Demoted for Expressing an Opinion

This story is extraordinary. Extraordinary!

A housing manager has been demoted, and his salary slashed, after he criticised a controversial new gay rights law.

Adrian Smith, a Christian, was found guilty of gross misconduct by his publicly funded housing association for saying that allowing gay weddings in churches was ‘an equality too far’.

He posted the comment in his own time, on his personal page on the Facebook website, which could not be read by the general public.

But after a disciplinary hearing, he was downgraded from his £35,000-a-year managerial job to a much less senior £21,000 post – and avoided the sack only because of his long service.

Mr Smith, 54, is now taking the association to court, arguing that his punishment was out of proportion and his right to free speech was ignored.

Friends said last night the father of two had been ‘shocked and distressed’ by his treatment and would now face financial hardship.

Campaigners attacked the housing association’s decision – the latest in a series of cases in which Christians have clashed with employers – as a ‘complete over-reaction’ by an organisation ‘drenched in political correctness’.

Mr Smith has worked for 18 years for Trafford Council and Trafford Housing Trust, which manages more than 9,000 homes in Sale, Greater Manchester.

But he now finds his career in tatters over a comment he wrote on his personal Facebook page one Sunday morning in response to a BBC story headlined ‘Gay church “marriages” get go-ahead’. The story referred to Government plans to lift the ban on homosexual couples holding civil partnerships in churches and other religious settings.

Service: Mr Smith has worked for 18 years for Trafford Council and Trafford Housing Trust

Mr Smith, whose Facebook profile identified him as working for the Trust as a housing manager, commented: ‘An equality too far.’

A few hours later, one of his Facebook friends, a work colleague whose identity is not known to The Mail on Sunday, posted: ‘Does this mean you don’t approve?’

The following evening after work, Mr Smith, who attends an evangelical church in Bolton, responded: ‘No, not really. I don’t understand why people who have no faith and don’t believe in Christ would want to get hitched in church.

‘The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women. If the State wants to offer civil marriages to the same sex then that is up to the State; but the State shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience.’

Lawyers for Mr Smith, whom friends describe as affable and non-confrontational, say his comments were merely expressing an ‘honest belief’ based on his Christian faith.

The proposed new law, on which the Government is consulting, will allow churches to open their doors to gay ceremonies if they wish, although the Church of England is refusing to participate.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, is among those to have criticised the plan for blurring the ‘clear distinction’ between homosexual partnerships and heterosexual marriage.

Mr Smith was disciplined after a second colleague complained to the Trust’s ‘equality and diversity lead’, Helen Malone.

A few days later, Mr Smith was summoned from his home to a meeting at the Trust’s headquarters in Sale, where he was told he was being suspended while the complaint was investigated.

He was warned that even though his Facebook page could be viewed only by registered friends, rather than by the general public, those readers included colleagues who had taken issue with his comments.

A shocked Mr Smith, who managed a team looking after local housing issues, immediately removed the reference to where he worked from the page.

The following month he was called to a disciplinary meeting before Mike Corfield, the Trust’s Assistant Director, Customers. Although Mr Smith was allowed to put his case, insiders described the meeting as ‘tense and fraught’.

According to legal documents lodged at Manchester County Court, Debbie Gorman, a ‘neighbourhood manager’ also at the meeting, said Mr Smith’s comment could cause offence.

She said she had interpreted it as saying ‘gay people are not as equal as people who are not gay’ and that the comment could be viewed as homophobic.

Mr Corfield said it was not the comment but its potential misinterpretation that was at issue, but still ruled that Mr Smith had committed a serious breach of discipline for which he could be dismissed.

But because of his loyal service, Mr Smith was instead demoted to money support adviser, handling rent collection. His pay was reduced to £21,396, phased in over a year, and he was given a final written warning.

Mr Smith has been advised he cannot speak to the press, but his solicitor Tom Ellis, of Aughton Ainsworth in Manchester, said: ‘Adrian was shocked and distressed to have been disciplined in this way. He never expected this to happen – it came completely out of the blue.

‘We sent a letter to the Trust asking that Adrian be given back his job but they refused to respond substantively. Adrian had no other choice but to seek justice through the court.

‘As a Christian, Adrian believes in the values of fairness, courtesy and respect for the opinions of others. Surely that leaves room for colleagues to discuss and even disagree about the topics of the day? 

‘Conversations like that happen in offices and factories up and down the country every day.

‘When Adrian was told that he was being demoted with a 40 per cent cut in salary, he was stunned. It was all the more shocking because this was being done in the name of equality and diversity.

‘Nothing he said was offensive or abusive. His comments were calm, measured and reasonable.

‘Adrian has been treated disproportionately. Even those who disagree with his opinions will surely agree that he has been treated badly.’

An internal appeal upheld the original decision, except to rule that the reduction in Mr Smith’s pay would be phased in over two years.

Mr Smith’s lawyers say his comments fall far short of gross misconduct and they are claiming damages equivalent to his lost pay.

They also dispute that Mr Smith has broken the Trust’s code of conduct, which bans staff from making ‘derogatory’ comments about it.

They say the Trust has breached his contract because no attempt was made to resolve the row except through the disciplinary procedure.

Although Mr Smith was forced to undergo equality training in 2008 after a Muslim woman alleged he had not treated her fairly, his lawyers said this was irrelevant to the current case.

In 2007, he was praised by the Trust’s £145,000-a-year chief executive, Matthew Gardiner, for his charity work among poor women and children in Uganda.

Last year, the Trust, which employs 360 staff, was awarded a ‘quality mark’ from a gay support group for its work training staff in recognising homophobic hate crime.

But it has also angered a number of elderly residents by ordering them to remove garden benches and flower pots from outside their flats for health-and-safety reasons.

The organisation, which took over homes in 2005 from Trafford Council, receives most of its money in rent from tenants, but it can also apply for public money and last month won Government funds for an £8 million new project.

Mike Judge of the Christian Institute, which is backing the case, said: ‘We’re not talking about a Christian who shoves his opinions down the throats of his colleagues.

‘Mr Smith made completely tame and inoffensive remarks outside of work time on his personal Facebook page. His bosses should get some sense of perspective.

‘It is a complete over-reaction by a housing trust that is clearly drenched in political correctness.’

But Trust commercial director David Barrow said: ‘The Trust has an equal opportunities policy and Mr Smith’s comments on Facebook, where he identified himself as a Trust employee, went against this policy.

‘We expect employees at all levels to act respectfully. This applies in person and on social media.’

Extraordinary. For having a conversation much tamer then some of the things that people leave as comments on this blog (not to mention the stuff that doesn’t get past my homophobia filter) a man is demoted. And don’t forget, this is for expressing an opinion on a piece of legislation that is currently not even on the statute book but being considered!

Mind boggling as we speak.

112 Comments on “Demoted for Expressing an Opinion

  1. I totally agree with you, Peter. This gentleman has been grossly abused and he should take legal redress to the maximum. He also would seem to be on very solid ground for the following reasons:
    1. His remarks are very mild. There is nothing there that is remotely ‘offensive’. He even agrees that the state can offer same-sex civil marriage, for crying out loud, a more ‘gay friendly’ position than many orthodox Christians would take!
    2. He’s very clear that these are his beliefs. He very clearly does not argue for discimination against gay people in the provision of goods, services, employment and access to promotion, which as I have posted before is the only meaningful way that discrimination can be understood legally.
    3. Expression of the view that homosexual behaviour is a sin, in and of itself, is protected in its respectful expression by the Waddington amendment to the Equalities Act.

    Utterly disgraceful behaviour by Trafford Council which also shows that they have no clear understanding of the law!

  2. If it is true and his actions did not go further than this – and do bear in mind that The Daily Mail is often very selective in its reporting of the facts – then this is pretty outrageous. I can’t see that any of the comments here could constitute “homophobic hate crime.” It would be a different matter if the remarks were part of a sustained campaign against the colleague in question.

    • I completely agree. If the Daily Mail report is accurate, then this is absolutely outrageous, and really quite shocking. I hope he manages to take his employers to the cleaners – they certainly deserve it.

  3. I agree, that to be demoted for expressing a view on a private website is wrong. At the same time I read of the murder of the gay bar worker in Scotland who was savagely beaten to death and set on fire. We don’t know yet whether this was a hate crime, but hate crimes against LGBT people are rising across the board. Those who argue most vehemently against gay rights are religious people and in particular in this country the churches who may still sack employees if they are gay. The above mentioned Lord Carey led the fight in the House of Lords against every improvement in the civil rights and lives of gay people, rights which have transformed their lives for the better. I don’t approve of any persecution, but let’s get all this in perspective, christians are not being killed for who they are in this country at least. What christians seem to be arguing for is the right to continue to discriminate against gay people in goods, services and employment. the church at least has secured that right. So when the churches stop doing that then maybe they will receive a more sympathetic hearing when christians are at the sharp end of it. Meanwhile it is LGBT people who are being beaten up and murdered on the streets.

  4. Clearly, if the Daily Mail article is true (which, the Heil being what it is, and having sub-“Christian” Institute levels of accuracy, is a big “if”) then this is a terrible breach of free speech. However, Peter’s headline – “Demoted for Expressing an Opinion” – sounds like an invocation of the Evils of Political Correctness boogeyman. Can’t we all think of examples where people may face disciplinary action for “expressing an opinion”? Free speech has never been an absolute in the workplace, nor (Facebook’s horrendous shredding of the past divisons between “private” and “work” life) is expressing opinions to colleagues outside of work.

    • ‘“Demoted for Expressing an Opinion” sounds like an invocation of the Evils of Political Correctness boogeyman.’

      Gosh, we heartless conservative/Nazi b******s really can’t win, can we? Even if we just give a simple and accurate description of what has occurred in a particular case, we’re actually advancing a hidden anti-PC agenda.

      What would be better? “Thing Happens To Man”? “Humans Interact With One Another”? “Random Event Occurs”?

      FWIW, as far as I am aware – and obviously I’m open to correction on this in anyone has better info – no-one, least of all THT, has disputed the central point of the Daily Mail story, viz that Mr Smith was demoted and had his pay cut because of his comments on Facebook.

      On a slightly related note, this story also confirms my deep prejudice against supposedly grown-up and supposedly businesslike organisations who adopt faux-cute logos that look like children’s scribbles.

      • You’re lucky that “Godwin’s Law” is no such thing ;-)

        As you read, I agree that *if* the story is true as reported then it is of course appalling. My wider point was with the headline “Demoted for Expressing an Opinion” – do you not concede that there are all sorts of circumstances where someone might be demoted for “expressing an opinion”? not heard all those stories about people who got fired on facebook (and, yes, “my boss is a p—-” or similar is demonstrably an “opinion”)

        And of course ‘free speech’ is hardly a unique consern of “conservatives” (most of whom, you’ll doubtless be shocked to hear, I do not regard as “Nazi b*******”). A true free speech libertarian (small c conservative) type would hardly (to riot in understatement) be most naturally represented by the “ban this filth!” “promoting homosexuality at taxpayer’s expense” “gay people presented as human beings on Torchwood!” yada yada of the Daily Heil, which is why I made the point.

        • Bit cheeky for someone who uses the phrase “Daily Heil” to try and Godwin me, but there we go…

          I think you’re applying an impossible standard for descriptive completeness headlines.

          • Bit cheeky for someone who uses the phrase “Daily Heil” to try and Godwin me, but there we go..

            Had a smiley for a reasons – if every internet addict who invoked Godwin’s Law was clued up on proper fallacies like Argumentum ad Verecundiam then the world would be a better place!

            And Daily Heil is, as I’m sure you know, coined on the basis of a historical fact i.e. the Mail’s then-support for fascism, and (admittedly contentiously) claims that such attitudes are, to say the least, not exactly a clear vile contrast to the Mail’s current ideological priorities. For example, Jan Moir’s article was not “offensive” because it took issue with the “Gay Lobby”. It was gutter journalism because it both slandered a grieving mother and (from a standard of accuracy, perhaps the greatest offense) claimed that the postmortern was wrong and that healthy young men do not suddenly die from undiagnosed heart problems. The latter is, I hope you’ll agree, simply, demonstrably untrue. And so to claim that Stephen Gatley’s death *from such a legitimate cardiac problem* is related to homosexuality *is* the worst possible kind of journalism.

   has some of the funniest and finest sports journalists around (Barney Roney, Rob Smyth, Scott Murray, Paul Doyle etc) but, in terms of actual news, liberal me reads the right-wing more than any other (and regrets Simon Heffer leaving for other pastures!). I think Christians and conservatives do themselves absolutely no favours by claiming (not saying you necessarily do; am talking generally) that criticism of The Christian Institute or The Daily Mail are due to a prejudice against/negative opinion of Christianity or conservatism per se.

            • I don’t have a particularly positive view of the Daily Mail (although one point I do think it’s important to make is that the print edition is significantly less prurient and sensationalist than the awful website, something missed by folk who wouldn’t be seen dead actually reading a real copy, but can’t help but indulge themselves in the privacy of their own laptop, and so base their criticism on MailOnline).

              But what I can’t get on board with is the idea that it is somehow uniquely bad among British newspapers, and that all right-thinking people should shun it. Yes, it’s true that it supported Mosley for a few months in 1934, and that it was rather naive in its enthusiasm for fascism (I think, by the way, that talking about the paper “supporting fascism” is quite as misleading as “Demoted for Expressing An Opinion”).

              But we all have 20:20 vision in hindsight, don’t we? It’s difficult for us to not look at the 30s through the prism of world war and Holocaust, but we ought to make the effort. Plenty of conservative-minded people in the 1930s were at least tolerant towards Nazism and Italian Fascism – whose full horror was yet to become apparent – because they quite reasonably saw Communist subversion and totalitarianism as a greater threat, and were concerned by the seeming weakness of the democracies in the face of a changing world. The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for those on the left who supported the Soviets during the 1920s because they appeared to represent a brave new response to the old imperial despotisms of the pre-1914 world (by c.1930 the monstrous nature of the USSR was quite clear to anyone with ears to hear).

              The Guardian carried apologias for Soviet totalitarianism right up until the 1980s, and along with the Independent still occasionally carries articles supporting Chavez, Castro, the Iraqi “resistance”, Mao’s China et al. All the papers frequently distort the truth, smear people, impose ideological frames on the facts, indulge in special pleading etc.

              I mention this not as a “tu quoque”, but as an illustration that newspapers are newspapers.

              One final point –

              “claims that such attitudes are, to say the least, not exactly a clear vile contrast to the Mail’s current ideological priorities”.

              Are you calling the Daily Mail fascist? Because that what it sounds like you might be trying to do so without really saying it.
              Passive voice, contrived sentence, opaque allusions – Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” springs to mind.

              I find the formulation along the lines of “some claim”, or “there are claims that” a bit sneaky. Who makes these claims? What evidence do they adduce? What’s their argument? Have the claims been refuted?

        • WC – after a week of trying, I’ve finally got my reply to your points on the Daily Mail posted – see top of the thread, above! Kudos to Peter for the new blog comments design, which looks cool and will hopefully make commenting easier :-).

  5. THT has disputed the Daily Mail’s interpretation, WC. They say,

    “At the end of 2010, we updated our Code of Conduct for Employees and provided it to all staff.

    “This version of the code clearly set out what use employees can make of social networking sites such as Facebook.

    “Some three months after this new code was issued, Mr Smith, without our authority or knowledge and on a Facebook page that identified him as a manager at Trafford Housing Trust, made comments that were found, by a full disciplinary investigation in which he had trade union representation, to be in breach of the company’s code of conduct and other policies.

    “Mr Smith was disciplined for his breach of company policy. The trust made no comment about any personal beliefs that he holds.”

  6. The Daily Mail not being entirely truthful?!? Surely not!? And here I thought their record of veracity gave Papal Infallibility a run for its money ;-)

    Thanks very much for that info Sue :-)

  7. It seems that Peter Tatchell supports Mr Smith’s right to freedom of speech.

    “Trafford Housing Trust was wrong to demote and cut the salary of Christian housing manager Adrian Smith over remarks he made on his personal facebook page, opposing churches being forced to conduct same-sex marriages,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

    “The Trust was acting with good intentions in a bid to ensure equal opportunities, non-discrimination and inclusive service provision. Although its commitment to equality for lesbian and gay people is commendable, its response to Mr Smith’s remarks is excessive and disproportionate.

    Mr Smith reportedly wrote on his private facebook (not the facebook of the Trafford Housing Trust):

    “an equality too far…..the bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women if the state wants to offer civil marriage to same sex then that is up to the state; but they shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience.”

    “This is not a particularly homophobic viewpoint. Adrian Smith’s opposition to churches being compelled to hold gay marriages is shared by much of the population, including many equality and human rights organisations,” added Peter Tatchell.

    “I am opposed to churches being forced by law to conduct same-sex marriages. I do, however, support an end to the legal ban on faith organisations holding gay weddings where they wish to do so. The Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism want to perform same-sex marriages and they want the law changed to enable them to do this. I support their appeal for law reform.

    “Adrian Smith reportedly made his comments in his own time on his personal facebook page, which is not viewed by the general public. He expressed an opinion. He did not personally discriminate against anyone. There is no evidence that he has treated any of his gay housing clients adversely.

    “His only possible misdemeanour is that he made his comments on a facebook page where he identifies himself as an employee of the Trafford Housing Trust, allegedly contrary to the Trust’s rules.

    “His opposition to religious organisations being forced to conduct same-sex marriages is shared by the Prime Minister and the Equality Minister, the gay rights group Stonewall and the entire leadership of the Church of England. If Mr Smith is guilty, then they are all guilty.

    “Mr Smith voiced his opinion in a calm, non-abusive manner. He was not threatening or intimidating.

    “In a democratic society, he has a right to express his point of view, even if it is misguided and wrong. Freedom of speech should only be limited or penalised in extreme circumstances, such as when a person incites violence against others. Mr Smith’s words did not cross this threshold.

    “It would have been sufficient for Trafford Housing Trust to have warned him about making discriminatory remarks in forums where he is identified as their employee. I hope they will now do this.

    “I urge Trafford Housing Trust to revoke his demotion and salary cut,” said Mr Tatchell.

    • Jill

      Thanks for posting this strong support of free speech by Peter Tatchell. He is consistently and publicly in favour of free speech and I think takes a line which most people would want to support in a free society.

      From Sue’s post it looks like THT are tryting to backtrack and claim that their disciplinary action was motivated solely by Mr Smith’s identifying of himself as a THT employee in violation of their policy. To be honest this begs far more questions than it answers:
      1) It implies that THT’s code of practice for employees use of facebook is itself an abuse of free speech, if it says that employees must not identify themselves as linked to THT on any private site usch as Facebook. Identification of oneself as working for an organisation in no way implies that the organisation supports any of the views that a person expresses.
      2) If Mr Smith’s views are irrelevant to the reasons for his discipline, as THT claims, then a hefty cut in salary and demotion purely for identifying himself on Facebook as an employee is totally disproportionate action, as Peter Tatchell implies.

      It looks to me like THT is trying to find a way to wriggle out of their fairly obvious error while keeping some face. Expect an announcement in a few weeks at most that Mr Smith has been reinstated to his original position and salary coupled with some mealy-mouthed reiteration that employees should not identify themselves as such on social media.

      THT is beginning to realise that it doesn’t have a leg to stand on!

  8. I totally agree, Philip. I laughed out loud when I read the feeble attempt at self-justification from THT for their appalling behaviour. I wonder whether, had Mr Smith commented on some other politically correct cause, they would have taken the same action against him.

    Peter Tatchell is consistently principled on human rights, and although I strongly disagree with his sexual ethics (the right to government approval of having sex with whoever you like whenever you like) one has to admire him for it. He has also probably, quite rightly, realised that cases like this from over-zealous politically correct activists do no favours at all for gay people and are much more likely to provoke a backlash (as attacks against gays are increasing, not decreasing) and also that many (most?) gay people hate this sort of action taken in their name.

    What would be wonderful is for all THT employees to open Facebook accounts and say exactly the same things as Mr Smith. I would love to see THT get out of that one. Really, these people need to be taught a lesson.

  9. all for gay people and are much more likely to provoke a backlash (as attacks against gays are increasing, not decreasing

    Which is a damn sight more concerning than *one example* of a person being unfairly demoted, surely? Preventing actual physical attacks on law-abiding citizens is hardly a left or right wing issue!

    And the right to non-interference from the Government (a pretty Tory value surely? ;0)) isn’t the same thing as “approval”. You or anyone else might think that homosexuality is disgusting, but an argument could certainly be mounted (oo-er) that, when consenting adults are concerned, “the Government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation”

    More broadly speaking, writing “I have a great boss!” as a facebook status update won’t land one in trouble, but writing “I have a crap boss and strongly object to my company’s policy” is not (or is it?) the same thing at all.

  10. LGCM responds to the Adrian Smith demotion by Trafford Housing Trust

    The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement supports both marriage equality and freedom of speech.

    Adrian Smith, a Christian working as a housing manager with Trafford Housing Trust, recently expressed views on his personal Facebook page which stated among other things that in his opinion gay marriage is “an equality too far”. He wrote that “the Bible is quite specific that marriage is for…men and women if the state wants to offer civil marriage to same sex then that is up to the state; but they shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience.”

    As a result of expressing these views Trafford Housing Trust demoted Adrian Smith and cut his salary by £14,000.

    The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) has been consistent in its support for marriage equality and believes that institution of marriage can embrace couples regardless of sexuality and gender. LGCM takes the view that this is consistent with a respect for Biblical principles, and would therefore disagree with Adrian Smith on the matter. However LGCM strongly disagrees with the decision by Trafford Housing Trust to demote Mr Smith.

    Rev Sharon Ferguson, Chief Executive of LGCM said: “There are a number of issues here. Mr Smith is in fact mistaken to think that marriage equality legislation would force religious groups to conduct same-sex marriages. Most campaigners are opposed to this. What we are asking for is the freedom for those religious organisations who wish to offer such ceremonies to be able to do so and for these to be fully recognised in law. To force a church or other faith community to provide such a service would clearly suggest a level of state interference which would have a questionable effect upon all citizens’ freedom.

    “Adrian Smith was foolish to state his views on his Facebook profile which indicated that he was employed by Trafford Housing. However, the views themselves were not inciting hatred and, as far as we understand, Adrian Smith has never been accused of discriminating against clients whatever their sexuality. It would not be unusual for an employer to reprimand an employee for publishing these remarks on a social networking site, when they so clearly contradict that organisation’s clear commitment to equality. So Trafford Housing may have acted with the best of intentions here but we believe they have overreacted and very much hope that they will reinstate Adrian Smith.

    Rev Ferguson added:

    “Sadly actions of this nature serve only to reinforce the view that Christians are persecuted under equalities legislation whereas in fact it is designed to protect and support us all.

    “LGCM does not wish to see the development of a suppression of dissenting opinion. We endorse freedom of speech and healthy debate. This is something which LGBT people are not permitted in many parts of the world. It would be strange for us to wish this freedom denied to others in our own society who in good conscience don’t agree with us.”

    • Actually, even if one assumes that the Daily Mail article is accurate (!), it shows that (as well as some admitted misperception) THT were in “thrall to” high standards that were rightly rewarded, which isn’t really the same thing at all, is it?

      As for “homosexual activists”, this is from the Daily Mail story itself:
      “The Albert Kennedy Trust is named after a 16-year-old who fell to his death from a car park while being attacked and its patrons include Lord Of The Rings star Sir Ian McKellen.”

      Ah yes, those evil Homosexual Activists! How dare they have the temerity to honour the life of a youth who was killed! I see that the Albert Kennedy Trusts actually helps LGBT kids who have been made homeless, which sounds pretty Matthew 25:35 to me.

      • The Albert Kennedy Trust looks like a good charity. The issue though is whether Adrian Smith should have been demoted for expressing an opinion about a matter for which there was no legal prohibition. That is the nub of the issue and even the LGCM statement (after using language of “foolish” to describe Mr Smith) recognises this simple point.

        I do wish we could stick to the point of the issue rather than use it as an opportunity to go off on our own particular pet polemics.

        • Jill referred to homosexual activists. I noted that even the Daily Mail’s description of AKT – in the story she linked to – hardly warrants such a description.

          Wouldn’t you’d agree that it’s perfectly on-topic to note that THT behaving in a particular way due to mere speculation on what the AKT *might* do is quite different from claiming that their (if one concedes the point) poor behaviour on this case is due to/heavily linked with lobbying by “homosexual activists”?

          If Stonewall (say) had threatened THT (with what, I’m not sure) then Jill might have a point. As such, my point on AKT is entirely relevant.

          • When Jill gets the “homosexual activism” bit between her teeth she becomes a different person from the nice intelligent woman who can discuss wonderful music and art. I wonder if it the switch between the the kitty gravatar and the fierce face is somehow linked in this bifurcation? ………………Only kidding :-)

            • Perhaps ironic; were those non-heterosexuals Michelangelo, Auden, Shakespeare (c.f. the homoerotic Sonnets) “homosexual activists” too? ;)

            • Hey! What a nerve! I don’t change one bit – and my little kitty seems to have a mind of its own. I have nothing against gay people – and I have known (and still do) many. I am pro-marriage and pro-family and gay activism threatens this, and threatens our children. Let’s not pretend otherwise, with Terrence Higgins Trust getting large amounts of our money to go into schools to proselytise. Oh that Christian organisations got the same funding to teach the faith to children.

              What I don’t get is why the charity concerned is a ‘gay’ charity. The death of the boy was horrible, but so is any death of any person caused by other people. People are persecuted for all sorts of reasons, even for being Christians, believe it or not. If this boy had been a Christian, and the charity been a Christian one rather than a gay one, would it issue awards to anyone who backed it, and what’s more to the point, would any person who spoke out against Christianity lose his position and a large amount of wages?

              Come on!

              • gay activism threatens this, and threatens our children

                So you “know” gay people (not quite the same thing as being friends with them, eh?) but are still ok with regarding them as (ideological bedfellows if not actual) paedophiles? Ridiculous. Section 28 was repealed, what, over a decade ago? And, rather than millions of kiddies being recruited by “predatory homosexuals” (if you don’t see what’s offensive about that phrase, try talking about “predatory Jews” or “predatory blacks”), the biggest paedophlic sex scandal remains in Catholic churches. Does this mean that all priests are bad? Of course not, because a tiny minority is, well, a tiny minority. Why not extend the same logic and fair treatment to “homosexuals”?

                And homosexuality was legalised in 1967 (England) and 1980 (Scotland). And heterosexual marriage has hardly disappeared in that time, has it? And of course many a feminist would say that changes from the sixties to now owe more to feminism and the sexual revolution than they do the gay lobby, and, in any case, are hardly to be bemoaned

                What I don’t get is why the charity concerned is a ‘gay’ charity.

                It’s addressing a particular problem which all charities, by their nature, do. Again, would a charity dealing with homelessness among a particular ethnic group be at fault for not trying to solve all homelessness, everywhere? Does supporting a charity dealing with group x mean that one doesn’t care about group y? Of course not.

                • What are you on about, ryan? I am sure there are predatory Jews and predatory blacks just as there are predatory homosexuals and predatory heterosexuals. And you are quite wrong about the Catholic Church – shameful though that episode is, there is no more paedophilia than in other institutions. I thought that one had been knocked on the head. Most of the abuses involved adolescent boys, remember?

                  Just for the record, coming from an arty-farty and musical family as I do, I daresay I have had more than average contact with gay people all my life. I have a gay family member. I tend to like artistic and musical people, who are often a bit kooky – in fact some of them are downright weird (and that’s just the straight ones!) You should see my brother-in-law. (My sister is an artist.)

                  As for Tom’s comment, yes, I quite agree that we are capable of undermining marriage without any help – you are not wrong there – but the way forward is surely to strengthen marriage rather than introduce counterfeit versions which will prevent this from happening.

                  • What are you on about, ryan? I am sure there are predatory Jews and predatory blacks just as there are predatory homosexuals and predatory heterosexuals

                    Exactly – there are predatory *people*. And surely you can see that legislation that targeted “predatory Jews” or “predatory blacks” *would* be damned as prejudiced, meaning that the “gay lobby” very much have a point when they talk about how , until very recently, such dehumanising language was deemed ok when aimed against gays in a way not true of other minority groups.

                    And you are quite wrong about the Catholic Church – shameful though that episode is, there is no more paedophilia than in other institutions. I thought that one had been knocked on the head. Most of the abuses involved adolescent boys, remember?

                    Firstly, even if your first point was true (in terms of percentage per whole group) the sheer size of the Catholic Church would still give it a worrying amount of paedophilic abuse, no? And, to give one example, the John Jay report gave the US numbers as 51% victims aged between 11 and 14, to 22.6% under 10 and 27% aged 15 to 17. Extrapolated across the thousands of cases that’s a worrying amount of, yes, explicitly paedophilic abuse. In any case, my original point was that we are talking about a minority of cases – why not extend the same logic to the *minority* of homosexuals are paedophiles? And somehow I don’t think you’d make the “adolescent boys” distinction when it came time to damn the gays!

                    I don’t see how, aside from fine tradition of Swiftian misanthropy, knowing particular gays but demonising them as a group is necessarily a good thing. Live and let live – people who find homosexuality disgusting certainly don’t have to go to gay bars or gay pride parades, but that doesn’t give them the right to curb the civil rights of others!

                    • Libby Purves yesterday in the Times wrote a good piece on the Catholic Church’s cover-up:

                      Deference was abused in a Catholic cover-up

                      Probably won’t work if you are not a subscriber so I’ll paste a bit:

                      “Everyone feels rage at the violation of children. But if you grew up in the Roman Catholic Church and remain guardedly fond of some of its ideals and honest clerics, that rage is incandescent. We know all about deference, we Catholic children of the 1960s. We not only genuflected to the altar itself but kissed the rings on bishops’ hands, called priests “Father”, spoke our small misdemeanours aloud to them through confessional grilles with “Bless me Father, for I have sinned” . We recited obediently prayers of penance and accepted a whispered absolution. Receiving prizes at the end of term from a visiting bishop, we curtsied twice and walked backwards (skilfully negotiating a parterre of flowers at his feet, which took some doing). We also curtsied, absent-mindedly and even while running downstairs, to Reverend Mother. You get conditioned: when I first joined the BBC as a trainee I used to feel a terrible twitch in my relevant knee when the Director-General visited. I’ve got over that.”

                  • But you still don’t answer the question Jill. Introducing the word “counterfeit” is only rhetorical and does nothing more than show you don’t like it. But you still haven’t answered the question “what harm to civil marriage would it cause to extend it to allow same-sex couples to wed? ”

                    The churches can then decide what to do – keep sacramental matrimony hetero or not according to their theology. And please, don’t start telling us the churches will be forced into doing it. That’s such a canard. If they are really worried the churches should give up the right to conduct the legal side of marriage and leave it to registrars in town halls as they do in France.

                  • I don’t know about how close your gay friends and relatives are to you, Jill, but I’m not sure I could be real friends with anyone who held some of the views we’ve seen expressed by you on these pages. If you were Jewish could you really be friends with a holocaust-denier like Bishop Williamson, for instance?

                    As an aside, I reads that Dawkins declined sharing a platform with William Lane Craig after Craig made a defence of Canaanite genocide (the adults deserved it and the innocent babes would go to heaven…and our pity should be for the Israelite soldiers who had to murder all those people. Wow, how awful they must have felt obeying the divine command!). Some think Dawkins should have attended, read Craig’s statement and then left, followed by an emptying hall. But that’s by the by – it served to highlight Craig’s abhorrent views.

                  • It may indeed be true that there is no more sexual abuse perpetrated by Roman Catholic clergy than by any other category of people. Not long ago Tony Green, in LGCM’s magazine “All God’s Children”, plausibly calculated that “abuse by priests is such a minute part of the problem it is, in cold statistical terms, negligible.” The scandal lies, not so much in the fact that sexual abuse occurred, as in the fact that the Roman Catholic hierarchy knew for decades – or even centuries – that it was going on and deliberately covered it up, continually moving on perpetrators from one parish to another, thus giving them the chance to do it repeatedly, and not infrequently using spiritual intimidation to persuade victims and their families to keep silent. Mind you, there were other institutions that did something rather similar, e.g. certain schools in the independent sector, but that doesn’t make it any better.

                    A relative of mine, now some years deceased, attended as a boy a Catholic boarding school run by a religious order. After he left school, he never set foot in a Catholic church again for the rest of his life (except maybe for weddings and funerals). He told my father that he “refused to have anything to do with it”, but he would never say why. It wasn’t because he had become an unbeliever, because I know that he occasionally went to services at the local Anglican church, and it is most unlikely that it was because he had ceased to believe in the Immaculate Conception or in Transubstantiation, for example: he simply wasn’t the kind of man to concern himself with doctrinal niceties. It has been only within the last decade or so, in view of what has come to light, that a probable reason has occurred to me. He was considerably older than my father, and I can quite understand that a man of his age who had grown up in that era would feel that he could never speak about it even to a member of his family.

                    But whether or not my surmise be correct in the particular case of my relative, it must be dreadful if, every time you see a crucifix, rosary, statue of the Virgin Mary or picture of the Sacred Heart, or hear the sound of Gregorian chant, it brings memories of sexual abuse flooding back. I would add that people who have suffered religious homophobic abuse in their youth sometimes experience a similar reaction.

              • Jill you keep reciting the mantra “I am pro-marriage and pro-family and gay activism threatens this, and threatens our children” as does Severine Nolland and other anti-gay activists but can you for once tell us how gay marriage would undermine heterosexual marriage? It seems heteros (yes and many of them who claim to believe what Jesus said….except about marriage) are quite capable of doing all the undermining without any help from anyone but themselves.

                • I’ve got a good idea, Tom. Let’s print lots of money and share it around. Then the poor will no longer be poor, and the rich will be even richer, and everybody will be happy. Simples! No?

                  Marriage is a social good, and is primarily for the protection of women and children. Women are very vulnerable without this protection, even in these liberated times. And we have all seen the disastrous results of fatherlessness. Gay ‘marriage’ shifts the whole paradigm, being merely for the gratification of adults. We are already seeing the results of civil partnership legislation, with it now being illegal to refuse adoption of children or artificial insemination to gay couples, which has had the effect of enshrining fatherlessness or motherlessness into law, to the terrible detriment of children, our future society.

                  And this doesn’t even begin to address the issue of the ‘slippery slope’, which, sneer as you might, happens. Polygamous groups are champing at the bit.

                  This is just for starters.

  11. Jill when you said ” People are persecuted for all sorts of reasons, even for being Christians, believe it or not” you omitted to trot out the usual guff by the über-privileged Lord Carey along with the Blessed Ann Widdecombe and his cronies at CCFON that Christians are a persecuted (majority or minority – which is it?) in this country.

    The cult of Christian victimhood promoted by his lordship is just plain laughable twaddle and in my view entirely demeaning to the real sufferings of those brave souls in parts of the world where Christians really are persecuted.

  12. Hold on a second … there’s something I don’t understand here.

    I’m relatively new to Christianity so I hope you’ll excuse my lack of knowledge, but isn’t persecution for one’s faith supposed to be a good thing? Doesn’t the Bible recommend that we suffer for Christ? So why do Christians whinge so much whenever anybody criticises or opposes them?

    I mean, surely Christians should welcome persecution rather than complain about it. Surely this housing trust employee should be relishing his unfair demotion and reflecting with satisfaction on the number of Brownie points he’ll get in heaven having suffered for his faith. Shouldn’t he be placing his faith in God rather than pursuing his persecutors through the courts, becoming in his turn their persecutor?

    As I said, I’m new to all of this so perhaps I’m missing some sort of vital point. But with every fresh controversy involving the persecution (real or imagined) of a Christian, the one constant seems to be the deeply unedifying behaviour of those who should know better. The chap in question is attacking his employer in the courts. Lord Carey spends his time whining and whinging about how awful anyone to the left of Genghis Khan is. And Ann Widdecombe does a hippo dance through the middle of it all, apparently hell bent on reinforcing every negative stereotype there is about overweight mustachioed Christian virgins and rendering her faith deeply ridiculous in the process. Don’t these people realise how counter-productive their actions are?

    I’m constantly reminded of that quote attributed to Gandhi “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Of course I’m so new to this that you could hardly describe me as a Christian at all. I certainly don’t describe myself as such to others. I’m far too embarrassed. The word “Christian” has such negative connotations. I don’t want people to think of me as judgmental, bigoted, easily led and deeply unloving. I don’t want to be associated with people who talk about love and forgiveness whilst practicing hatred and vengeance. Just take a look at this thread and many others on this blog. What is this site other than a litany of complaints shot through with venom, spite, anger and spleen? My own few contributions here haven’t been any better, but up until very recently God wasn’t part of my vocabulary, so at least I have (or had) an excuse for letting the baser emotions hold sway. But what about you life-long Christians? Where’s Christ’s power in your lives? It’s certainly not in the pages of this blog.

    I have to admit I’m deeply discouraged by this. Every time I start speaking to Christians, all the reasons why I should abandon this religion become very evident indeed. In fact pretty much the only thing keeping me engaged at the moment is this story: Surely this is what all Christians should aspire to rather than the Big and Little Endian arguments that take place on this site.



    • Stephen,

      Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a bad idea at the best of times, let alone when one’s immortal soul is at stake.

      Christianity, as a great man once nearly said, is too important to be left to the mad :-)

      And all the liberals, conservatives (and anything else) on this blog – and in the world – are, as that great evangelical George W.Bush once said, “all just sinners” :-)

  13. I strongly suspect you are having a larf here, Stephen. But in case you are genuine, you are missing what a lot of people seem to miss – Christians do not regard themselves as some sort of special species entitled to protection from every wind that blows, nor do we wallow in the culture of victimhood. As Christians we believe that the tenets of our faith – enshrined in scripture – are the ones which are best, not just for the individual, but for society as a whole, and which will ensure the survival of the human race. If you look back through history you will see that all the great reformers who have made life better for the poorest and most oppressed have been Christians. Not all faiths have this ethic.

    For this we must expect to pay a price when the law of the land comes into conflict with our faith. It is not something we seek; in fact we fight to retain the laws which are built on Christianity which have served this country so well and enabled peaceful coexistence. Unfortunately the loss of Christian belief, especially among the nation’s leaders, is causing this to crumble, and conflict will inevitably follow. If we are not prepared to stand up for our faith, then it cannot be worth having.

    Sadly, it is society as a whole which will suffer from the loss of a Christian ethos. THIS is what we are fighting for, not our own miserable selves.

  14. I agree that English tradition has been a Christian one. But England is no longer an exclusively Christian country. Christianity must now co-exist with many other faiths and philosophies. That’s the price of democracy. And modern democratic societies can’t give preference to the tenets of one particular religion without inviting accusations of preferential treatment and discrimination.

    The reality of the situation is that Christianity has lost the exclusive power it had to shape our laws and society. You can see that as moral decline or as the inevitable consequence of a multi-cultural, multi-faith democratic society. I tend towards the latter view and I think scripture supports me in this. “Render unto Caesar”, after all.

    The problem I have with Christians who oppose equality legislation is that they want to impose their own personal religious convictions on everyone else. Why should a Christian’s conviction that it’s wrong to marry a member of your own sex be the law for everyone else? Surely the Christian who believes that homosexuality is wrong will live by his convictions anyway. Why isn’t that enough for him? Why should he force his beliefs on others? Why should others not be allowed to follow their consciences? If what non-Christians want does no demonstrable harm to anybody else, why should a secular society ban it?

    Like it or not, a secular society is where we’re heading. There will be gay marriage, but nobody will be forced to marry a member of their own sex. Nor will any church or faith group be forced to officiate at such marriages. Christians will still be free to follow their beliefs and non-Christians will be able to do the same. So everyone should be happy. Unless what makes them happy is imposing their beliefs on others, of course.

    And that’s basically what it boils down to. Christians as control freaks deciding how everyone else will live. That’s not a faith I want to be associated with. And I don’t think it’s a faith God wants to be associated with either. He invented the idea of free will, after all.



    • You are right Stephen. Because no one has ever given any valid argument why admitting same-sex partners (a very small proportion in the population, after all) would damage anybody else’s marriage we get religious control freakery skidding about on their slippery slopes, invoking all sorts of doomsday horrors of people marrying a zooful of animals, platoons of soldiers, the gnomes around their garden ponds, their favourite orchard of apple trees and anything else the control-freak imagination can drum up to scare us with. If marriage is about the protection of women and children as Jill suggests, then aren’t lesbians women too and many of them have children of their own? But I think she is painting too rosy a picture – marriage was about dynasty and men owning women as much as giving them any rights; it meant custody rather than protection in the modern liberal sense. Just look at the Anglican wedding service to see how ingrained the idea is that women were men’s to give away and to own. We have changed a lot from that mindset, introducing the idea of equality of partners only in the 20th century. Before then, as you will know from Downton Abbey only a man could file for divorce on the grounds of adultery, the wife had no redress against her husband’s infidelity (thank you Lord Fellowes).

    • Merci, Étienne. Tu as raison. Je suis complètement d’accord avec tout ce que tu as écrit ci-dessus.



  15. Look, in many ways I’m actually a social and political conservative. My aim here is not to act as some kind of standard-bearer for radical left causes. Was marriage just a phallocratic plot to subjugate women and take away their God-given right to cut their hair short, wear dangly licorice allsorts earrings and urinate standing up? I know some people are convinced that it was or even still is. I however do not share that view.

    My issue here is one of personal liberty and free will. There is no reason beyond “I believe” that marriage should be limited to heterosexual couples. Your “I believe” does not and should not take precedence over mine. My “I believe” will do you no harm. Therefore you do not have the right to impose your “I believe” on me or anyone else. By all means, believe your “I believe”. But don’t try to force it on others. If you do, be prepared to answer to God when he asks you why you thought that your will was more important than the free will he granted to your brother.

    And that segues me seamlessly back to the original topic under discussion here. The chap who was demoted because he expressed his opposition to gay marriage on Facebook was basically making a statement against free will. The free will we all should have to order our lives as we see fit as long as we don’t harm anyone else.

    Regarding the demotion, I don’t know how UK employment law works, but I do know that here in France an employer is entitled to have a reasonable expectation that his employees will not publicly undermine the values and aims of the organisation for which they work. The housing trust in question had a publicly stated policy of full equality regardless of sexual orientation. So to express an opinion that favoured discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation would most definitely put this employee in breach of his duty not to undermine his employer, who would therefore be entitled to take disciplinary action.

    Was this disciplinary action excessive? Perhaps. I’m not familiar with the details of the situation, so I don’t know if the employer overreacted or not. I have a feeling that what’s been reported in the press isn’t the whole story though. I’ll be interested to read more as and when it becomes available. Then I’ll make my mind up. And not before.



    P.S. En te remerciant de ton soutien, cher Guillaume. Une autre voix de raison gauloise s’élève parmi le vacarme anglican. Je connais la tendance outre-Manche. Un seul hêtre vous manque et tout est des peupliers … ;-)

    • Good grief, Stephen, anyone would think that marriage had only just been invented! It really is not a question of ‘my views’ or ‘your views’, but what God intended. Gay ‘marriage’ has absolutely no place in Christian teaching, which right from Genesis is clear that God created male and female in his own image, and that a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh. And Jesus himself said that ‘they are no more twain, but one flesh’.

      Christians cannot agree to the Housing Trust’s policy, they simply can’t. It is a violation of a fundamental principle of our faith. And being unable to say so is a violation of our basic right to freedom of speech.

      • Surely your kind of Christian should be opposed to any kind of state marriage tho Jill? Afterall, two heterosexual atheists who decide, after a few years’ fornication and cohabitation, to get married are hardly likely to honour the One, Holy Sacrament of Marriage, are they?

        And was Our Lord talking of ‘religious’ marriage or ‘secular’ marriage? The obvious response would be to say that such distinctions are modern perversions, which again raises the problem of whether state (or – assuming you give the Jews a pass – non-Christian) marriages are ‘marriages’ at all. And of course the “plain meaning” of Jesus’ words suggest that the UK divorce laws need some urgent repealing.

        But the wider problem is that Britain is not, in fact, a Theocracy (and no, Her Majesty the Queen ruling a *democracy* by the Grace of God is not the same thing). Most Christians accept this. How many years ago was it that C.S. Lewis made his point about being unhappy if “Mohammedans” had tried to ban alcohol, and suggested Christians similarly live and let live? And yet, when it comes to gay people, conservatives fling bible verses as if Britain should be assumed to be a theocracy on this particular issues (alas, and sadly for them, pooves pay taxes too )

      • Actually Jill, I think what you really mean is that CONSERVATIVE Christians can’t agree to the Housing Trust’s policy. Which is fair enough. Freedom of conscience is a basic right, after all.

        I don’t really mind what people believe. But as an employer, I do mind how they portray my company. If one of my employees were to express opinions in a public and easily accessible manner (such as posting them on Facebook) that were radically opposed to my company’s ethos, there would be a problem. I would meet with that employee and tell him that he was undermining the goals of the company. I would not ask him to change his opinions. I would ask him to shut up about them as long as he was working for me. If he couldn’t, I’d fire him. And employment law here in France would support that decision.

        I don’t really know how things work on the wrong side of La Manche, but given how much more flexible your labour laws are than ours, I’m assuming that a British employer would have even broader powers than I do to get rid of employees who undermine company values. When you take a job, you agree to abide by the values of your employer. If you can’t, you need to look for alternative employment.

        If conservative Christians don’t support gay marriage then they shouldn’t seek employment in organisations that do. End of story.



        • @saekker

          My goodness, some of you guys have a very strange idea of what marriage is all about. It is not a power struggle, or anything to do with control or subjugation of women. What a very odd notion! I think you should have a close look at the 1662 Book of Common Prayer Form of Solemnization of Matrimony, which sets out perfectly the roles and requirements of each partner. You will see just how silly your ideas are.

          Read it carefully:

        • contd…

          It is the turning away from this ideal which has caused so much strife within marriages, which in turn has weakened the institution of marriage itself. I do agree that it is feminism and the pill which has largely caused this. I have been happily married for a very long time, and I can assure you that I don’t feel the least bit controlled or subjugated, as I have a loving husband who treats me according to his vows. Of course this doesn’t always happen, but it is the people who break their vows who are at fault, not the vows themselves.

          Stephen – gay marriage is actually illegal in this country. If the THT are publicly advocating something that is against the law, and persecuting someone who is acting within the law, then it is they who should be investigated.

        • @Jill Honestly, I really can’t help but laugh (or larff, perhaps) when I see comments of the calibre of Jill’s little gem here above.

          Jill, don’t you realise that anybody is entitled to advocate for a change in the law? It’s not illegal to do so, not even in the UK. Or perhaps you think that the law is sacred and set in stone. In which case I assume you’re perfectly happy with British abortion laws and would think it blasphemous to challenge them…

          The housing trust in question is fully entitled to support equality even if current British legislation does not. Nothing illegal about that at all.

          Odd that a Frog should have to give a Rosbif lessons in how her own legal system works. What do they teach you in schools over there?



        • @saekker

          So you think it’s okay to enforce your own views on a possible future change in the law (or not) upon your staff, and then victimise them if they disagree? Is that how they do things en France?

        • @Jill If I’ve set up a company for a particular purpose and one of my employees decides to subvert that purpose in order to promote his own agenda then I’m perfectly entitled to terminate his employment. If his actions harm my business, he has a conflict of interests that prevent him from remaining in my employment.

          Any employment tribunal in any European country would take a similar view. Employees have rights, but these do not include the right to expect an employer to fund propaganda that undermines his business. If you worked for Philip Morris, how do you think they’d react if you ran an anti-smoking campaign? You might privately object to smoking, but if you posted an anti-smoking rant on your Facebook page, how long do you think you’d be able to keep on working for a company that promotes smoking?

          As I said, I don’t know the particulars of this case, but it seems to me that the housing trust was well within its rights to discipline this man for his Facebook rant. If you’re a Christian then of course you have the right to practice your religion, but your employer is under no obligation to subsidise your efforts to undermine his business. The right to religious freedom does not include a right to expect others to fund them to their own detriment.



        • @saekker

          Is smoking illegal, then? I hadn’t heard.

          Saying that gay marriage is an equality too far is hardly a rant. It is the Housing Trust (a non-commercial organisation which doesn’t have to please its customers) which is imposing something illegal on its own employees, many of whom were probably there long before the idea of gay marriage came into public consciousness.

          You will never, ever, get the whole world to agree that something is a good idea which goes so violently against nature. Read the Bible!

          As Peter Hitchens says in his blog, there people who still think you can change human nature, which you sort of can if you have concentration camps and an effective secret police.

        • Smoking is indeed illegal in many places in the UK. You hadn’t heard? I’m not surprised. Conservatives like you don’t seem to get out much…

          And you know, I don’t require the whole world to agree that gay marriage is a good idea. The whole world can think what it likes as long as it doesn’t trample on my right to do what I think is a good idea. If you don’t think gay marriage is a good idea, don’t marry a member of your own sex. Nobody will force you to. I on the other hand would very much like to marry my partner, but the pig-headed intransigence of people like you who think you know so much better than me what’s good for me prevents me from doing so. Why should you get to tell me what I can and can’t do? As long as what I want causes no demonstrable harm to anyone else, I should be free to do what I want. Or does the idea of personal liberty offend you as much as gay marriage?

          Ask Peter Hitchens what he thinks about that. I’m sure his answer will be something along the lines of “personal liberty is a great thing as long as everyone does exactly what I want”. That’s the overall message of dismal little blogs like his and this one…



  16. And, of course, the problem with “Slippery Slopes” is deciding where they started.

    In addition to the ‘secular’ sexual revolution (and it would be nice if Jill could concede that feminism, the pill et all is the principle reason for today’s sexual state-of-affairs, not the implementation of an Elders of Zion style “Gay Agenda”), a big change in Christian circles was the reversal on the sinfulness of birth control (amusing how fundamentalists tend not to care much about the Lambeth conferences that condemned them, eh?), which necessarily elevates recreational above procreational sex (would anyone doubt that the vast majority of sexual acts in evangelical world fall into the former category?)

    Joshua Harris, in a characteristically crappy Wesley Owen evangelical book, “cites” (!) CS Lewis as claiming that the perversion of the sex act was any act outside of a man in a woman in marriage. In reality, of course, CS Lewis said no such thing ; as a good Anglo-Catholic he saw any *non-procreational* act as the perversion (c.f. the Mere Christianity food-analogy stuff on the ‘meaning’ of sex, which he figures as solely as a mechanism for human beings to reproduce in a particular way.

    It’s amusing that ‘gays’ get the blame for predicted polygamy too. I know of a major Glasgow evangelical church that is hardly atypical in having a lead “Pastor” who, tho ‘separated’ from the former, still technically has both a wife and a girlfriend. The honourable thing to do in such circumstances would be divorce – but then divorce should surely have its own problems to the “Biblical” evangelical (but in practice never does). On top of which serial dating tends to be not only ‘tolerated’ but ‘encouraged’ – abstaining from it is a sure fire way to be suspected of being gay, and to suffer harassment and ostracisation as a result.

  17. Two wrongs don’t make a right, surely. If someone is criticising The Daily Mail then pointing out that other newspapers are as bad, even if true, hardly negates the original point. And, like many people, I would say that the Daily Mail is (to the best of my knowledge) especially bad. For example, a football website I read ( recounted an opinion piece the Mail had on Wednesday, in relation to the John Terry and Anton Ferdinand (alleged) racism incident and basically advised players who suffered such abuse to just get on with it (!) : And only a day later the Mail specifically named witnesses (QPR players) who can refute John Terry’s denial of racist abuses (meaning that he was therefore guilty of said offense): No other newspaper ran with that story. And whilst (not least the Murdoch titles, The Times aside) are hardly paragons of journalistic virtue, The Daily Mail’s Amanda Knox coverage does sum it up: I suppose it could be argued that Churchill himself, “Why England Slept” etc, accepted that there may be seeming valid reasons (or at least cultural forces) that might lead to people accepting appeasment or isolationism in regard to Nazism. Such people were demonstrably wrong however. And of course I quite agree that cheerleaders for murderous communist regimes deserve just as much condemnation. I certainly would never defend ludicrous guardianista dictator fanboys like George Galloway. However, if I wanted to call the Daily Mail fascist I would do so. My point might seem opaque, but that’s because of my sub-Mailer High Church-y torturously purple prose style, not any attempts at obfuscation. And I’m not sure that the point is that opaque anyway. To use your own examples, saying: “The Guardian has previously supported murderous communist regimes and left-wing dictatorships.Such attitudes are, to say the least, not exactly a clear vile contrast to the Guardian’s current ideological priorities” is a quite different point to saying “The current Guardian is a supporter of left-wing dictatorships and murderous communist regimes” We are talking about points on an ideological spectrum, and degrees of bias. Nuance is important. The decline of newspaper sales means that online versions are becoming increasingly important (c.f. the times going behind a paywall), so, even if there is clear blue water between the print and online versions of the Daily Mail, it’s not necessarily illegitimate to criticise “The Daily Mail” on the basis of its website. I read Martin Samuel’s football articles there every Monday, and, to judge from this admittedly brief browsing window, it does look like all the regular print articles/journalists are available online.

  18. Good grief, Stephen, anyone would think that marriage had only just been invented!

    Indeed, it’s amusing when “conservatives” make claims along the lines that marriage has “always” been about one man and one woman. Are religious fundamentalists not required to read the Old Testament these days? And, of course, there is the problem that many (most?) women (i.e. : not teh gays) do not see the history of structrural misogyny associated with marriage as something to be proud of – c.f. the language of “dowries” where women are treated like property. The fact that rape only become illegal in 1994 is, to the feminist, not an * aberrational* example of problematic patriachal power relationships inherent in marriage – quite the opposite.

  19. My goodness, some of you guys have a very strange idea of what marriage is all about

    No, we’re actually citing empirical fact on what marriage, historically, actually *is* – not what you say it should be. How many women do you know who are comfortable with ‘obeying’ men in the (to use your BCP example) *17th Century sense of the word*? You might think that *modern* marriage avoids such problems, but it is simply innacurate to say, when talking about 200+ years plus before the suffragettes, that popular expressions of marriage involved genuine gender equality. You subjective experience hardly negates analysis of the structure of marriage per se ( to use an analogy : I wouldn’t expect you to change your mind on gay relationships because some people posted subjective testimony of our joys!)

    Our Lord ‘s words on asceticism, and St.Paul’s “better to marry than burn” awareness that the noble road of celibacy may prove too difficult for many, are a million miles away from the form of Christianity that worships middle-class ideas on The Family first, and anything (or Anyone) else second.

    And then there’s the problem that, in today’s Harriet Harperson addled world, that a guy who breaks up with his wife signs over half his income in perpetuity and loses custody of the kids. Most Real Man are not, to riot in understatement, gonna see such an institution as a Holy Masculine contrast to the perversions and corruptions of societal queering and feministisation.

    It is amusing to observe evangelical men, who condemn gays, but invariably ask “How High?” on the way up when their (comparitively butcher) wives say “jump”.

    • @cerebusboy

      Ryan, you have got this exactly back to front! It is because both my husband and me keep the vows we made that our marriage has worked! It is the proper understanding of, and keeping of the vows that is key. You are looking at everything from a secular worldview, not from what Christian marriage is all about. Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest from the link I gave you. I’m afraid that what your friends or my friends or anybody else thinks is not going to have any influence on what God has ordained.

      • @Jill You are looking at everything from a secular worldview, not from what Christian marriage is all about.

        Ah, so all those times you spent (explicitly or otherwise) contrasting Marriage and gay relationships you were really contrasting the most ideal living up-to of the Sacrament of Marriage?

        That being so, why ARE secular gay relationship any more intrinsically inferior, or more of a threat to you (let alone Children, or Society) than secular heterosexual relationships (marriage included)?

        • @Jill Ah, good to know.

          I await, with baited breath, the ‘Conservative’ campaign against non-Christian and state marriages to kick in any day now. Or not so much.

  20. Yes Jill, that is the Christian view of marriage and of course it is a construct back-projected to the mythical state described as the “time of man’s innocency”. Anthropologists will tell you that this is not actually how marriage has been practised and theorised over in every ancient culture and I cannot believe you are really naive enough to think it was – or are you a Young-Earth 6-day creationist wonk, in which case there’s no reasoning with such a position. But have a look at the three reasons the 17th-century Anglican divines said God was supposed to have instituted marriage, particularly the first, and you will see it really rules out anyone who can’t procreate (as It usually was in the good ole days). Instead of rank-ordering the goods of marriage as the 1662 divines did surely it is much more psychologically and socially astute to list them as equal benefits any of which gives a valid reason for a couple to commit to each other. This I think is what we now do and it has made marriage much more inclusive than it’s original purposes would have allowed. On closer inspection I think No 2 is a forlorn hope given the history of sexuality everywhere on the planet. Religions have tried to control the sexual appetite, sometimes with the most draconian rules as in Islam but that doesn’t stop “true love” causing people to break marriage vows, to say nothing of lust, as you will know from literature the world over.

    I am glad you have had (are having) a happy and fulfilled marriage. If David Cameron legalises secular civic marriage I wonder if you could tell us how that will personally affect, spoil, soil, sour and other wise ruin your marriage to Mr Jill. Spare the generalisations – we know what they are are – I want to know what it would do to you personally if your gay neighbours Peter and Paul decided to have a civil marriage (or indeed a Quaker) one. Can you tell us?

    • @Tom Jones

      As I have already answered these questions many times, I am not going to bore everybody by going through them all again. Procreation is only ONE of the reasons marriage was ordained by God.

      • @Jill@Tom Jones And how many of these “reasons” have to be missing before the whole “Straight Relationships=Good” “Gay Relationships=Bad” dichotomy collapses like a house of cards?

      • So how does Peter and Paul’s civil marriage have anything to do with you and your husband’s successfully procreativie marriage? You seem not to mind reciting over and over any anti- gay information you can lay hands on so why not for once tell us truthfully how the gay marriage of a couple in your street will actually somehow invalidate your marriage vows? Remember, it was you who raised the analogy of printing counterfeit money……

        • @Tom Jones

          It is not about the gay couple round the corner, though, is it? It is about the effect on society, the effect on children, and therefore the future of society. I have never said it will invalidate MY marriage vows – how could it? What it will do is further weaken marriage, which needs strengthening, not weakening.

        • @Jill Sorry to keep pressing you but WHAT effect on society, WHAT effect on children will it have? Rather I would say what would weaken marriage would be multiple flip marriages of film stars, silly people marrying and divorcing after a few hours at Las Vegas, or cruelty within marriages – people held in unloving relationships and not being able to divorce, as the Christian Church used to insist. But none of these ills would be the necessary consequence of admitting same-sex partners to civil marriage. It would be a good for society and a good for any children they might have in my view and apparently also the government’s view.

        • @Jill@Tom Jones I concur. WHAT effects, Jill? You are pointedly short of facts and specifics.

          Let me make the point about Section 28, which you (unsurprisingly) ignored. Conservatives (i.e: reactionaries) said that repealing it would lead to hordes of “predatory homosexuals” ‘recruiting’ children. It was repealed a decade ago, and this has not happened. Does this not tell you something? If you can provide no facts to support your contentions then does that no suggest that they are, in fact, wrong?

          There’s an amusing dichotomy at the heart of conservative homophobia, where homosexuality is deemed to be simultaneously a revolting perversion and yet also something that lots of people will suddenly try if society stops disapproving of it. I know no self-respecting red blooded heterosexual man who thinks “gay rights” are bad because they might lead to him ditches the girls for some guy-on-guy action (although, amusingly, I know more than a few anti-gay evangelical “men” who have told me that they can see the attraction of gay sex!)

          What would you think about someone saying “equal rights for group x will threaten our children. I can’t give specifics, but I just feel it to be true” ? Replace “group x” with “gay people” and that’s exactly the kind of “Save our Children!” hot-button rhetoric that you appear to traffic in.

          And of course, even if Heterosexual Marriage *was* the societally agreed-upon ideal, that would not necessarily mean that, in a free society, the non-ideal ought to be persecuted. Afterall, are batchelors – in the literal, non-sexual sense – not also a deviation from this “ideal”?

        • @cerebusboy@Tom Jones

          Ah yes, predatory homosexuals. Like the ones given a cool quarter of a million quid of OUR money to go in to schools on the pretext of anti-bullying campaigns so that children can become aware of the non-joys of fisting, felching, rimming, sodomy, and a myriad of other behaviours about which they knew nothing before, simply by looking at their website. I am talking about the Terrence Higgins Trust.

          I am assuming that you don’t have any children. Well, I can assure you that people who do are less than delighted at this disturbing development.

        • LOL at the “our money” ! You do know that homosexuals pay taxes too, yes?

          And Terrence Higgins Trust is a charity founded on education and preventing HIV/AIDS. If you’re accusing them of being “predatory homosexuals” – in the sense of Section 28 invocation of paedophilia sense – you might want to check that your ad hom spite doesn’t tip over into the actually libelous

          Teenagers don’t know about “sodomy”? Really? Despite the perennial playground slurs like “bumming”?

          That makes as much sense as saying that kids who go to Catholic school don’t know about fornication or blowjobs (hint: they do)

          And of course a charity, with sufficient remit, might have material suitable for some age group and not another. Nice try. Although surely a good conservative Christian ought to think that all non abstinence or reproduction only sex ed is intrinsically encouraging of fornication and ergo immoral? What possible moral sense does it make to regard guy on guy oral sex as somehow (in a secular society) worse than good old fashioned heterosexual missionary fornication?

          And what evidence do you have that telling people ABOUT particular sex acts is the same thing as encouraging them to try them? I know what threesomes are but, like any Christian, I’m sure as hell not going to have one.

          And THT does help bullying, as does Stonewall. Anyone who grew up before the repeal of Section 28 will know fine well that schools could not do much about kids who were bullied for being “poofters”, because reassuring them that their sexuality was a largely benign trait analogous to race (or other factors that can lead to bullying) could be perceived as “promoting homosexuality” (although Shakespeare’s sonnets also “promote homosexuality” in the strictest; sense, like morality, was never the homophobes’ strongest suit) .

          And most people I know who have kids aren’t homophobes either. You might fight this hard to believe Jill, but the “silent majority” (as Gore Vidal pointed out, a phrase Nixon coined from Homer’s description of the dead) are neither. Most married-with-kids couples are not, in fact, curtain-twitching theocracts – and, even if they were, we do not, in a free society, vote on the right of minorities to have civil liberties.

        • @Jill@Tom Jones Oh, and if the kids can find this information by looking at the THT website, then banning them from visiting schools would hardly accomplish much, would it?

          I’d say that, from a conservative Christian perspective, the plethora of heterosexual pornograpy available a few clicks away is far more of a problem as far as kids are concerned. Safe ‘abnormal’ sex can be a lot safer than unsafe ‘normal’ sex (I’d say that the consequences of teenage pregnancy – you’re pro-life, no? – are a damn site more worrying than the occasional overzealous rimmer)

          And the tendency of ‘conservatives’ to use “Speaking as a parent” as if it was in any way analogous to a “Speaking as a Nobel Prize Winner” style invocation of genuine pertinent authority would be comical if it wasn’t so ridiculous. None homophobes have children too. And let me ask you a question: how many parents are comfortable with the idea of their little darlings having ANY kind of sex? Many a father might wish that their daughter stayed virgins in perpetuity; that hardly ‘proves’ that a failure to do is ipso facto proof of something being (morally) amiss with the daughter’s sexual choices.

        • @cerebusboy

          Ryan, I am getting tired of this conversation, as it is apparent that we live on different planets, so I am pulling out. I would just say that I have studied the THT website (Terrence Higgins Trust, that is, not Trafford Housing Trust) and I would say that most of the information contained therein is a surefire way of ensuring that gay men contract HIV, even going so far as to tell them where they can hook up. (Safely, of course!!!) And as for their revolting Hard Cell site – I don’t this is what was intended when the Trust was set up, and I daresay if the public at large – the 99% who aren’t homosexual, that is – knew the contents of the website they would be outraged that so much of their money was being spent on this cause.

        • @Jill Jill, I am more than willing to have my beliefs challenged. Everyone on this thread keeps asking you for fact and information; you keep refusing to supply them.

          Again: HOW does tolerating homosexuality “threaten the children” or your marriage? For someone allegedly fighting the good fight you have a weird reticence towards creating actual arguments, let alone convincing ones.

          and of course even if 99% of the population was not homosexual that would in no way follow that a similar number opposes THT….intellectual fallacy bingo is tiring, too.

          And the problem with finding “Hard Cell” revolting is that you find the idea of homosexuality per se “revolting” (presumably including mere chaste hand holding and kissing), so your use of the term does not tell us anything useful.

          I gather Hard Cell is the drug area, yes? Alcohol is a far bigger societal problem than drugs (certainly here in Scotland!). Encouraging abstinence from that drug might be best, but charities need to do what works (the best being the enemy of the good and all that). Clearly there are significant legal differences, so the analogy isn’t perfect, but if people are going to take drugs anyway (and, the desire of man’s heart being evil from his youth, they are) ensuring that they do so safely is a relatively ‘moral’ act. And of course there’s all sorts of drug info that gets aimed at kids, so I don’t know why teh gays are being singled out in this way!

        • @Jill@cerebusboy Actually Jill, does it not occur to you that you yourself could be accused of double standards. Have you thought about the harm YOU might do? You say you respect and even like gay people but you do nothing but demean them on these boards (and others where I have seen your name crop up). I for one find that rather sad and not very Christian. If I wanted think of the best way to put someone off Christianity I would get them to read the ravings of Stephen Green, and, I am sorry to say, some of the obsessive anti-homosexual things you have posted.

        • @Tom Jones@Jill well said Tom.

          Unfortunately many a conservative does indeed give the impression that, rather contrary to Our Lord’s “great commssion”, that they don’t want pooves in their nice middle-class churches, recruiting the kiddies with their rimming, fisting ways.

          Fundamentalist Christians are certainly ‘evangelists’ but usually for the “right” kind of people.

        • @Tom Jones@Jill And, call me naive, I know exactly zero gay people with a thing for fisting. Perhaps the “propoganda” was less effective in their formative days?

          Interesting also that the THT material, for all its conversational “cocks” and “cum”, is also factual and scientific. Compare and contrast with the language of “sodomy” (and, come on Jill, can you really mount a *serious* “biblical” argument that Sodom was destroyed because of *anal sex* per se? Would the Almighty have been a bit more tolerant if Sodom’s inhabitants had stuck to mere blowjobs? )

          On the other hand, the history of the word “sodomy” does show that there’s nothing new under the sun. There might have been less public discussion about (e.g.) cunnilingus 50 years ago; that hardly means that the act itself was less popular. Some people find sodomy disgusting, others don’t. Why is fisting or any other “extreme” sex act really different? Are we really to believe that people are being “recruited” (!) to try sex acts that they initially find disgusting? Why? For what reason? What’s the motivation? And to what end? How, pray tell, would recruiting an army of eager fisters serve THT (let alone the “gay”) agenda? Wouldn’t it negate rather their nefarious plan to show that gays are just normal people, like you and me?

          Some straight people like bondage, most don’t. Is pointing out this fact an incitement to try it? Of course not. So why the double standard when it comes to DESCRIBING a particular sex acts that a *tiny minority* of gay people might want to try?

        • @cerebusboy@Jill Ryan, not just gay people either. Lots of straight people I know would find it makes Christianity judgmental and self-righteous.

        • @Tom Jones@Jill Come now Tom, that’s like saying that not all husbands, wives and parents are homophobic… ;-)

  21. @Jill @Cerebusboy Of course, Jill and Ryan, not all Christians are antigay activists or believe that gay people are the only ones going to hell and so have to be singled out for huge politically motivated campaigns when quietly they also believe Jews are going to hell; but they shut up about that. Not so long ago they didn’t and we had the Elders of Zion conspiracy and all the rest. But the world has perhaps learnt its lesson where this sorry tale led to. So now we have the homosexuals to beat up. But I came across this website where the pastor doesn’t do that. He’s not a liberal lefty either, he just NOLT – “not like that”. Have a look:

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