, mind).

The various religious exemptions and protections around discrimination are only a sign of the past influence of Christianity in the this country. A sort of compromise to sooth religious people's sensibilities.

At the moment, I think most people are quite happy to let religious organisations keep those protections. I am too, as long as they are limited to the practice of their faith and don't impinge on the rights of other groups. But if they carry on behaving so irrationally and self-servingly, this may start to change very soon.

No, Ratzinger is clearly talking through his tiara. As I have mentioned before this is about power and the Church's increasing loss of influence.

More seriously though, the Pope is meddling with the internal affairs of a foreign country. And this would normally call for a severe rebuff from the Home Office.

If anyone is in doubt about this, I will point out that the cost of the Pope's planned visit to the UK at the end of this year (that's £20 million which could be very useful in, say Haiti) will be picked up by the UK tax-payer (there is a petition organised by the National Secular Society to try and get the Vatican to pay for the visit).

This will therefore be a state visit by the head of a foreign state. As such, should Ratzinger be allowed to try and influence the policies of that country he is visiting?

Interestingly Ratzinger recognises that the UK "is well-known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society". Something the UK should be very proud of, indeed.

But he has no qualm to immediately try and undermine that commitment and help maintain a less equal society, playing with the fears of ill-informed people who think that the new equality bill will force religious groups to appoint gay clergy (this is of course, ridiculous: the bill only forbids discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation for positions that are not linked to doctrinal work).

But in the Pope's view, clearly, some people (his people, of course) are more equal than others. How very unchristian!

Previous (short) post (with a link) on the subject of the visit here.
Previous post on the subject of religion (which will cover in more details some of what I said above) here.

For those interested, there are two facebook group to protest against the Pope's visit to the UK in 2010:
Protesting against the Pope's State Visit
PROTEST state funding of the 2010 UK visit by THE POPE