Anglican Unscripted 99 Peter Ould Posted on May 17, 2014 Posted in Anglican Unscripted 24 Comments In which I bring you more news from Jersey and continue my bromance with Justin Welby. Related
One thing I have learnt from many years of involvement with children in various capacities is that it is a bad idea to single out any group of children for special treatment. JW’s plan to reduce ‘homophobic bullying’ is sheer folly, and likely to increase, rather than decrease, any bullying. Other victimised groups (bespectacled, ginger haired, etc) will resent this, and it gives a clear message that they don’t matter. I wouldn’t have Stonewall anywhere near any of my family. I think he has made a bad mistake.
PS: I thought Episode 98 was much better. Kevin and George were spot on, in my view, in their introductory piece.
Jill, as a former teacher of quite some yearsâ€™ experience, I entirely agree that it is a bad idea to single out any group of children for special treatment. It is, in fact, as unfair to the children who are singled out in this way as it is to the others. However, JWâ€™s plan to reduce homophobic bullying â€“ I donâ€™t know why you put it in quotation marks, as though to suggest that this kind of bullying is imaginary, which is patently untrue â€“ is most definitely NOT an attempt to single out any group of children. On the contrary, its aim is to PREVENT any group of children from being singled out for special treatment, viz. bullying, on the grounds of their sexual orientation, actual or supposed.
You speak of â€œother victimized groups (bespectacled, ginger haired, etc)â€. To say that measures to prevent homophobic bullying give a clear message that those groups donâ€™t matter is nothing but disingenuous poppycock. They give no such message. Speaking again from my years of experience, I know that children who bully for any reason will naturally hope and try to get away with it, as with any misconduct, but they donâ€™t seriously believe that they actually DESERVE to get away with it, and in no school in which I have ever taught have children been able to expect that if they are caught bullying the bespectacled, the ginger-haired, the skinny, the chubby etc., they will be treated indulgently.
The one exception to this is homophobic bullying. It is the only form of bullying which some children still believe is morally justified and for which they think that they should not be disciplined. Shockingly, this belief is even sometimes shared and encouraged by their parents. Even more shockingly, there are those who plead religion as a justification. JWâ€™s plan to reduce homophobic bullying aims to prevent this particular form of bullying from being privileged, to give the clear message that bullying, no matter on what grounds, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, and to make it crystal clear that homophobic bullying is in no way an exception to this.
So what constitutes ‘homophobic bullying’, then, Gugli? Calling another kid ‘gay’, which as we all know means something totally different to that generation? (As an aside here, I read a letter from Stonewall demanding that they get ‘their’ name back – ‘gay’ – apparently missing the irony that they themselves have hijacked a valuable word from the English language.)
I know from reading Pink News readers’ comments that homophobia – to them – means any objection, however reasonable, to homosexual activity of any kind. So expect tiny tots to be hauled over for innocent remarks that somebody with big ears interprets as homophobic. You have no doubt read the article about OFSTED having to withdraw from a Muslim school over parental anger for questioning nine-year-olds about their attitudes to homosexuality. (If they had been Christian kids no doubt the parents would have got a knock on the door.)
Stonewall’s Ben Summerskill has stated – to paraphrase – that teaching of religion as if it were actually true is discriminatory to the homosexual cause. This is in a parliamentary publication. So how will Justin Welby square that? Will he back down and say that Christianity is not actually true, or will he say that Stonewall is wrong?
On what basis do you assert that Stonewall ‘give the clear message that bullying, no matter on what grounds, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, and to make it crystal clear that homophobic bullying is in no way an exception to this’? All this will do is instil a climate of fear in schools as it has across the mainstream media, who are now terrified of issuing any warnings about homosexual activity.
Jill, from my years of experience I could dredge up numerous examples of people going â€œover the topâ€ because of some trivial occurrence. Just one example: a ridiculous storm because one child â€“ a Jewish child, no less â€“ called another child â€œJewishâ€ because he wouldnâ€™t share his potato crisps. But no amount of clumsiness, ineptness or incompetence on the part of over-earnest, self-important head teachers, inspectors or other Jacks in office can be made into an excuse for not tackling homophobic bullying. To try to do that is just a dishonest diversion tactic.
You ask me what constitutes homophobic bullying. Well, Jill, I think that a useful and valid rule of thumb would be any unpleasant behaviour directed at someone because they are supposedly gay â€“ and whether they really are or not is totally immaterial â€“ which YOU would regard (quite rightly, Iâ€™m sure) as constituting bullying if it were directed at someone because he or she was, for example, bespectacled, ginger-haired, Jewish or Christian.
With regard to the use of the word â€œgayâ€, you are being curiously ungenerous. Back in the era when it was widely regarded as acceptable to call us things like â€œqueerâ€ and â€œbentâ€, which isnâ€™t all that long ago, did you protest against the hijacking of those valuable words from the English language? I bet you didnâ€™t. Well, I have news for you. You can have back â€œqueerâ€, â€œbentâ€, â€œsodomiteâ€ and all the other unpleasant, uneducated and small-minded things that weâ€™ve been called. Weâ€™ll keep â€œgayâ€, thank you.
I beg leave to query whether Ben Summerskill really stated what you allege that he did â€“ you admit that your account is a paraphrase â€“ but even if he did say it, Stonewall is not committed to it. If every public utterance by an official of an organization were to be counted as the collective opinion of that organization, I would have to be writing letters of resignation tonight to every society to which I currently belong, including my union, and I could certainly never attend church again.
As for your last paragraph, Iâ€™m not absolutely sure what it is that you are trying to say. Are you suggesting that Stonewall are saying or implying that only homophobic bullying is unacceptable and not to be tolerated, and that bullying for any other reason is of no importance? It sounds remarkably like it, ludicrous though the suggestion is. Your assertion that dealing with homophobic bullying will â€œinstil a climate of fearâ€ is just silly, hysterical rhetoric. Just one final question, Jill: what sorts of homophobic bullying do you think SHOULD be encouraged, permitted, or at least condoned? Some specific examples would be most illuminating.
Ben Summerskill was on the Equality and Human Rights Commission when the SORs were being drafted, and that is part of Stonewall’s contribution – you can read it here if you have the stamina. The particular section I referred to is item 67.
So children must not be taught that a religion is actually true. Yet the ECHR ‘guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This is an absolute right which cannot be subject to any limitation or restriction’ – except of course when it is trumped by gay rights. What Christian children are taught at home may be undermined by being taught at school that their religion is not true.
I shall ignore your last paragraph.
I think Justin Welby is out of his depth here. He puts me in mind of Neville Chamberlain. And how he is going to look the Africans in the eye again after this is beyond me.
Thank you for that, Jill. I have now read #67 of the document to which you refer. It says that the right to freedom of religion and conscience must not be used to provide anyone with an exemption from the regulations forbidding discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation; that no part of the school curriculum should teach homosexual pupils that their sexual orientation is sinful or morally wrong; and that while it is perfectly proper that pupils should know about religious teaching which views homosexuality as sinful, this teaching should be presented purely as a matter of belief, and not as though it were an objective fact.
I see no valid objection to any of that. It does NOT mean that Christian children should be taught at school that their religion is not true, any more than it means that Jewish children, Mormon children, Jehovahâ€™s Witnesses children, Hindu children, Zoroastrian children, etc. should be taught at school that their religion is not true. It means that the school curriculum must not teach the religious view that homosexuality is morally wrong as though it were an objective fact, which it isnâ€™t, and that no familyâ€™s religious beliefs must be allowed to excuse bullying of any kind or to trump the school authoritiesâ€™ moral and legal responsibility to make the school a safe place for all pupils, no matter what their sexual orientation is or what anyone may suppose it to be.
â€œAnd how he is going to look the Africans in the eye again after this is beyond me.â€
You think that he should condone homophobic bullying in our schools in order to keep the Africans happy? I am sure that he is a man of much greater integrity and of vastly higher moral standards that that, Jill. And anyone who was prepared to do that would need to look a bit further ahead and think about how they were going to look their God in the eye â€œat the dreadful day of judgement, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosedâ€.
How about this? In my early teens, I was caught making out with another guy in the wood behind the school. Several days later, some of the older boys grabbed me by the limbs and smashed my balls repeatedly against a metal pole on the basket ball court… to teach me the proper use of male genitalia, I guess. Then I was expelled, not them.
That was a sickening and horrible attack, and I am not surprised you feel bitter. I would hardly describe it as bullying, though, it was a violent crime. I know a Jewish man who was so badly beaten up at school – for being Jewish – that he nearly died. He wasn’t expelled, though, but neither were the perpetrators. It’s shocking that you were expelled, and I hope that wouldn’t happen today. Sadly there will always be thugs who are willing to attack people who are different in some way.
The funny thing about anti-bullying policies is that they often don’t seem to actually work in practice. I had to remove one of my children – no shrinking violet – from her secondary school after two years because she refused point-blank to go back after the summer holidays, and fortunately I managed to get her into a church school, where she flourished. The reason she was bullied? She sang in the church choir, which is pretty uncool and worthy of victimisation. They made her life hell, and the school seemed totally unable to do anything to stop it, in spite of having a very comprehensive and much-trumpeted anti-bullying policy.
I don’t think getting Stonewall into schools is going to stop gay bullying. If anything, it will foster resentment and drive bullies underground to plot even more devious and horrible revenge for perceived favouritism.
Oh but there was bullying too, being spat at, cans thrown from the other side of the street, name-calling… Does that qualify as homophobic bullying by your very stringent standards? Or should we only confront bullying in generic terms as of course, foreign, Jewish and gay kids are no more at risk than others? I can tell you we are, I had the privilege of being all three.
â€œIt’s shocking that you were expelled, and I hope that wouldnâ€™t happen today.â€
No, it probably wouldnâ€™t, thank God. Certainly no thanks, however, to people of your way of thinking.
What do you think that we should actually do about homophobic bullying, Jill? Just let it go on and close our eyes to it? Utter the dishonest plea that tackling it would be wrong because it would be showing favouritism? Or say that itâ€™s wrong but that we canâ€™t do anything about it for fear of upsetting obscurantists in Africa (or anywhere else)?
What happened to my response?
I don’t know. Let me look in the spam.
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Well, I think that, when it comes to homophobic bullying of that kind, we need to tread very warily. Obviously we have to stop short (even if weâ€™d rather not) of positively encouraging or approving it. On the other hand, it seems rather harsh to condemn it, and it is hair-splittingly difficult to do so without at the same time condemning the putrid attitude that underlies it, and thatâ€™s the last thing we want to do, isnâ€™t it? We must certainly do everything in our power to slither out of taking any positive measures to stop or diminish homophobic bullying, especially any measures that might actually succeed. If we once start going down that road, weâ€™ll be sending the message that homophobic bullying is the only kind that matters, and that all other kinds are a trivial matter and can be winked at. (Yes, I know thatâ€™s arrant and pernicious nonsense, but I can say it anyway; if I can get enough people even more credulous than me to swallow it, I may even start to believe it myself.) In short, weâ€™ll be well out of our depth, just like Neville Chamberlain. And how will we ever be able to look â€œthe Africansâ€ in the eye again, for heavenâ€™s sake? What is required here is to master the art of facing both ways. Perhaps a little bit of finger-wagging (accompanied by an indulgent twinkle in the eye) or even an ineffectual bleat of mild, laid-back disapproval might meet the case?
As for expelling you, that was surely the right thing to do. If you hadnâ€™t been expelled, the other boys in the school would have developed same-sex attraction; in other words, theyâ€™d have caught homosexuality off you. Thatâ€™s how homosexuality works. And I bet it turned you heterosexual, didnâ€™t it?
Erm, I don’t agree with Jill that homophobic bullying isn’t a major problem in schools, but does this kind of sarcasm do anything to advance the conversation?
Christians are between a rock and a hard place here. For instance, I knew children who were bullied for being adopted. The kids made fun of them and called them ‘bastard’. Even at the time I just couldn’t understand how people could be such ****’s. However, it never occurred to me that the Church should stop teaching that people should get married. Do you think that teaching should be restricted too? After all, without the concept of marriage we wouldn’t have the concept of a ‘bastard’. So was it the Church’s fault that those kids were bullied?
It’s not sarcasm. If anything, it’s tragically banal. The latest and most extensive EU poll on the matter (more than 90.000 interviews) showed that some 26% of respondents (and 35% of transgender respondents) said they had been attacked or threatened with violence in the past five years… in the past five years! That’s adults only, the situation in school is arguably worse, and if lifelong abuse is considered, barely 1 in ten gay people have sailed through youth unscathed.
I’m not disagreeing with any of that. I just didn’t think Guglielmo’s post was a great representation of what Jill is actually saying.
The thing is, I’m well aware of this kind of hate. In most circles not managing to hit it off with the other sex is the biggest social failure, whether it’s because you’re gay or uncool or sing in the church choir. I’m just wondering how far this is the fault of Christians and how far it’s just people taking their own insecurities out on other people.
No matter whose fault it is, that is no excuse for not tackling any form of bullying in schools. ANY form, including homophobic bullying.
And yes, the church is to blame to a considerable extent. I was told my sin ‘cried to heaven for vengeance,’ hardly secular talk. The vocabulary used in
catechisms to describe this alleged sin (grave depravity, objective disorder and so on) is extreme. One elderly man in my parish underwent electroshock therapy and has been unable to show any kind of physical affection since. He sobs when talking about it, some 70 years later even. Another young man here, 18yo, was handed over to the police by good, local, Christian parents, for going out with their son, barely a year younger and who lied about his age. He’s now finding it rather difficult to find employment. I bet this would not have happened had it been a daughter.
Or the patriarch of Serbia, blaming the recent floods on gay people being granted rights in Europe… examples crop up every week, open your eyes.
Well, all right, I agree that sarcasm isnâ€™t particularly helpful, but I really think that what I wrote is by no means an inaccurate representation, even if itâ€™s not an attractive one, of the arguments that Jill has been putting forward.
It may be worth bearing in mind that, with few exceptions, such as the case of our friend Lorenzo, homophobic bullying is seldom the result of anyone being observed engaging in sexual behaviour of any kind or of being positively known to have engaged in any. Nor is it usually because a personâ€™s sexual orientation is definitely known. It is usually on account of a personâ€™s PRESUMED sexual orientation, e.g. â€œHe looks the type whoâ€™s a f—ing queer.â€ These guesses are often made on the basis of such things as physical characteristics, vocal timbre, body language, leisure interests, non-conformity with certain arbitrary gender stereotypes etc. Often these guesses are correct; often they are not.
But irrespective of the correctness or otherwise of the surmises, and of any sexual behaviour in which a person may or may not have engaged, homophobic bullying, just like any other form of bullying, is both evil and harmful and must be stopped. People who have beliefs like â€œAll homosexual behaviour is sinfulâ€ and â€œHeterosexual marriage is the only legitimate context for sexual behaviourâ€ are fully entitled to those beliefs, just as conservative Roman Catholics are to their beliefs about the sinfulness of contraception and Jehovahâ€™s Witnesses to their beliefs about the sinfulness of blood transfusions.
But considerations of that kind have no legitimate part to play when it comes to tackling either the bullying of illegitimate children or the bullying of those who are believed (no matter on what grounds, and whether correctly or not) to be non-heterosexual.
Guglielmo, Lorenzo, you’re preaching to the converted here. All bullying – including homophobic bullying – is vile. When I was a child nobody wanted to be friends with me because the kids said I was a lesbian and the didn’t want to be tainted by association. That was damaging enough to my ability to form relationships (any kind of relationship with either sex), so what you’ve been through must have been unimaginably awful. Churches also tend to have this culture of blaming the person who is ‘making a fuss’ rather than tackling bullying (I think we’ve discussed this before). It does my head in.
But here’s my point: a couple of years ago I would have supported gay rights (civil partnerships, ant-bullying etc) without any hesitation. Now I just want to stay out of the whole thing (except having discussions under a pseudonym). That’s what organisations like Stonewall have achieved with their bigot-of-the-year award and their bus campaigns and their opposition to Christian foster parents and their sneering at people like Peter.
Parents who are alarmed at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s apparent support for homosexualist propaganda being introduced to young children might like to know that SPUC has produced a briefing:
They are also informing concerned parents on ‘How to make a submission to the Education Select Committee inquiry into PSHE education and sex education’ in view of the push to make sex education compulsory in schools.
Sorry Peter, for using your blog as a platform, but you have young children yourself and I am sure must be concerned about the state gradually taking over parental roles by force.
Other people post links to different things in their comments. As long as it’s not linked to something offensive / defamatory, who am I to object?
As to whether I take the same position as you on the guidance, the video above will clarify.
Iâ€™m not sure what â€œhomosexualist propagandaâ€ is supposed to mean. It sounds like propaganda which aims to convert people to homosexuality. If so, I can honestly say that I have never in my life encountered any, but it would have no chance of succeeding in its purpose anyway. Perhaps it would be reckless to deny the possibility that it exists, given that there are crackpots pushing all sorts of absurd and hopeless causes, from the â€œheterosexualist propagandaâ€ of the â€œex-gay ministriesâ€ and â€œsexual orientation change therapistsâ€, who with equal futility try to convert the gay minority to heterosexuality, to creation â€œscienceâ€ and gnome hunting. There is not a grain of evidence that the Archbishop of Canterbury is even apparently supporting the presentation of such propaganda (if it really exists) to children or to anyone else.
On the other hand, I strongly suspect that â€œhomosexualist propagandaâ€ is simply an emotionally-toned and inappropriate term for the perfectly right and proper determination to put the kibosh on homophobic bullying. If that is indeed the case, then not only is the Archbishop absolutely right to support it, but he would be morally and seriously in the wrong if he opposed it, and applying the term â€œhomosexualist propagandaâ€ to it represents a deceitful attempt to â€œinstil a climate of fearâ€ â€“ to use your own expression, Jill â€“ through the use of misleading language.