On the Buses

News today that Core Issues are seeking a judicial review after Stonewall and Transport for London appear to flout a recent high court ruling.

London Bus Adverts - Gay and ExGayA traditionalist Christian group has lodged papers at the High Court attempting to force Transport for London to take down hundreds of new billboards on double-decker buses telling people who disapprove of homosexuality to “get over it”.

It claims that transport chiefs are deliberately ignoring a ruling by a High Court judge that the posters, from the gay rights group Stonewall, are “highly offensive to fundamentalist Christians” who believe that gay sex is a “sin”.

Core Issues Trust, a Christian counselling group which advocates controversial “reorientation” therapy, booked advertising space on London buses last year promoting the idea that people can become “post-gay” through therapy.

The posters were modelled on advertisements taken out by Stonewall a few weeks earlier reading: “Some people are Gay. Get over it!”

The Christian group’s proposed advertisements were to read: “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get Over It!”

The Mayor stepped in and banned them saying it was “clearly offensive” to suggest that being gay is an “illness”.

The decision led to a legal challenge. In her judgment Mrs Justice Lang ruled that Mr Johnson had not abused his position by banning the adverts but went on to question the decision to allow the earlier Stonewall advertisements as well.

TfL’s decision to allow one advertisement but not the other was “was inconsistent and partial”, she ruled. The outcome of an appeal is due later this year.

But similar Stonewall advertisements have begun to reappear on buses across London as part of a new campaign.

Dr Michael Davidson, founder and Core Issues Trust, is lodging an urgent judicial review application seeking an injunction forcing TfL to take the new advertisements down.

“I feel that Stonewall and the Defendant are deliberately flouting the rulings of the court by renewing their advertisement campaign on buses which was clearly prohibited by the earlier judgment of Mrs Justice Lang,” his application says.

“Until such time when we have the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the Defendant should not have allowed Stonewall’s advertisement to reappear on their buses.”

Andrea Williams director of the Christian Legal centre, which is supporting the challenge, said: “Both Stonewall and Transport for London have acted in flagrant disregard for the judgment of Mrs Justice Lang.

“This provokes and goads the legal process because its decision on the matter is due at the beginning of December.”

A spokesman for TfL said: “These ads are in line with our advertising policy.”

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said: “It does seem a tragedy that these people who make so much noise about being Christian don’t spend a little more of their money on tackling polio or Third World poverty but a lot of money on slightly frivolous legal actions.”

This is fascinating, coming on the back of the news that the British Psychodrama Association has removed membership from Mike Davidson in what looks like a pretty flaky disciplinary process. You can see an interesting presentation here on how the UKCP seriously misquote the references they rely on for their ethical stance.

Andrea Minichiello Williams of the Christian Legal Centre has said,

Andrea Minichiello WilliamsStonewall’s actions show a blatant disregard for the law. The High Court’s judgment in March was clear that Stonewall’s adverts were offensive and should not be displayed on the buses. To then go and put them on buses again before the Master of the Rolls has settled the matter is provocative and shows that Stonewall thinks it is above and beyond the law.

Stonewall has a track record of using the law and the decisions of the courts to push its own agenda. But when a court makes a decision which is not to Stonewall’s liking, as in this case, it ploughs on regardless with its agenda, showing contempt for the rule of law in the process.

TfL has  aided and abetted Stonewall in this. TfL was also aware of the ruling that the adverts did not comply with its own guidelines and yet allowed them on buses for a second time.

In the face of Stonewall’s provocative actions we have decided to take this step and seek a judicial review and injunction.

Here’s the relevant section of the original ruling on Core Issues vs TfL.

131. In order to give effect to the primary right of freedom of expression in a democratic society, those who wish to promote an offensive or controversial message should be entitled to do so. In my view, it is proportionate to ask those people to express those views in a way other than by advertising on buses in a major city. Posters, leaflets, articles, meetings and the internet all provide an alternative vehicle for expression of these views.
132. An advertisement may raise an issue of legitimate public interest. But the location of these advertisements means that the message can only be a brief one, capable of being read as the bus passes by. The advertisements by the Trust, Stonewall and the British Humanist Association were all skilfully designed to deliver a short, sharp shock to the public. Their wording was confrontational. The alternative modes of expression – articles, leaflets, the internet – enable a reasoned case to be made instead. The case law of the ECtHR shows that reasoned debate is likely to be more deserving of protection under Article 10 than slogans and abusive messages.
133. I do not accept the submission that because the advertising space is sold on a commercial basis, there is a “right to buy” and there should be no restriction on content. This is not consistent with the case law under Article 10, which is concerned with the expression of views wherever they appear.
134. The Trust’s secondary submission was that TfL applied its Advertising Policy in an inconsistent and partial manner. It had permitted advertising on controversial and sensitive topics such as atheism and homosexuality, thus causing offence to many Christians, but then prevented Christians from responding with their views.
135. I consider that there is force in the Trust’s submission. The advertisements by the British Humanist Association and Stonewall did not comply with TfL’s own restrictions which prohibit advertisements “likely to cause widespread or serious offence” or which “relate to matters of public controversy or sensitivity”. Both advertisements were in the form of confrontational assertions which made no contribution to a reasoned debate. The British Humanist Association advertisement was highly offensive to the religious beliefs of the significant section of the public who believe in God. The Stonewall advertisement was highly offensive to fundamentalist Christians and other religious groups whose religious belief is that homosexuality is contrary to God’s teachings.
136. TfL sought to justify the Stonewall advertisement on the grounds that it furthered TfL’s objectives under section 149, Equality Act, but declined to provide any detail about the basis of the decision. I doubt whether this confrontational advertisement did anything to “tackle prejudice” or “promote understanding” among homophobic people. It was more likely to spark retaliation, as indeed it did in the case of Anglican Mainstream and the Trust.
137. In the light of the evidence and submissions, I make the proportionality assessment under Article 10(2) on the basis that TfL’s decision to exclude the Trust’s advertisement was inconsistent and partial, in the light of its willingness to display the British Humanist Association and Stonewall advertisements. Furthermore, it denied the Trust the opportunity to respond to the Stonewall advertisement, in what the Trust described as “the right to counter”. These are important factors in favour of allowing the Trust to express its views in this particular medium.

So the judge criticises the decision of TfL to let Stonewall advertise but not Core Issues, but doesn’t actually specifically say they can’t show the Stonewall advert again. I suspect a request for an initial judicial review will fail, but a separate court case specifically arguing that TfL are ignoring their own criteria would succeed.

Finally, Stephen Fry was on TV on the BBC chatting to Joseph Nicolosi (of NARTH). It’s a fascinating ten minutes.

Now, I’m on record criticising the attempt by some to impose a particular psycho-dynamic model on all male homosexuals, but the last minute or so of this clip are revealing. Stephen Fry admits to having the basic family relationships that Nicolosi argues leads to homosexuality. The excuse Fry gives that his brother isn’t gay is of course nonsense – we know that the same events affect different people differently, that individuals have different ways of coping with emotional events in their lives that are sometimes biologically based and sometimes coping mechanisms developed over time.

Lots to ponder on…

37 Comments on “On the Buses

  1. There have been lots of good bus adverts aimed at challenging people’s preconceptions – like the ‘I suffer from depression. Nasty names don’t help’ adverts. Is it just that I sympathise more with people who suffer from depression, or are the Stonewall ones unnecessarily aggressive?

    • The judge who ruled in the original case said that they were offensive to Christians and the TfL was inconsistent in banning adverts that offended gay people but not adverts that offended Christians. There is an appeal scheduled and it was understood that Stonewall adverts would not be allowed back on the buses until that appeal had been heard.

      Hence the urgent request for judicial review. Are TfL in some sense in contempt of court by allowing these adverts. I suspect not, but it does display some sense of arrogance.

  2. Personally I don’t see the point of opposing these ads, which are, after all, true: some people ARE gay, whatever that means, and we DO have to get over it and cannot obsess on it indefinitely. Responding with similarly styled “Ex-” or “Post-Gay” pride ads seems rather infantile to me.
    As for Mr Summerskill, as long as the church worldwide spends more money and effort to fight poverty and suffering than Stonewall and similar groups, Mr Summerskill’s comment makes no sense, anyway.

    • I felt a whole lot happier about people being gay until the whole thing was shoved in my face. Apart from it being against my own beliefs to get involved in a same sex relationship, I wasn’t aware that I had anything to ‘get over’. I suppose that’s what they want me to ‘get over’? Core Issues were very foolish to rise to the bait.

      • There is a sense that in some quarters it’s not about simply securing rights, it’s about forcing a change in attitudes. Less to do with tolerance and more to do with conformity.

    • It’s a game, isn’t it? Say something opposing Church teaching on sex/abortion/woman bishops etc. Cue: Christians get riled up. Then sit back with a self-righteous smug grin and say ‘Why can’t these Christians do more to help the poor and stop going on about sex?’. Cue: Lot of cheering and back patting from public and press. Meanwhile, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer (and have lots of sex!).

      • Question then is why are we Christians stupid enough to rise to the provocation? But we do this in inter-Christian debates as well. Just observed on FB yesterday: someone posts a provocative thesis, and is promptly asked by someone why he isn’t doing more to help Syrian refugees — a topic that had absolutely nothing to do with the subject under discussion.

        • Christians feel like they need to present the other side of the argument in the public square. Unfortunately, the message often gets very garbled in the press. Then other Christians feel very embarrassed and start playing the same game – writing to pro-life groups and telling them to do more for the poor. Or sometimes people are genuinely tired of theological debates and wish we could put our energies into something more productive. On a more positive note, a lot of Christians of all denominations are involved in working with the poorest. So the attack really is quite groundless.

    • I never thought the ex/post-gay ad was infantile, but rather a riff on the hypocrisy with which ex/post-gays are sometimes treated as compared to gays. Their very existence puts an uncomfortable question mark behind some cherished “truths”.

      Now Stonewall is trying to create a situation where if you identify as gay, you’re allowed to shout that from the side of a bus; but if you identify as ex- or post-gay, you’re not – and all of this happens in the name of tolerance, equality, non-discrimination, and freedom of self-expression. Something seriously doesn’t add up, and CI is right to go back to court over it.

      • Just as a matter of interest, how ARE ex/post-gays sometimes treated as compared to gays? I’d be interested to know.

        There’s no question of people being forbidden to shout the “ex- or post-gay” message from the side of a bus. It’s just a matter of whether or not the bus company will accept the advert; it doesn’t have to. But there’s nothing to stop Core Issues from buying its own private bus, adorning it with its “Ex-gay/post-gay” advert, and driving it round London (or Manchester or wherever). In the same way, I can write a book saying anything I want, provided that it’s not libellous, treasonable etc., but no publisher has to publish it. If I want to publish it myself, that’s up to me.

        • I’ll let PeterO answer the first question, if he wants to; he can speak with an authority I do not have.

          As to your second question, you’re.rather moving the goalposts, aren’t you? We’re talking not about any old bus that you might buy, but about TfL, who are really a.proxy for the questionquestion of what is acceptable mainstream public discourse in a supposedly neutral medium.

          • It is not TfL’s function to arbitrate on what is acceptable mainstream public discourse – or to act as a proxy for the question, whatever that is supposed to mean. Their only function in this context is to decide, using their own responsible judgment, whether to accept any given advert or to decline to accept it. Their decision may or may not be the same as mine would have been, or the same as yours would have been. Whatever their decision, the reasons for it might or might not satisfy you or me, but they don’t need to. They only need to satisfy TfL.

            • Absolutely. Decisions what to place or not only need to satisfy TfL. And decisions who gets a double bed or not only need to satisfy the owners of B&Bs. Oh, wait…

              • The wider point is this. The judge in the original ruling (see above in the main body of the post) said it was clearly inconsistent for TfL to ban the Core Issues advert but not have banned either the Stonewall or BHA adverts. If they have criteria then they cannot allow one advert that offends one protected characteristic (religion) but not allow another that offends another (sexuality).

                That said, the judge didn’t forbid TfL from letting Stonewall advertise again (so I think the request for judicial review will fail but I would be delighted to be proved wrong) but a separate judicial appeal might very well succeed (and indeed the hearing in December may settle this matter).
                We are entering into an interesting time as the conflict between rights based on religion or sexuality finally begins to be worked through in our judiciary.

  3. Note how the in Fry’s documentary ex-ex-gay is strenuously supported by his mother, with an absence of father. Rather reinforcing Nicolosi’s analysis.

    • The whole thing is problematic on many levels. Can any of us say, in all honesty, that we’re never disturbed by the dark image of ourselves that is often reflected in the people we’re attracted to – whatever sex they’re directed towards? We tend to be attracted to what we feel we lack ourselves. All sexual relationships are about taking our broken sexuality and trying to forge something good out of it. Why was the ex-ex-gay guy so bothered by the married men who love their wives, but are sometimes attracted to other men walking down the street? Is a man who finds himself incapable of being faithful to one woman really likely to make a better husband? It seems like the only reason he wanted to be straight was because he believed he wasn’t acceptable to God the way that he was. But, as Jill has pointed out, once you’ve opened up Pandora’s Box and found that there’s a lot of ‘pain to feel’, you can’t put the lid back on again.

      I’d say mum was quite over-protective. Her son wasn’t a teenager, as far as I could see.

      • We do tend to be attracted to what we lack ourselves, on a most fundamental level we are attracted to the sex and those aspects of the opposite sex that we lack.

        And yes his mother was noticeably over-protective

        • I’m afraid that you’re assuming a great deal. Absence of father? We don’t know where his father is, or where he was when the interview was proceeding. In fact we know nothing at all about his father. His mother over-protective? In what way? In supporting her son instead of nagging at him to “change”?

          Attracted to what we lack ourselves? Yes, of course. People are, in general, and whatever their sexual orientation, sexually attracted to OTHER people, not to clones of themselves.

          • Yes, we can’t make assumptions about where the father was. I would also say that nagging your son to ‘change’ is overprotective. Parents shouldn’t really be nagging their children to do anything once their adults. Giving advice is, of course, ok.

            But we’re not always attracted to other people. There are rather a lot of people that I’d rather not share a bus seat with let alone my bed. So why are we attracted to some and not others? And why do you not find the same people attractive that I find attractive? Don’t you find this question interesting at all?

            • Well, no, we’re not sexually (or non-sexually) attracted to ALL other people. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that. In fact we are definitely NOT attracted to most people (of either sex). My point is simply that when we are sexually attracted to a person (of the other or of the same sex, as the case may be), ONE of the essential ingredients of that attraction is precisely his or her “otherness”.

              “So why are we attracted to some and not others? And why do you not find the same people attractive that I find attractive?”

              Yes, I do find those interesting questions, but I don’t know the answers, except the obvious one that we’re all different. On the first one, my parish priest in the town where I lived previously often used to begin his discourse at wedding services by saying: “People sometimes say of a couple who are about to get married something like, ‘What do they see in each other, I wonder?’ But that is the marvellous thing: often they have seen in each other what no-one else has seen.”

              As for the second question, although again I don’t know the answer, I think that we should be thankful that it is so. Just imagine how inconvenient it would be if we all found the same people attractive. We surely have more than enough jealousy, strife and conflict already without an aggravating factor like that. As a gay mate of mine once said to me, “You and I will always be good friends, because there’s no way we’d ever be fighting over the same guy.” And if we all found the same people NON-attractive, far more people would be for ever left out in the cold.

              • That’s all true, but that’s not the question we’re asking. The question we’re asking is whether our attractions sometimes reflect not so healthy lacks in ourselves. Things that can lead to co-dependency and misery rather than love and appreciation. Is love entirely selfless? Why do you want to skim over this question?

                • “…whether our attractions sometimes reflect not so healthy lacks in ourselves”

                  Please give a few examples of the kind that are likely to occur in real life. I’m a practical man who thinks in concrete terms.

                  • I was about to ask if we were experiencing the same ‘real life’ or if you’d somehow managed to be reincarnated into a Disney film! Did you do something particularly good in a previous life :) However, we’re clearly not on the same wave-length, so I’ll refrain from coming across as rude :)

                    So, let’s try an obvious one first. A woman keeps finding herself in relationships with emotionally cold and abusive men. Every time she gets rejected she vows that next time she’ll be more firm about her own needs, but the pattern just keeps repeating itself. Is there something wrong with her, she wonders? Does she see in these men some strength she feels is lacking in herself? Is it because her own father was distant?

                    Let’s try another. A young girl grows up feeling like she doesn’t fit in. She’s not cool enough. She’s too shy and boring and trendy clothes somehow just don’t look trendy on her like they do on the popular girls. She goes to Uni and meets a really beautiful, confident girl. She is surprised when the girl wants to be her friend, but they study the same subject so have a lot in common. They go on holiday together. Late one night the other girl dares her to kiss her. This leads to the most amazing experience she’s ever had in her life. She’s never felt this kind of love for a boy before. Come to think of it, she’s never felt much towards boys. Back in college a few weeks later her friend comes into her room and tells her her ‘exciting news’. She’s met a *really* hot guy and wants to tell her everything about their date. Very soon her friend and the ‘hot guy’ are having great sex. Her friend still wants to meet for coffee every day and doesn’t seem to remember what happened on holiday. It obviously didn’t mean the same thing to her. The girl hides her feelings because she’s afraid of losing her friend if she admits how jealous she is of her boyfriend and how much she needs her.

                    • OK, thank you. I see what you’re on about. I’ve read about this sort of thing. In the first instance, rather than being to do with looking for some strength she feels is lacking in herself, it could be that she has earlier in life been treated in ways that make her feel unworthy, and therefore she feels that she doesn’t really deserve a successful relationship. In the second instance it seems to me to be a case of the girl having been used by the other girl as a kind of stop-gap. But since everyone is different, similar cases may have different explanations.

                      But is there a general point that you are trying to make, e.g. that any time you find yourself attracted to someone, you should immediately start wondering whether you’re only attracted to them because there is some deficit in yourself that you imagine that the other person could make good?

                    • ‘But is there a general point that you are trying to make, e.g. that any time you find yourself attracted to someone, you should immediately start wondering whether you’re only attracted to them because there is some deficit in yourself that you imagine that the other person could make good?’

                      Not at all. In fact, my original point was that the problem with thinking we can ‘fix’ homosexuality through examining the ‘lack’ that’s the root of the attraction is that most human love is tainted (if that’s even the right word) by needs in us. Sometimes these needs can lead us to make very bad choices that hurt us or others, like in the scenarios I just outlined. But not necessarily. It’s when we hit a crisis that we need to stop and examine what’s going on and try to understand ourselves better. The question is, is being attracted to the same sex in itself a crisis? If you think it is, then you’ll almost certainly find a problem within yourself if you go looking for it. Doesn’t make you any more or less broken than a heterosexual. Is my point making more sense now?

                      On a side note, the second scenario could genuinely be a misunderstanding. Teenage girls quite often flirt with one another and snog one another on the dance floor – especially if they’re feeling hacked off with boys. The more adventurous might go on and have sex (though not on the dance floor!) It’s intended to reinforce friendship and to give your friend the reassurance that she’s attractive that she might not get from men – so she can go back into the fray of dealing with unreturned texts and lack of affection knowing that at least their friends are behind her and think they’re gorgeous. But because the other girl is lonely her feelings are deeper than friendship.

  4. The ‘Some people are gay, get over it’ have arrived in my town and I find them very upsetting specially when I am driving around with children. This is not the sort of literature that should be on display for little eyes to see. It shows complete disregard on children’s innocence.

    • Unless these adverts are accompanied by pornographic images or descriptions of sexual acts – which I take it that they’re not – how is children’s innocence damaged by knowing that a minority of people are attracted to others of their own sex?

      • I don’t think it’s the fact that there are gay people, it’s the “Get Over It” portion that offends some.

        Frankly I sometimes wish some gay people would get over it as well….

        • ‘…it’s the “Get Over It” portion that offends some.’

          Do you mean that they’d find it far more acceptable if it read “Some people are gay. Get screwed up about it!”?

          • Perhaps it would help if we imagined a slightly different scenario, like ‘some people are autistic, get over it!’ a) this doesn’t actually inform people about what autism is or what it’s like to have it b) those who think autistic people are a detriment to society are further alienated by being given the impression that autistic people are aggressive and defensive.

            I think this was the point the judge was making in the bit Peter highlighted in red. The adverts don’t actually add anything to the debate except to provoke people that Stonewall haven’t completely won over.

  5. Legally, one is only obliged to comply with formal court orders, not with opinions of judges given in judicial decisions. So even though Justice Lang expressesed a certain view about Transport for London accepting Stonewall’s advertisements, she did not make any orders on the matter which either party are legally obliged to obey. Indeed, she could not, since those advertisements were not the subject matter of the proceeding before her – the plaintiff’s sued to have their advertisements allowed, not to have competing advertisement’s disallowed. It is wrong to describe them as being in “contempt”, since that is a legal term referring to such behaviour as violating court orders, and they have not violated any court order, or anything else that can be legally classified as contempt of court.

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