Andrea Minichiello Williams in Jamaica

A story about Andrea Minichiello Williams of Christian Concern has been making some traction over the past few days. The website BuzzFeed has the following report.

Andrea Minichiello WilliamsDuring her remarks, Andrea Minichiello Williams of the United Kingdom’s Christian Concern said Jamaica had the opportunity to become a world leader by fending off foreign pressure to decriminalize same-sex intercourse.

“Might it be that Jamaica says to the United States of America, says to Europe, ‘Enough! You cannot come in and attack our families. We will not accept aid or promotion tied to an agenda that is against God and destroys our families,’” she said, adding to applause, “If you win here, you will have an impact in the Caribbean and an impact across the globe.”

She made the case that it is a “big lie” that homosexuality is inborn, arguing instead it is caused by environmental factors like “the lack of the father” and “sometimes a level of abuse.” She illustrated her point with the case of 19-year-old British diver Tom Daley and his reported relationship with American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Daley, she said, who is “loved by all the girls and had girlfriends,” had “lost his father to cancer just a few years ago and he’s just come out on YouTube that he’s in a relationship with a man, that man is 39, a leading gay activist in the States.”

Williams warned that removal of Britain’s sodomy law was the start of a process that has led to more and more permissive laws, including equalizing the age of consent laws for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse.

“Once you strip away all this stuff, what you get is no age consent … nobody ever enforces that law anymore,” she said. “We already have a strong man-boy movement that’s moving in Europe.”

She also described several cases in which she said people had been fired for their jobs for their opposition to LGBT rights and said people with views like hers are being silenced in the media and intimidated with the threats of hate-speech lawsuits. This was especially true, she suggested, when organizations like hers try to claim a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, she said.

“They hate the line of homosexuality being linked to pedophilia. They try to cut that off, so you can’t speak about it,” she said. “So I say to you in Jamaica: Speak about it. Speak about it.”

She took issue with the notion that advancing such arguments in opposition to expanding legal rights for LGBT people was hate speech. On the contrary, she said, “We say these things because we’re loving, we’re compassionate, we’re kind, because we care for our children…. It is not compassion and kind to have laws that lead people [to engage] in their sins [that] lead to the obliteration of life, the obliteration of culture, and the obliteration of family.”

Now, in approaching this report I want to be as generous as possible to Andrea, so here’s some thoughts about what is written above.

  1. The context of the conference is a discussion in Jamaica about repealing the anti-sodomy laws. In that light, the stance of opposing attempts to “decriminalize same-sex intercourse” is a valid political position. Personally I cannot see how such a prohibition serves any political purpose, but I recognise how some people, seeing the developments in the UK since the decriminalization of consensual same-sex acts in 1967, would want to stop that whole process right at its beginning in Jamaica. Like it or not, the view that a society should outlaw sexual acts that do not have an intrinsic procreative purpose is a valid political position, it just happens to be one I do not hold to.
  2. We do not know what was actually said at the conference. The BuzzFeed report is from J Lester Feder who is described as a foreign correspondent, but take one look at his feed of stories and you very quickly realise that he is only interested in one kind of foreign stories. This should set our alarm bells ringing. We only have reports of small parts of Andrea’s speech and we have no independent confirmation of the content.
  3. The main complaint of Changing Attitude is

    “Williams’  bigoted outburst amounts to dangerous hatemongering.  It is reprehensible and highly irresponsible.

    Hmmmm…. Really? The problem with the report is that we don’t have the vast majority of what Andrea said. We don’t have any record as to whether she did or didn’t condemn the anti-gay violence that plagues Jamaica (and of course it wouldn’t serve the purposes of the journalist if she had condemned it – and if she did, why wasn’t it reported?). Hatemongering is where one sets out to inflame a crowd to violence – we have absolutely no evidence presented that Andrea actually did this.

    [H]ere is a Sussex member of the General Synod advocating the vilest form of homophobia in a most terrible cultural situation.

    Once again, hyperbole. What is this vilest form of homophobia? The term is not defined. I would like Changing Attitude to come back and define what the “vilest form of homophobia” is and then provide clear evidence Andrea advocated for it.

  4. The Bishop of Chichester responded to a request from Changing Attitude for a statement by saying,

    The comments by Andrea Minichiello Williams about the decriminalisation of same sex intercourse in Jamaica have no sanction in the Church of England or the diocese of Chichester.  Insofar as such comments incite homophobia, they should be rejected as offensive and unacceptable.
    The Christian Church is widely perceived as homophobic and intolerant of those for whom same sex attraction is the foundation of their emotional lives.  It is urgent, therefore, that Christians find legitimate ways to affirm and demonstrate the conviction that the glory of God is innate in every human being, and the mercy of God embraces each of us indiscriminately.

    That’s a clever statement and good use of the word “Insofar”. What the Bishop condemns is the inciting of homophobia, but he’s very careful not to directly accuse Andrea of doing so. He’s also very careful to not come out on a particular line on the roots of homosexuality – “those for whom same sex attraction is the foundation of their emotional lives” is a statement that accepts that there are some people who are homosexual without buying into an environmental causation theory or the notion people are “born gay”. Well done +Martin.

  5. Having said all this, it would be really good, really really good, if Christian Concern could clear up the reported statement, “They hate the line of homosexuality being linked to pedophilia”. I think we need to know from Andrea,
    (a) Did she say that?
    (ii) If so, what did she mean by that?
    It is a common slur to link homosexuality to paedophilia. Whilst it is true that recently reported rates of abuse by males of boys compared to girls make the ratio around 1:3 (so around 25% to 30% of those abused are “homosexual abuse” – eg Blanchard et al.,1999), it is not necessarily true that those adult males who abuse male children are themselves homosexual (e.g. Sgroi 1988). That doesn’t negate the fact that male same-sex child abusers (i.e. those men who abuse boys) have a higher recidivism rate than other abusers, but the notion that these are all specifically gay men is unsupported by the evidence. Furthermore, implying that all men who engage in same-sex child abuse are gay is the same kind of reductionism of sexual orientation and identity that it’s proponents reject in other places (“People aren’t really gay”).
    It was also suggested to me last night that Jamaica has a particular issue with male same-sex child abuse (and therefore Andrea’s comments were given in that context). That may very well be true, but we would still need some evidence that there is a particular problem with gay people in Jamaica committing these crimes.

In summary, we have one report from a man who obviously has an axe to grind. Then, based on this one uncorroborated report some people have jumped to a number of conclusions as to what Andrea Minichiello Williams intended by her speech (of which we only have snippets). It’s not good enough I’m afraid.

However, having said all that, it would be really useful if Andrea could clarify exactly what she said at the conference and what she meant by homosexuality being linked to pedophilia (if she even said that).


Please be careful in your comments – let’s remember that this is an uncorroborated report so until we have some confirmation I’m not prepared to treat it as “gospel” and I will not accept abuse of Andrea on the basis of it. Equally, if you want to support the contention that paedophilia is linked to homosexuality, please provide a link to the full text of a primary source to support your contention.

26 Comments on “Andrea Minichiello Williams in Jamaica

  1. Whether the story has been accurately reported or not, I only have one comment: a few years ago we had civil partnerships, we looked like we were heading towards a sensible, tolerant society. What went wrong?

  2. Homosexual sexual acts and paedophilic sexual acts are linked conceptually: imagine a square divided into four squares – Man (top left), Boy (bottom left), Woman (top right), and Girl (bottom right). If we regard homosexual sexual acts to be morally valid, we remove the line separating left (Male) from right (Female). The line separating top (Sexual maturity) from bottom (Sexual immaturity) then becomes redundant. To confirm this, we can just do the same in reverse – remove the line separating top from bottom first, and the line separating Male from Female becomes redundant.

    Sexual activity is either between a man and a woman, or it’s between anybody. The idea that there is a happy medium is simply an illusion. There are, of course, loving and unloving ways to express this reality. Andrea runs on love, and we are lucky to have her.

    • “If we regard homosexual sexual acts to be morally valid, we remove the line separating left (Male) from right (Female). The line separating top (Sexual maturity) from bottom (Sexual immaturity) then becomes redundant.”

      What an absolutely wonderful non sequitur. Why bother with textbooks on logic when we’ve got “gentlemind” to set us straight?

      “To confirm this, we can just do the same in reverse – remove the line separating top from bottom first, and the line separating Male from Female becomes redundant.”

      I wonder why societies which allow child marriage but persecute homosexuals haven’t yet realised this. “gentlemind” should enlighten them post-haste.

      There is a distinguished precedent for the use of this kind of “logic”. Mary Baker Eddy used it to “prove” the doctrines of Christian Science. She called it, if my memory serves me, “proof by inversion”.

      “Andrea runs on love…”

      I bet she does. I can imagine.

      • Hello again Guglielmo. A statement does not become a non-sequitur merely by stating it to be one. Ditto with declaring a statement to be logical. Likewise, a statement can be a non-sequitur (or logical) even when nobody notices it to be so. I have not shown my workings, and neither have you.

        There can be arrangements for a certain child to marry a certain person when the child becomes an adult, and there can be marriages containing young adults (who we might think of as children) but there can be no such thing as a child marriage.

        • No, I agree, a statement does not become a non sequitur merely by stating it to be one. Not only that; a single statement CANNOT by itself be a non sequitur. A non sequitur occurs when one statement is made and then a second statement is made, accompanied by the claim or the plain implication that it logically follows from the first, although it doesn’t. (If any reader finds that a bit abstract and difficult to follow, an actual example should make it crystal clear: simply read the first paragraph of “gentlemind’s” first post.)

          Yes, as you say, a “statement” – or rather, to be scrupulously correct, an argument – can be a non sequitur “even when nobody notices it to be so”. Yours hasn’t passed unnoticed, however.

          “…there can be no such thing as a child marriage.”

          If you mean that you wouldn’t recognize it as a valid marriage, then fine, but if you mean anything else, I think that a minimal amount of research will prove you wrong.

      • Haha well that’s the best policy.

        I was simply pointing out that two factors are necessary for sexual reproduction – sexual maturity and sexual difference. If sexual maturity is deemed irrelevant to sexual activity, then so is sexual reproduction. Therefore so is sexual difference: if man/girl, why not woman/girl? If woman/girl, why not woman/woman?

        In reverse (with sexual difference deemed irrelevant): if woman/woman, why not woman/girl? If woman/girl, why not man/girl?

        • You’re really good at this, aren’t you? Mind you, none of today’s efforts come up to the standard of the one that you spouted a week or so ago, to the effect that if you have several different choices and they’re all equally valid, then they are all the same choice. Can’t we have more like that one? It was a corker.

          • Bless you , Guglielmo. Misunderstandings are not refutations. What I said about choices was right, and what I am saying about paedophilic acts is right. Man-made law is a creature of logic, and man-made law is bringing about the very changes I understand to be logical. Could it be, then, that man-made law and I are making the exact same mistakes? :)

            We can of course declare homosexual sexual acts morally valid while continuing to criminalise paedophilic acts, but it would be a case-by-case approach to sexual morality, rather than one existing in relation to a principle relating to the nature of the human body (which is why MPs in Canada were so freaked out when presented with arguments in favour of paedophilia – the arguements were broadly the same ones that the MPs themselves has presented in favour of homosexual sexual acts).

            • There is no objective principle relating to the nature of the human body that can tell us that homosexual acts either are or are not “morally valid”. No-one appeals to “the nature of the human body” as their reason for condemning murder, for example, and there is no reason why condemnation of paedophilic acts needs to be based on any such alleged principle.

              The argument “You let so-and-so do ABC, so it’s not fair if you don’t let me do XYZ” is a one that is commonly learnt very early in life. I have never heard of any parent or teacher (as I once was) being freaked out by it, so I am sceptical of the claim that MPs were. As with children, anyone else who tries on that argument must just be told firmly that they can’t.

              If you are still seriously maintaining that what you said about choices was right, any further attempt at rational discussion with you is clearly a waste of time.

      • I think I kind of understand what gentlemind is on about. It’s a bit like the Catholic argument that contraception leads to abortion. The use of contraception reinforces a way of thinking about sex (‘the contraceptive mentality’) that leads to abortion because people expect to be able to have sex without getting pregnant and so any unplanned pregnancy (rather than just the 13th) becomes a crisis that seems like it can only be solved be abortion. The Catholic Church is actually scarily accurate at predicting this type of change in cultural attitudes.

        On the other hand, saying that a type of thinking about sex might, possibly, in the future, lead to more open attitudes to pedophilia is really quite different from saying ‘homosexuals are pedophiles’. You say ‘people are violent against gay people because they are afraid of them’, but why are they afraid of them? Because they think they’re pedophiles, for one thing. If Andrea’s speech really is as reported, it’s all very worrying.

  3. “Hate-mongering” is stirring up hatred, not inciting violence. If it doesn’t quality to call for private and consensual sex between adults to be criminalized, and to link both its legalization and homosexuality in general to pedophilia, I don’t know what would. The meaning of the “vilest form of homophobia” is plain enough, and again, if the reported comments don’t qualify, I don’t know what would.

    I can’t see any valid grounds for having such a law, and advocating it in Jamaica, infamous for homophobic violence, is, at best, grossly irresponsible. This isn’t an abstract debate, it’s fanning flames that can end in murder.

    If Williams never said it, I await a vigorous denial, corroborated by others present, and a clarification of what she did say; followed by a clear and unequivocal statement that she supports the Jamaican law’s repeal.

    • ” If it doesn’t quality to call for private and consensual sex between
      adults to be criminalized, and to link both its legalization and
      homosexuality in general to pedophilia, I don’t know what would.”

      It’s not as simple as that though is it? If person A says (a) we should not change Law X that bans behaviour Y, (b) behaviour Y is related to behaviour Z and (c) Regardless of a and b violence against those who commit behaviour Y is simply unacceptable and should never be accepted, how is that fanning flames? It’s not, in fact it’s trying to dampen flames.

      People who assault gay people do NOT do so because of complicated theological arguments of legislation. They do so because they are bullies and because they are scared of gay people. Saying that homosexual behaviour should be illegal is not in and of itself homophobic (but I fail to see the point of it) and neither is it stoking hatred.

      • I strongly disagree that it isn’t homophobic to ban the expression of lesbian and gay people’s sexual orientation by force of law. That is, however, a question of terms, not fact.

        Same doesn’t go for the role that these kind of laws play in fueling violence and hatred against gay people. Yes, some people are thugs and sadists looking for an excuse. But we all have a dark side that can be fueled by the society around us. Just witness the pervasiveness of white supremacy in the American south, or homophobia in Britain in the days of the blackmailers’ charter.

        People don’t hate because of complicated theological arguments, no, any more than most racists were versed in the curse of Ham. But such arguments contribute to and legitimate an environment in which such hatred thrives.

  4. Peter, thank you for raising this issue. I have asked Andrea and Christian Concern for clarification on her comments (via twitter). More than one week later and we are still waiting. The level of publicity this has attracted means there is no way that CC are not aware of these reports, so either A) She said these things and doesn’t want to draw more attention to them or B) She didn’t say these things and Christian Concern have developed an uncharacteristic fear of the limelight. For such a litigious organisation, option B seems unlikely, but it is of course possible. If Andrea didn’t say this stuff, CC would surely have started legal proceedings against Buzzfeed for libel. The ball is firmly in their court but they show no sign of wanting to return it.

    • Well said. If Williams didn’t say it, it’s defamatory; however, it’d also be defamatory to accuse J. Lester Feder of fabricating the quotes. Given that he reported a public speech, that possibility isn’t credible. At best, Williams has been quoted out of context, but it’s hard to see what context excuses her comments.

        • Context isn’t everything. Content is just as important.

          In this case, the context is a speech about homosexuality and the law in a country infamous for widespread and institutional homophobia; and the content, as reported, is a defense of a law that criminalizes consensual acts between adults, and an equation of homosexuality and pedophilia, which, as you rightly say, is a slur.

          This is what Jamaica’s law does. Along with laws against “gross indecency,” which replicate Britain’s evil old blackmailers’ charter. If these laws aren’t homophobic then nothing is.

          What possible context would excuse the reported speech?

  5. Andrea Minichiello Williams certainly doesn’t strike me as super-intelligent, but she may be. It is not unknown for highly intelligent people to hold absurd beliefs and to make a perverted use of their intelligence to rationalise those beliefs with ingenious arguments which people of lesser intelligence wouldn’t be capable of dreaming up. Look at the way Sir Arthur Conan Doyle defended his belief in fairies and in “spirit” photography.

    Be that as it may, as a barrister, she certainly can’t be totally stupid and she can’t be ignorant of the way in which paedophiles are commonly treated. Known paedophiles, and even suspected paedophiles, tend to cop it badly. Even when it doesn’t come to direct physical violence against the person, things like bricks through windows, vandalised cars, indelible graffiti on doors and walls etc. are common. I’m not saying that behaviour of that kind is all right. It certainly isn’t. No matter how abhorrent the crime, the public should NEVER take the law into their own hands, and such vigilante behaviour has occasionally ended in tragedy for completely innocent people, including children. But I am afraid that it is a fact of life.

    As I’ve said, Ms Williams can’t be ignorant of all this. IF she has said what she has been reported as saying, linking homosexuality to paedophilia, then she has been indirectly inciting hatred and even possible violence against gays, and she must know it perfectly well. IF the report is correct, then either she is indifferent to that or she regards it as a price well worth paying. So IF her comments have been accurately reported, this is indeed a case of thoroughly vile and wicked conduct.

    • I’m amazed that anyone working in a British context would say those things.

      In terms brute realpolitik, association with that speech will impede the work of the various organizations she’s involved with, not to mention making her professional and personal life a nightmare. How’s she going to show her face at chambers? What client will want to brief her? What judge will be able to set it aside when considering her arguments? Even the staunchest conservative Christian will think twice about using her as their advocate.

      A high price to pay for … what? What does she gain from this?

      • Contrary to popular belief, sometimes people say something because they sincerely believe it and feel that it needs to be said, rather than because they hope to gain anything. They may, in fact, be well aware that speaking out will result in controversy and loss, but still feel compelled to speak.

        • Yes, I have no doubt that Ms Williams did indeed believe that the things that she said needed to be said, whether or not she personally gained anything from them. People preaching that kind of nonsense usually do. That doesn’t make it any less pernicious.

          • Here’s an interesting thing. I’m currently looking (as in right now, on my screen) at some research that does show some link between adult homosexuality and paedophilia, but it’s completely unconnected to the stuff that AMW is relying on. Digging….

            • I’d be very careful about making statements about such linkage on the basis of one peice of work. Not all reserach has the same validity, generalisability etc.

        • I too have no doubt that Williams is sincere in her beliefs. She’s also a campaigner, one who, in her 2008 Dispatches appearance, emphasized the importance of being media-savvy. A charge that could not be laid against her Jamaican comments. What happened?

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