Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cameron defends gay marriage because it is 'fair', 'right' and 'popular'

Click to view:

And the Stonewall Bigot of the Year is awarded to..

His Grace really wasn't going to post on this tedious matter, but the Ecclesial Vermin has accused Christian Concern of putting out a 'highly spun' version of the facts (ie lying), and the God and Politics UK blog has accused them of not presenting truth accurately (ie lying), so here are the facts:

1. Stonewall is holding an awards ceremony:
...to celebrate the outstanding contribution of individuals and groups towards lesbian, gay and bisexual equality, in the past year.

Date: 1 November 2012 Venue: Victoria & Albert Museum
Tickets: £155 plus VAT
Start: 6.45pm
Dress: Cocktail

Taking place in the magnificent Raphael Gallery of the Victoria & Albert Museum, this year’s Awards exemplify the individuals and organisations which are critical in ensuring a positive representation of gay people in the media today, one of Stonewall’s key priorities.

Guests will enjoy a champagne and canapé reception before moving through for the presentation, hosted by Gok Wan. Winners in ten categories will include Politician of the Year and Entertainer of the Year and will be voted on by our panel of judges – Broadcaster Alice Arnold; Channel 4 News Culture Editor Matthew Cain; England rugby star Ben Cohen; Author Val McDermid and UK Black Pride MD Phyll Opoku-Gyimah.

The evening continues until 10.30pm with more champagne, food and entertainment.
2. The event is officially sponsored by:

3. The list of awards clearly includes that of 'Bigot of the Year', and the nominees are:

4. Christian Concern drew attention to this fact.
Those nominated for Stonewall's 'Bigot of the Year' award include a Cardinal, an Archbishop, a member of the House of Lords and the former leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance. They have all spoken out against government plans to redefine marriage and want marriage to remain defined as the life long, exclusive commitment between a man and a woman – a position shared by up to 70% of the population...

Do these big British businesses really want to associate with such behaviour? Do their customers, employees, shareholders, Directors or the general public know what these companies are supporting? Let’s make sure that they do. The bullying needs to stop!
5. Some of these sponsors are now claiming ignorance of this award, and attempting to disassociate themselves from it.

It might be observed that they are doing so only as a result of the negative publicity following the campaign to highlight the bullying and bigoted nature of the 'Bigot of the Year' award.

6. This award is by far the most high-profile and attracts significant media attention every year.

It is for that precise reason that Stonewall consistently go for high-profile journalists, celebrities or church leaders (how many Muslims have been nominated? Perhaps because it would frighten off the sponsors?..). Some Christian Bloggers and Tweeters might consider how one may sponsor the Academy Awards but claim to disassociate oneself specifically from the Oscar awarded to Best Actor.

7. One cannot.

8. Ergo, those companies who are sonsporing the Stonewall awards are sponsoring the 'Bigot of the Year' award.

Their logos are featured prominently on the Stonewall website, beneath the award page heading. The fact that their names are identified with specific awards in the typed information below is of no consequence. Visually, visitors to that page get the Stonewall Awards banner juxtaposed by the sponsors' logos. The association is evident.

9. His Grace contacted the V&A some weeks ago. Unlike Exeter College Oxford, they responded:
Dear Dr. Cranmer,
Thank you for your email. This event is a corporate hire using the V&A as a venue - it is not a V&A hosted event. The Museum is completely independent of the opinions of people or organisations who book our corporate spaces.
Kind regards
10. If you want to accuse His Grace of 'highly spinning' or propagating 'inaccurate information', please do so in love.

And please also keep this in perspective, because some of those named companies are guilty of far worse crimes and more serious misdemeanours than throwing a few thousand quid at a self-congratulatory, bigoted gay-fest.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bishop of Durham: more prophet; less profit

Last week the Bishop of Durham The Right Revd Justin Welby (widely tipped to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury) addressed a conference of financiers in Zurich. He spoke of the issues which face the financial community as it decides whether to 'repair or replace' existing systems of control.

Bishop Justin sits in the House of Lords and is a member of the Banking Standards Commission which was established to investigate the culture and performance of banking in the United Kingdom, and to make recommendations for the new banking act which will be brought before parliament next year. With a background in business, the Bishop is perhaps uniquely placed in the Episcopate to comments upon the behaviour of the financial markets. He observes:
In the case of the financial markets and infrastructure of the world, what has been obliterated is not physical, plant, property and equipment, but confidence. There is no longer confidence in banks as safe, in banks as virtuous, or in bankers as being part of the same world as the rest of us and with the same values and desires as the rest of us. That loss of confidence may be unfair, in many cases I would argue that it is, but it is a reality.
According to the bankers, the finiancial crash was brought on by 'an unfortunate moment of carelessness'. According to the people, the only response is 'à la lanterne' (a reference to the French revolutionary lynching of the nobility and the clergy from a lamp post). Whatever the reaction and wherever the truth, the Bishop is of the view that 'too much effort is going into putting Humpty back together again, and it can't happen'. He expounds his own observation of the cause:
Activity without purpose is anarchy. It may not look like anarchy, it may in fact be very well organised anarchy but unless it has a serious and clear purpose activity is merely random. One of the biggest faults in the pre 2008 financial markets was essentially they were exponents of anarchy in this sense. They involved wild and frantic activity, often by exceptionally intelligent people, working very long hours, but they had no socially useful purpose. The industry was referred to as financial services, but in fact it served nothing. In the UK, where most of it was housed, SME's (small and medium-sized enterprises) still struggled to find finance, although they were based within close reach of the largest financial centre in the world. Martin Wolf, the Financial Times columnist, said in 2009 that the UK suffered from having a 'mono crop economy'. By that he meant, that like Nigeria with oil the UK had finance. Far from being the goose that laid the golden egg, it was in fact the cuckoo in the nest that pushed all the other fledgling industries out to die. The same can be said of much finance in other places around the world. Certainly, it was true of the hedge fund industry in the United States, and of much dealing activity across Europe and in the Far East. Finance had become a feature of its own, rather than anything with intrinsic value.
This is good stuff: Mammon has been worshipped above God, and the material has supplanted the spiritual. Bishop Justin asserts that 'there is a need for socially useful purposes for banking and financial services'. And, quoting Pope John Paul II, he reminds us that a company is 'a community of persons in service', and financial services have 'huge potential as vehicles of the common good in order to unite increasingly autonomous and disparate societies'.

The primary question is 'what can be done in the financial markets to bring them back to being tools for human flourishing and development, and for uniting deeply divided societies and parts of societies?'

The Bishop rails against one of His Grace's favourite themes of justice when he observes that our banking culture has 'socialised losses and privatised profits', (indeed, His Grace made the same point three years ago). But Bishop Justin goes further:
Our bit has concentrated banking only where transactions provide large rewards to the banks and ignored areas where relationships are needed to unite communities and help lift them out of poverty.
This is Phillip Blond / Red Tory stuff: in Cameron's 'Big Society', local banks might have served their local communities, helping to alleviate poverty by investing in local businesses and serving the people. Thus does banking become a cohesive force for good in society, redistributing surplus savings at modest rates of interest in order to draw people together for the common good of all. But this shouldn't be achieved through stifling regulation, but by community inspiration, rather after the fashion of what David Cameron once told us he was about.  

Of course, the Prime Minister lost his way: his vision perished. Despite his best efforts to 'decontaminate' the Tory brand, he has recontaminated it by poorly communicating his philosophy, acquiring a reputation for U-turns and incompetence, and permitting the narrative of 'cuts' to permeate the public consciousness. Into this vacuum of government, enter the Church. Bishop Justin lucidly proposes:
• Government support should be limited only to those banks and financial institutions that have a clear and explicit social value. At the same time they must be allowed to fail, the process of defining resolution is if anything more important than defining regulation.

• There must be formal banking qualifications which are required for anyone involved in investment or commercial banking who is dealing in more than minimal amounts of money.

• Banks that demonstrate social purpose could receive an easier tax regime and a lighter regulatory touch. The reverse could be true for those who do not fit these principles.
He acknowledges that these are 'merely ideas in the mist', but His Grace likes what he hears. Of course financial recklessness must be permitted to result in failure: by bailing out profligate banks, we stoke moral hazard. When we do not bear the consequences of our actions, there is the creation of a false sense of security, which only encourages more reckless behaviour.

The Bishop is of the view that 'we cannot repair what was destroyed in 2008, we can only replace it with something that is dedicated to the support of human society, to the common good and to solidarity'. These are eternal Christian themes of justice and compassion, and they exalt a nation. We might pray that Bishop Justin soon finds himself in a position to reify his 'ideas in the mist'. Financial services are indeed crucial to human development, 'but they only do their job when the work they carry out is done in a way that is truly a service'. It is time to depose Mammon and return to the old paths of righteousness and holiness.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pope advocates armed resistance against the EU

Today is the 1700th anniversary of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, at which location history tells us (namely Eusebius) that Constantine received a divine vision of Chi-Rho, which blessed his victory over the Western Roman Empire and led to his conversion to Christianity. Had Constantine lost, it is not likely that Latin Christianity would have become the dominant religion in Europe: there would have been no Holy Roman Empire, no Christendom and no Latin Church. It is unlikely, therefore, that the Church in Rome would have become corrupt, thereby negating the need for the Reformation, thereby saving His Grace from the flames.

Ah, the butterfly effect..

Something of Constantine's religio-political methodology subsists still in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Under 'The Duties of Citizens' (2243) we learn:
Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution.
Insofar as the UK's membership of the EU is manifestly resulting in a hierarchy of rights which is increasingly seen to be antithetical to traditional notions of religious liberty and to the customs and mores of the nation; and observing that this violation is certain, grave and prolonged; and knowing that other means of redress (ie direct democacy) have been chronically denied to the people by all the main political parties; and asserting that other means of remedy have been exhausted; and being sure that the action is likely to have the support of the majority in the nation and so not provoke worse disorders; and being certain in the well-founded hope of success; and being convinced of the reasonable impossibility of imagining a better solution...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Parliament warns the Church of England on women bishops

Sir Tony Baldry MP, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked this week in Parliament a number of questions relating to the structure and mission of the Church of England. Philip Davies MP enquired about the reorganisation scheme for the dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield (Bradford is to be abolished and incorporated into a larger Leeds diocese). His Grace finds it a little odd, in an era increasingly typified by devolution and localism, that the distinct communities across the Bradford district will be subsumed to an identity with which they have no natural affiliation.

But Sir Tony urged Mr Davies to discuss his concerns with the Bishop of Bradford. He continued to explain: "One of the greatest threats to the Church’s mission in his constituency is the continuing theft of lead from churches. No fewer than six churches in his constituency have had lead stolen from their roofs — St Peter’s church in Shipley has had lead stolen on four separate occasions, notwithstanding protections such as SmartWater. So may I take this opportunity to entreat my hon Friend, as I know the Bishop of Bradford and the Archbishop of York will, not to frustrate the Third Reading of the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill when it comes before the House soon?"

His Grace is (respectfully) of the view that this is bollocks. The continuing theft of lead from churches is not 'one of the greatest threats to the Church’s mission'. Certainly it is a material inconvenience and diabolical irritation, but the greatest threats to the Church’s mission may be identified severally as weak leadership, ignorance of Scripture and the XXXIX Articles, lukewarm commitment, disrespect for history and tradition, disloyalty to the Supreme Governor, and the preaching of a gospel of perpetual accommodation. Faced with this tsunami of Laodicean indifference, a bit of lead on a roof is utterly inconsequential to the Church's mission.

On women bishops, Simon Hughes MP asked what assessment the Church Commissioners have made of the likelihood of the Church of England making a decision on women bishops in 2012. and Ben Bradshaw MP asked what recent discussions the Church Commissioners have had with Church of England bishops on the Women Bishops Measure.

Sir Tony informed Parliament that the General Synod will resume on 20th November the final approval debate on the legislation to enable women to become bishops. He declared that he will be voting for the Measure, hoping and praying that at least two thirds of the members of every house of the General Synod will join him.

Simon Hughes agreed with Sir Tony, expressing the desire that women bishops might be 'a legacy of the outgoing archbishop and as a tribute to his work', and also because 'we need the Church of England to catch up into the 21st century if it is to do a good job for everybody'. He hoped 'there is no more shilly-shallying, that the Synod gets on with it and that we get a clear decision so that we can move to having women bishops'.

No more shilly-shallying? Does Mr Hughes not realise that the very raison d'être of the Church of England is to shilly-shally in perpetual via media in order that it may unite the nation and offend no-one?

But Ben Bradshaw pushed the point of women bishops: "In his conversations with the bishops, will the Hon. Gentleman tell them that just because House of Lords reform has been abandoned they should not feel any less pressure to do this and that a failure to agree a Measure that gives women bishops equal status with male bishops would still lead to a severe constitutional crisis between Church and state?

To which Sir Tony replied: "In fairness, I think that the House of Bishops recognises that, and when it met last it amended the Measure in a way that should commend support. Indeed, the bishops took a lead on that from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, in the same article, made it clear that he thought the ordination or consecration of women as bishops was good for the whole world. He said:
“It is good news for the world we live in, which needs the unequivocal affirmation of a dignity given equally to all by God in creation and redemption—and can now, we hope, see more clearly that the Church is not speaking a language completely remote from its own most generous and just instincts.”
There is clear leadership from the House of Bishops and from the archbishops that the Church of England must consecrate women bishops. Should Synod decide to the contrary, Sir Tony warned: "I think that the consequences for the Church of England will be very grim indeed. I hope that the General Synod, and those who might be tempted to vote against this Measure in it, will reflect on that point."

Very grim indeed?

One can almost hear, a decade hence, when same-sex marriages are legal and routinely celebrated in the land, calls in Parliament for 'the Church of England to catch up into the 21st century', and warnings, should it fail to do so, that the consequences will be 'very grim indeed'. We will doubtless hear Chris Bryant (and one or two others with an agenda) threaten that the failure to agree a Measure that gives homosexuals equal marriage status with heterosexuals will lead 'to a severe constitutional crisis between Church and state'.

Yes, very grim indeed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Donald Trump's 'major announcement' is surely irresistable...

The future of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's Supreme Court is hearing this week the matter of the wrangle over Anglican Church property in Zimbabwe. The whole week has been set aside for the hearing, and our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe have set aside this whole week for prayer and fasting. His Grace exhorts his readers and communicants to join them in prayer, for the outcome of this hearing will determine the entire future of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe.

There has been continued harassment of Anglican Church members in the Anglican Diocese of Masvingo since His Grace last reported on these matters. They have been barred from some of their institutions, in particular, Daramombe Mission, and they continue to be evicted from their church buildings in Chivhu rural. The police have ordered that all church buildings in Chivhu belong to Norlbert Kunonga and the legitimate custodians of these properties, the Anglican Diocese of Masvingo in the Church of the Province of Central Africa have been barred from using these buildings.

The Anglican Church is clear about the ecclesiastical boundaries of the five Dioceses in Zimbabwe. These were set by the Province at a properly constituted Provincial Synod on 1st September 2001. Ironically, Kunonga was part of this Provincial Synod and was signatory to the formation of the Diocese of Masvingo and its boundaries.

All law court judgments are clear that the dispute over church properties is in the Diocese of Harare which ceased to have jurisdiction over Chivhu on 1st September 2001, the date on which the Anglican Diocese of Masvingo ecclesiastically formed. The documents, including the map showing othe Diocesan boundaries, are clear in this regard. What Kunonga is using to hoodwink the police are title deeds which he illegally refused to surrender to the Diocese of Masvingo at its formation. This was a premeditated move to permit him to retain control over Church property.

It is disturbing that the police have taken sides. They lead the summary evictions of Church members from their buildings. Since when have the police in the Republic of Zimbabwe been judges and legal experts in matters to do with the Anglican Church? Why are they openly supporting the abuse perpetrated by Nolbert Kunonga? Who is giving them orders to harass members of the Anglican Church and for what reason?

An appeal has been made directly to His Excellency President Robert Mugabe, and also to the members of the Government of National Unity, the Co-Ministers of Home Affairs and the Police Commissioner General to intervene in this matter where innocent and peaceable worshippers are being driven out of their church buildings for no legitimate reason.

Whatever happened to freedom of Worship in Zimbabwe?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jimmy Savile's paedophilia is consistent with the BBC's culture

"The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones," observed Mark Antony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. So let it be with Jimmy Savile.

Last night's Panorama was deeply shocking in its revelations (watch it on iPlayer - 'Contains some upsetting scenes'). Upsetting, indeed, for an entire generation of children who grew up on 'Jim'll Fix It' and the belief that in Jimmy Savile was a man who cared about them, their hopes, wishes and dreams. But let us not pretend that the BBC has absolved itself with this exposé: they investigated themselves and broadcast their tawdry findings only because they'd been caught: rumours about Jimmy Savile had been rife for decades, but no-one in the Corporation acted. Senior executives were told certain facts, made aware of witness testimony and advised about a potential cover-up, but none heeded the warnings.

Jimmy Savile raised a phenomenal £40 million for various charities during his life time - "How's about that, then, guys and gals?" But it appears to have been a means to an end - his end, that is, and getting it away. "Now then, now then, now then," he'd say. It's easy to speak ill of the dead. And as the BBC's Director General George Entwistle appears today before the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, no doubt he will deflect, duck-and-dive and effortlessly defame the memory of the gold-dripping, cigar-smoking, shell-suited celebrity they created.

"Goodness gracious," gasps John Whittingdale, the Chairman of this committee. "As it 'appens, I just cannot believe that a man so depraved and prolific in his offences against children managed to hoodwink the British Government, the Prime Minister, the Honours Committee, the NHS and even the Vatican."

Jimmy Savile was awarded the OBE (1970) and a knighthood (1990) 'for services to charity', and was further honoured by Pope John Paul II who made him a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great (KCSG). To be awarded one honour 'inappropriately' may be regarded as a misfortune; to be awarded three looks like carelessness.

Was there no due diligence? Did no-one bother to Google? Did they not even think to read Jimmy Savile's own autobiography, in which he brazenly boasts of his sexual conquests and speaks of a compliant BBC culture? How could this have gone on for 40 years without anyone at the BBC lifting a finger to prevent a predatory paedophile from raping girls and torturing boys?

And that's something else: the Panorama investigation focused relentlessly on the 'abuse' of young girls. There was one boy interviewed, but the whole bisexual or pan-sexual aspect of of Savile's crimes was scarcely interrogated. This was not 'abuse': it was the chronic, systematic rape and torture of children, and it took place on BBC premises with the apparent knowledge of executive producers and the alleged participation of other sleazy celebrities like Gary Glitter. They'll never be able to screen 'Top of the Pops' again.

Astonishingly, David Nicolson, director of 'Jim'll Fix It', told The Sun that he caught Savile having sex with a 'very, very young girl' in his dressing room. When he raised concerns about this, he was ridiculed and mocked. It isn't clear why he never reported the crime to the police, but his failure to do so has resulted in the current investigation following 400 lines of inquiry from over 200 witnesses.

200 victims? 400? How many are reluctant still to come forward? How many boys, especially, are silenced by the shame?

Savile died on the 29th October 2011, and the BBC decided that fulsome tributes in their Christmas schedule were more important than a Newsnight investigation into the allegations. At the time, George Entwistle was the head of BBC Vision, and was in charge of the Christmas schedule. One might hope that John Whittingdale cross-examines Mr Entwistle rigorously on that whole process, for surely, in the context of doubts, rumours and witness testimony, the decision to honour Savile with the BBC's equivalent of a State Funeral was simply and straightforwardly wrong.

Of course, it's easy to be wise in retrospect, and to criticise from a distance. But it must be apparent to any reasonable person that Savile's disgusting behaviour was tolerated by the BBC because its own understanding of truth and morality is inconsistent at best, and perverse at worst. It is not merely still living the sexual revolution of the 60s; it is extending it, constantly pushing at the limits of liberalisation and inculcating a degrading relativism which undermines the conservative and cohesive fabric of society.

The BBC did not merely tolerate Jimmy Savile: he was one with them and they were consubstantial with him. There were and are no moral absolutes in that culture; evil exists only in the eye of the beholder. The pervasive liberal-left ethos corrupts and handicaps all that it pretends to care for: to report Jimmy Savile's sexual proclivities is to be judgmental; to be judgmental is to be narrow-minded; to be narrow-minded is to believe that you possess the truth; to possess the truth inclines you to force your values upon others; it is to acknowledge 'sin' or falling short of a certain standard.

The BBC's postmodernist dogma is antithetical to such absolutes: they are simply not admitted in their canons of tolerance. They hold to no truth, espouse no responsibility and repudiate all notions of morality. Even as they pretend to investigate themselves for their moral failings, there will still be many within its walls who will look at Jimmy Savile with pride, admiration and even envy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rowan Atkinson on Reform Section 5

His Grace deeply desires to be mocked, criticised and insulted. Not gratuitously, of course, but rather upon the matter of his opinions or beliefs - political or religious - because mockery, criticism or insult are often the means by which those opinions may be changed or beliefs develop and mature. He doesn't enjoy having his feelings hurt, but feelings are the pathway to the spirit and may naturally disturb the mind toward deeper reflection.

To outlaw 'insulting words or behaviour' - as Section 5 of the Public Order Act does - is to inhibit freedom of speech and impinge upon freedom of expression. Since its entry into statute, there has been a rather chilling effect on these freedoms, such that people have been arrested for (peaceably) calling Scientology a 'cult'; questioning the value of a hijab; screening New Testament texts in a cafe; displaying a sign which said homosexual conduct is immoral; objecting to seal-culling; placing a sign in a window which says ‘religions are fairy stories for adults’; and calling a police horse 'gay'.

According to Section 5, a person is guilty of an offence if (s)he uses abusive or insulting words (orally or written) 'within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby'.

It is difficult to measure such subjective reactions, but basically it means you can no longer tell people what you really think about Islam, homosexuality or the police. Criminal law rightly protects individuals against unjust discrimination, incitement and violence. But it is unacceptable that it has moved into areas of annoyance, disturbance and inconvenience. The law should punish violence or the threat of violence; it should not be used to protect us from having our feelings hurt, especially since people may manifestly choose of their own volition to be offended.

In fact, His Grace is rather offended that you are offended. But he, being Christian, is sure to get short shrift in a court of law.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Nick Griffin's tweets and Peter Tatchell's hypocrisy

Peter Tatchell champions freedom of speech and freedom of expression, and this is very much to his credit. He is featured in the above video clip expressing concern that recent tweets sent by BNP leader Nick Griffin might be considered 'menacing and intimidating'. He says, "If we want to live in a free and civilised society, people have to not feel under threat and not feel intimidated." He makes it clear that he opposes harassing actions and intimidating words which might make people 'fearful and alarmed'.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Is homosexuality really skin deep?

It is an argument peculiar to the United States of America, deeply embedded in its cultural history, gnawing away at the national psyche. Those who believe homosexuality to be a sin - whether religious or not; Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant; Muslim or hetero-atheist - are really not so very different from the Klu Klux Klan. According to this pastor (the Rev'd Phil Snider of the Brentwood Christian Church, Missouri), the Christian 'religious right', hetero-normative, anti-gay belief is but a reflection of the KKK 'extreme right', white supremacist, anti-immigration creed of hate.

They have simply exchanged white robes, masks and conical hats for purple robes, dog collars and mitres. Instead of burning crosses in defence of racism, they have the Bible preached and the name of Jesus appropriated to oppose the civil rights of gays. Instead of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic blood worship, they have marriage as the union of one man and one woman lauded as the foundational building block of society. Yes, sexuality is just skin deep: if it be a sin to engage in same-sex relations, black skin must still be the mark of Cain.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Is it 'homophobic' to oppose gay weddings in churches?

Yesterday, housing manager Adrian Smith was in court trying to recover his lost earnings because his employer demoted him and slashed his salary by 40 per cent - all because he said on Facebook that gay weddings in churches would be 'an equality too far'.

For this, Mr Smith was judged to be 'homophobic', despite it being the stated position of the Government. For His Grace, he is perfectly content for gay unions to take place in religious buildings, and has said so. If Imran and Sadiq wish to get married in their local mosque, it really ought to be no business of the state to prevent them: 'religion' is not established. This must mean that His Grace is not 'homophobic'. Hallelujah.  

Mr Smith made his comment on his personal Facebook page, outside of work time. His page was not visible to the general public. Only his chosen friends, and their friends, could see it. That included some of his work colleagues.

His bosses at Trafford Housing Trust in Manchester charged him with gross misconduct. The only reason he didn’t get fired was that he had been such a good employee over many years.

The press later found out that Trafford Housing Trust took action against Mr Smith because it was, in part, worried that it might lose a gay rights charter award if it didn’t take a tough line.

He has spent a great deal of time trying to reason with his bosses, but he has exhausted the internal appeals procedure and they have refused to see sense. Now a County Court judge will have to decide whether the Trust acted unlawfully.

Even Peter Tatchell, one of the chief activists pushing for marriage to be redefined, says Mr Smith has been harshly treated and should be reinstated.

Mr Smith’s case is precisely the kind of injustice which will become increasingly frequent should the Government goes ahead and redefine marriage - the Attorney General has made this very clear. Supporters of traditional marriage will be punished in the workplace, particularly in the public sector. It’s wrong for someone’s career to be damaged just because they voice support for traditional marriage.

And the serious implications for civil liberty don’t end there. The widespread impact has been outlined in a legal opinion, written by a top human rights lawyer Aidan O’Neill QC. You can download and read a one-page summary of it here.

All of this shows that the Government’s plans to rewrite marriage are divisive, illiberal, far-reaching and should be dropped. Even gay Conservative MPs 'marvel at why (they're) bringing this forward'.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Breaking the (Palestinian) Silence

This is a guest post by the Anglican Friends of Israel:

Israel’s Christian opponents have long contended that Palestinians, whether Christian or Muslim, speak with one voice. Certainly many Palestinian Christian leaders insist that relations between themselves and their Muslim neighbours are cordial and that all Palestinians are united in believing that their greatest problem is Israel, and their greatest enemies (Jewish) Israeli.
To listen to the favourite Palestinian Christians of, say, the Anglican, Methodist or Quaker establishments one would think that all Palestinian Christians have embraced a particularly Palestinian version of Liberation Theology, such as that developed by Naim Ateek. In this theological system, the God of the Old Testament is downgraded Marcion-style, His covenant with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is airbrushed out and – recalling the discredited Christian theology of deicide – today’s Jewish state is re-cast as Herod or Pilate trying to crucify or murder a Jesus who has become ‘the first Palestinian’. Ateek and other members of his ‘Sabeel’ organisation command almost god-like respect as they parade around Britain’s cathedrals spouting their faulty theology.
Many of us suspected that this romantic picture of bravery and harmony in the face of brutal oppression concealed a much darker reality but it was hard to prove as Palestinians largely kept silent. To be sure, some clues couldn’t be missed – the murder of Bible Society employees in Gaza, the sack of Bible Society and YMCA property in the West Bank. In 2007 Aid to the Church in Need reported Fr Nazaih, the long-time parish priest of Ramallah, the capital of the West Bank as saying, “…Little by little the Christians leave because they cannot live with the Muslims. There are some fanatics who do not like the fact that we exist.” More recently, days after the ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ conference where Christians congratulated themselves and the Palestinian Authority on their mutual tolerance and understanding in the face of their mutual enemy, Israel, a Bethlehem Baptist church whose leadership teaches support for Israel as a Jewish homeland was harassed by the PA.

Other Palestinians have been prepared to break the wall of silence created by fear of persecution from family and government in order to expose the corruption, greed and violence which forms the backdrop to daily life in the Territories. Khaled Abu Toameh has fearlessly exposed the tissue of lies woven around the Palestinian myth of helpless victimhood. Corrupt Palestinian politics, the real attitude of Palestinian leaders towards a 2-state solution, the real reasons for the haemorrhage of Christians from the Territories – nothing escapes his scrutiny.
Further this gradual exposure of the darker side of the Palestinian story is one of the most courageous women I have ever met, who spoke this week about her life as a Christian Palestinian in the West Bank. Christy's life and family members have been threatened because she has dared to break the conspiracy of silence that permits too many Christians to retain a rose-coloured vision of life on the West Bank.

Christy (name changed for obvious security reasons) grew up in the Bethlehem region and describes living her early years in peaceful prosperity alongside Jews, Christians and Muslims.  Like many Christians in the area, her family ran a business which served not only Christian but also
Jewish pilgrims. The 2nd Intifada of 2000 destroyed all the peace and harmony she remembered.  Her neighbourhood, became ‘Like a tomb’ rather than the peaceful vibrant place she had known.
A nearby Jewish Holy Site became a target for Palestinian stone-throwers, so the Israelis closed her road and built a base outside her home to protect Jewish worshippers. The family business closed. Most nights, snipers disturbed the peace. Being in the centre of the trouble, she and her family quickly learned to distinguish between the two sides’ weapons, and Christy insisted that it was overwhelmingly Palestinians who began the nightly shootings. In nearby Beit Jala PLO snipers would choose Christian homes as bases to fire into the windows of Jewish Gilo’s apartments just across the ravine; naturally Yasser Arafat made full political capital when Israelis fired back at the snipers, hitting Christians and their properties as he had planned.
Christy had no reason to love Israelis either. The younger of two sisters who were her great friends, a beautiful 10 year old girl, was killed by Israeli soldiers; 30 bullet wounds were found on her body. On more than one occasion Christy was woken by Israeli soldiers pointing guns at her when she did not wake up soon enough to be evacuated from her front line house. The security wall surrounded her house on three sides, making it difficult to get out to buy food.
Having no idea of why all this was happening, Christy became angry and resentful. She had little idea of the history behind the troubles between Israel and the Palestinians. Brought up in a culture of hatred of Israel and her Jewish inhabitants, fed by anti-semitic ideas promulgated in so many Palestinian churches, she could not begin to place her experience within any wider context.
Tellingly, Christy described how she was taught at school that Hitler killed ‘some Jews’ and that Israel used this as an excuse to persecute Palestinians. Shocked, I realised that this lie (albeit usually veiled in more sophisticated terms) is routinely peddled by some UK Christians from pulpits, in books and on internet blogsites.
Christy’s life and outlook changed radically at the end of last year when a British Christian staying in the West Bank said to her at the end of a long conversation ‘you need your wings to fly’. Unlike so many Christians who go to the West Bank only to affirm hatred of Israel amongst Palestinians, this Christian talked about what the Bible - both Jewish and Christian - said about Israel and her covenant-keeping God. Christy began to do her own research into the concept of covenant and has moved from a position of resentment towards Israel and her Jewish citizens to awe at the restoration of Israel and what she views as its miraculous survival through four wars of annihilation waged against her by Arab neighbours.
Finally, Christy obtained a permit to go to Israel for six months, and one of the first things she did was to make a very painful visit to Yad Vashem, the memorial to the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. She described her tears at the horrors portrayed by the exhibition, commenting: ‘And we think we (Palestinians) have been persecuted’  - a point that those who dare to compare the situation of Palestinians with Jews during the Nazi Holocaust would do well to reflect upon. It was at this point that Christy began to experience something that Jesus describes as central for true believers – forgiveness for her ‘enemies’, the Israeli people. Now she felt she could begin to understand why they reacted as they did.
Furthermore, she understood why Israelis appeared uninterested in the particular plight of Palestinian Christians, even though most do not want to be involved in armed struggle against Israel. The Church in Europe had been all but silent during the Holocaust. Why, she reasoned, would Israelis care about the peculiar plight of Palestinian Christians now?
When Christy began to share her new found insights with those around her, she encountered a clamour of intimidation and threats aimed at silencing her. The death threats came even from her own family. Nevertheless, having had her eyes opened in one area, it wasn’t long before she was seeing other problems about which Palestinians preferred to keep silent or blame on Israel. Christy reported that within her society it is hard to apportion responsibility for economic and social woes to fellow Palestinians; doing so would impugn the personal honour which takes precedence above every other value within Arab society. Blaming Israel for Palestinian misery is so much easier and safer. Meanwhile misery continued as its root cause is not addressed.
After Palestinian officials confiscated her permit to enter Israel (and one of her relatives put a gun to her head), Christy applied for and obtained a visa to come to UK. She now lives with a Christian family who treat her as their own daughter. However, she still has to protect her identity and location for security reasons. For in the UK Christy has found a country that uncritically accepts the false Palestinian narrative of helpless innocence and victimhood in the face of a colonialist oppressor – and a country in which the radical Islam which she recognises as the real cause of so much Palestinian Christian suffering, has been allowed to embed itself.
Nevertheless, Christy and her friends are determined that they will be heard. They have decided that speaking out truths about the Middle East conflict is worth the danger and the abuse that they now take as par for the course – along with the admiration and support of many who have waited for years for the other story of the conflict to emerge.
It is a story well worth hearing, and a courage not to be missed. Christy will be speaking at Christian conferences in York and Surrey next month.  Details can be found at www.hagoshrim.org.uk.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gary McKinnon vs Talha Ahsan: do we only extradite Muslims with Asperger's?

We must all rejoice with and for Gary McKinnon, an Asperger's sufferer who has spent eight years (yes, eight) on 'Extradition Row' and faced 60 years in a US prison on charges relating to hacking into Pentagon and NASA computers from his bedroom in North London. His mother Janis Sharp has campaigned long and hard against this injustice. His MP David Burrowes has made countless speeches on the case, and even threatened to resign from the Government if his constituent were extradited. The Media - especially the Daily Mail - have been tireless in highlighting the absurd injustices and inequities inherent in the UK-US extradition agreement (ie British citizens may be summarily extradited to the US and tried for crimes allegedly committed against the US in the UK, but there is absolutely no reciprocity).

The Home Secretary has effectively told the US State Department that British citizenship still means something: our liberal democracy and traditions of jurisprudence are founded upon centuries of hard-won rights and precious liberties, and these are still enforceable. If we should not surrender these to the European Union, His Grace is at a loss to know why we have done so to the United States.

Gary McKinnon has rights, and those rights will now be heeded.

But it is a curious citizenship which treats diverse ethno-religious groups differently. Mr McKinnon is ill with Asperger’s, and this fact was instrumental in persuading the Home Secretary to refuse the extradition request. But Syed Talha Ahsan also suffers from Asperger's, and is also accused of computer-related crimes - in his case helping to run a jihadi website in support of the Taliban.

Yet Mr Ahsan was extradited to the US on 5th October, despite no evidence having ever been adduced against him. He spent six years (yes, six) in a maximum security prison: no Habeas Corpus; no trial by jury. The Home Affairs Select Committee expressed grave concern at this manifest injustice, and Mayor Boris supported his right to be tried in the UK.

But, Asperger's or not, Mr Ahsan today languishes in a US prison, facing trial in a US court, while Mr McKinnon is free to be tried in an English court of law. Mr Ashan's MP is not making speeches in the House of Commons in support of his constituent. The Daily Mail is not dedicating a stream of articles to his cause.

Is it 'cos he is Muslim?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lawyers retrained for Sharia-compliant wills

Invitations are currently being sent out to lawyers and other legal professionals to re-train them in how existing wills drawn up under the law of England and Wales should be amended in the light of Sharia. His Grace has absolutely no problem with this: most conservatives would agree that it is for individuals to order their private affairs and to determine the beneficiaries of their estates.

But when one religious group becomes exempt from legal precedent, it is apparent that the Law of England and Wales does not apply to all citizens equally.

This training seminar refers specifically to the 'automatic substitution clauses for grandchildren' and 'spouse exemption' as being two areas where the law of the land conflicts with the precepts of Sharia. Insofar as MBL Seminars list succession, IHT and trusts as further areas of focus, one may infer that lawyers are being trained to amend their practices for Muslim clients to ensure that Sharia inheritance provisions and taxation consequences take precedence over the Law of England and Wales.

Despite the Qur'an manifestly permitting women to inherit, we are likely to see developments in certain households of Muslim women not being able to draw up their own wills independently, or Muslim daughters being prohibited 'by the community' from disputing their parents' wills which have bequeathed an entire estate to her brothers. There are manifest gender and generational differences in Sharia inheritance which are antithetical to human rights and equality. And there are many more areas where the Islamic jurists and Quranic jurisprudence are 'in tension' with England's legal traditions and precedents, including issues of intestate, testamentary freedom, joint tenancy, superannuation benefits, etc., etc.

It is not clear from this seminar invitation which particular school of Sharia jurisprudence is being expounded. The main Sunni schools are the Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi’i and Hanbali schools. The main Shi’a school is the Ja’fari school, although the Zaidi, Ismaili and Abadi have their followers. His Grace is minded to assert that those who deliver the seminar won't have a clue.

The (soon-to-be-ex-)Archbishop of Canterbury predicted back in 2008 that ‘Shari’a law in Britain is unavoidable’, and we have seen a steady growth in Sharia courts and the the Government recognising polygamy in the benefits system.

Bishop Michael Nazir Ali has warned of the consequences of this. The Prime Minister pledged to oppose it: not only is it antithetical to many notions of British values, but the Sharia is opposed by many Muslim women.

But here we are, brazenly retraining the solicitors of England and Wales in how they must comply with Sharia inheritance law. This is an insidious attempt to reverse centuries-old legal precedents which hitherto have applied to all citizens equaly. It should be resisted with the greatest possible vigour.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cameron barters away the UK Constitution

It appears that a deal has been struck between UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, setting out terms for a Scottish independence referendum, to be held in the autumn of 2014.

The whole aggreement may be read HERE. It confirms that Mr Cameron has exchanged a single Yes/No question for extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds: Mr Salmond's 'Devo-Max' demand has evaporated in a tawdry constitutional quid-pro-quo.

Could the Prime Minister please explain why 16-year-olds may be trusted with the entire political future of the United Kingdom, but not with what they do with their own bodies?

Scottish 16-year-olds can’t purchase cigarettes or alcohol; they can’t drive; they can’t give blood; they can’t go on active military service.

They can’t obtain a credit card; they can’t apply for a mortgage, or own houses or land. They can't obtain a street trading licence; they can’t go abroad to act or perform music professionally; they can’t be called for jury service; can’t change their name; and can’t act as an executor of a person's will. They can’t place bets, purchase fireworks or become a local councillor.

What is the rationale for giving 126,000 Scottish 16 and 17-year-olds a vote on the irreversible break-up of the United Kingdom, when they are not deemed competent or sufficiently mature to judge a man's guilt or innocence in a court of law?

What is the rationale for extending the franchise for a constitutional one-off? How does this not amount to quite outrageous gerrymandering? Why should the constituency that elected the current First Minister not be the same as that which votes in his referendum? Surely the age group that determines his success or failure ought to be the same as that which gave him his mandate?

The Prime Minister has no right to barter with the Constitution in this fashion: it is too important a settlement to use for short-term political expediency.

Those who are insisting that no precedent will be set by lowering the voting age in this referendum clearly have no understanding of the word ‘precedent: the groups that campaign for lowering the voting age permanently are in no doubt at all that a clear precedent has now been set. Frankly, the legal age of majority is about to be lowered to 16.

Gay marriage, Nazis and Fascism

This issue really is becoming tiresome: each day brings with it some tedious development in the inexorable quest for 'marriage equality' that the mind is pestered and plagued with the pricks of riposte. No matter what human tragedy is suffered, what poverty endured or global revolution witnessed, we come back to David Cameron's intention to redefine marriage 'because he is a Conservative'.

Last week, Lord Carey raised the spectre of the Nazis and the Holocaust. It didn't matter what he actually said; the mere juxtaposition was sufficient to have him condemned as a raving loon and bigoted homophobe. And yesterday, Gordon Wilson, former leader of the SNP, warned that gay marriage would lead to ‘state fascism’. The only good thing to come of that interjection was that it rendered Chris Bryant MP speechless.

Ah, Chris Bryant, who is about to bring a Private Members Bill on the proposal to redefine the meaning of marriage to extend to same-sex couples. The debate is scheduled to take place in the House of Commons on October 30th. And doubtless he'll opine about the bigots, Nazis and fascists ranged against his moderate, enlightened and utterly reasonable Bill. It is precisely because the debate is being conducted on such emotive and inflammatory terms that the reality of the consequences of gay marriage may be completely ignored:
“You are summoned to a tribunal where you cannot have a defense lawyer and you cannot record the proceedings nor have a witness present. The people judging and prosecuting you have no legal qualifications. The accusation is ambiguous, having to do with ideas the state does not like. The penalties could include fines equal to several thousands of dollars, public recanting, and rehabilitation classes. You are a bishop. This is not China. This is Canada. The offense: explaining why homosexual relations are a sin.”
So began the address of Terrence Prendergast, Archbishop of Ottawa, to St Thomas University Law School a week ago. He simply set out - calmly and rationally - 'the alarming consequences of same-sex “marriage” from the Canadian experience'.

The Archbishop was recounting the true experiences of Calgary Bishop Fred Henry, who received complaints for preaching the Church’s traditional and historic teachings on homosexuality. The complaint was subsequently dropped by the plaintiff, who admitted that he only filed it to get media attention.

How many Christians will be targeted and harassed by aggressive homosexuals - the homosexualists - simply in order 'to get media attention'? And don't think it's only the Christians: these homosexualists are ferociously unforgiving in condemnation of their dissenting co-sexualists (see here, here and here).

Yes, to the rabid, intolerant homosexualist, a gay person who doesn't support gay marriage is 'like the token Asian guy who wants to be in the BNP'. Nice, huh?

We will doubtless be seeing an awful lot more of this: the Attorney General has warned of the 'profound difficulties' ahead for those who dissent from the state's redefinition of marriage. We will surely see Christian ministers and schoolteachers dragged before commissions and inquisitions, at the end of which they will be found 'guilty'. Their crime will simply have been that of preaching a sermon or delivering a lesson expressing some concern about the gay agenda or casting some doubt upon the validity of gay marriage. They will be arrested, prosecuted, fined or imprisoned. The only means of avoiding this will be self-censorship: the mere discussion of homosexuality will become taboo.

Canada has gone before us. Archbishop Prendergast tells us that gay marriage has resulted in the Bible being called 'hate literature'. Like the Roman Catholic adoption agencies here, there is 'growing pressure for the Church to comply or to be shut down'. Indeed, we've already heard the threats.

The Archbishop enumerates the consequences of same-sex marriages as including 'restrictions on freedoms; forced sex education; sexually confused children; sexual experimentation among children; and muzzling and debilitating the Church'.

“By reassigning financial benefits to same-sex marriage, what was once an incentive to fruitful, traditional families has become an incentive to sterile, destructive social arrangements,” he said.

But Chris Bryant MP will doubtless march on regardless, persuaded that those who oppose him are the real bigots, Nazis and fascists. But do not mistake his agenda merely for that of enlightened equality: he truly desires the disestablishment of the Church of England. And in David Cameron he has found a willing accomplice.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Muslim gang-rape in France

There's a disturbing story presently emerging of 14 men accused of participating in repeated gang-rapes over a two-year period of two teenage girls, on housing estates in the suburbs of Paris. From the New York Times:
One of the women, identified as Nina, brought her complaint in 2005, saying she had been raped by dozens of local teenage boys almost daily for six months beginning in September 1999, according to Ms. Heinich-Luijer. Nina, who was then 15, said she was forced to perform sex acts in apartments, in basements, in a public park and on the roofs of housing towers.
From The Guardian:
The alleged Fontenay-sous-Bois attacks took place between 1999 and 2001. One night returning from a cinema, aged 16, Nina, described as a tomboy who was good at school, said she was grabbed by a local group of youths, taken to basement cellars in the flats, raped and subjected to a series of brutal sex attacks by scores of local boys. The extremely violent, prolonged sex attacks by large groups of boys continued daily, in car-parks, stairwells, apartments, cellars and the empty playground of a local nursery school. She said there would be "at least 25" youths present during attacks in which she screamed, protested, cried and vomited. One witness described 50 boys "queuing" to attack her.

Threatened that her flat would be burned down if she spoke out, she was afraid to tell her mother, who noticed she was washing eight to 10 times a day.

The controversy surrounds the fact that 10 of the 14 accused were all minors at the time the crimes were said to have occurred. Despite French law permitting custodial sentences of up to 10 years for minors convicted of rape, they were all acquitted. More disconcertingly, the four adult men convicted of gang-rape were given remarkably light sentences: two were sent down for a year; one for six months; and the fourth was given a suspended sentence.
The thing is.. the convicted men are all Muslims. At least, they have recognisably Islamic names. Yet the mainstream press are not reporting this fact. Is this religio-cultural aspect of French gang culture taboo? As much as it appears to be in the UK? Why the whitewash? Why the ethno-religious censorship? Why is the issue of gang-rape committed by young men identified as belonging to a particular minority background consistently suppressed? Are there reporting restrictions? Infringement of their human rights? A conspiracy of silence?

Or is it simply that the Roman Catholicism of Papal Knight Sir Jimmy Savile had nothing to do with his alleged paedophile predilection?

Funny, isn't it, how the latter question is undoubtedly bigotry, while the former are enlightened, reasoned and wholly justified.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Biden and Ryan and their Roman Catholicism

While the professing Christian Obama and devout Mormon Romney slog it out for the White House, for the first time in history two Roman Catholics are competing for the office of Vice President. Their head-to-head debate was as illuminating of their characters as it was obfuscating of their religious faith. This being the United States of America, the topic of abortion was unavoidable. From the Telegraph:
As the first pair of Roman Catholics to appear in a single US presidential election, the candidates were challenged to say how their faith had informed their views on the divisive issue of abortion rights. Mr Ryan offered an impassioned case against abortion.

“I believe that life begins at conception,” he said. “That's why I'm pro-life”. In one of several attempts to soften his image of a harsh fiscal hawk by using personal anecdotes, he recalled being shown the ultrasound scan of his first child, Liza as a seven-week-old “bean”, which remained her nickname.

However, after being painted by Mr Biden as an extremist who would ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest, Mr Ryan faltered when asked if “those who believe that abortion should remain legal” should “be worried” by the prospect of a Romney-Ryan presidency.

“We don’t think that un-elected judges should make this decision,” he said. “People through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination”
One gets the feeling that there are really three candidates in this contest: Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York celebrates the Catholicism of both candidates: “Do you not think it’s a cause for celebration in the Catholic community in the United States of America that the two vice-presidential candidates are Catholic?” he asked. “We’ve got two men who - and you can disagree with one of them or both of them - say they take their faith seriously, who don’t try to hide it, and who say, ‘Hey, my Catholic upbringing and my Catholic formation influences the way I think.’ Not bad. Not bad.”

There's a very specific choice of words there: '...who say they take their faith seriously'. The Cardinal says both men were picked 'because their Catholicism was attractive'. Yet it isn't at all clear which candidate truly represents the religion, and the Catholicism of each is manifestly offensive to their respective opponents.

The unavoidable media tendency is to examine personal belief through the myopic contact lenses of the prevailing culture wars. Thus Paul Ryan is 'pro-life' and anti gay marriage. He is also committed to subsidiarity and solidarity, in that order, but few will grasp the significance of this for political policy. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is fervently 'pro-choice' and very much in favour of reinventing the institution of marriage to include unions of two men and two women. He's all for solidarity with whatever Obama does or says, and he probably doesn't even understand the meaning of subsidiarity.

This contest is somewhat analogous in the UK to having two Roman Catholic potential prime ministers, one of whom takes The Tablet while the other pores over The Catholic Herald. The former is liberal and progressive - the journal of 'thinking Catholics'; the latter is conservative and rather more robust, not to say trenchant in its views (especially of those who take the 'The Bitter Pill'). There's no love lost between them or their respective readers (eg here): Ut Unum Sint becomes an obscure encyclical of peripheral significance.

Biden's understanding of Roman Catholic social teaching is a world away from Ryan's. “The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who - who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help," Biden explained. For him, it's all about social justice. For Ryan, the preferential option for the poor remains one of the primary tenets of social teaching, but it means you 'don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life'. Biden's Catholicism compassionately keeps the poor poor; Ryan's Catholicism spurs them on to take responsibility for their indolence and inaction. Biden sees victims; Ryan sees sin.

The candidates also differ markedly in their understanding of intellectual liberty and freedom of choice. For Ryan, freedom is to be exercised in accordance with the Magisterium of the Church, while for Biden, it extends to abortion and same-sex marriage, irrespective of the teachings of the Church. Indeed, he has previously said that abortion and contraception are the way forward for Africa, and that he 'understood' China's one-child policy, which most of the civilised world finds utterly incomprehensible, not to say morally repugnant.

Biden’s Catholicism has certainly been a cause for concern for American bishops, but so is Ryan's. Biden has tried to counter these turbulent priests by appropriating such theological giants as Thomas Aquinas to his 'pro-choice' cause, insisting that the Roman Catholic Church has always been healthily divided on such moral issues. Some bishops have sought to excommunicate him as a result, as Vatican authorities advocate. But Ryan has also earned the ire of some bishops for proposing a Randian budget which will decimate (at least) those programmes and community initiatives that serve the poor and vulnerable.

Between these two very different exprssions of Roman Catholicism, Cardinal Dolan is playing the via media Anglican. In 'celebrating' Biden's Catholicism, the Cardinal may be seen to affirm abortion, contraception and gay marriage, not to mention Obama's entire macro-economic programme of deficit denial and debt increase, condemning generations of future Americans to poverty and hardship. Biden is an anti-Benedict Roman Catholic, and he wants no place in the current Church Militant.

But Ryan really is a 'cause for celebration', not only within the Roman Catholic community, but also among Evangelicals and the wider Republican family. Not only is he socially conservative, he is theologically informed and fiscally adept. This is a time for strong leadership and clear values, so quite why Cardinal Dolan is sending out mixed messages to the laity is something of a mystery.

Surely it has nothing to do with 30 dollars of silver.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Attorney General hints at 'profound difficulties' ahead for religious public servants

The Attorney General is the Government's most senior lawyer: what he says has legal weight; when he warns they are bound to heed.

Dominic Grieve QC has said that 'gay marriage' will raise 'profound philosophical difficulties' for some religious workers in the public sector. Premier Radio has the story (with audio excerpt):
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General has suggested that the proposed introduction of equal marriage will create 'individual conscience' issues for workers who will have to obey the rule of law by carrying out their public duties, using their required presence at a civil partnership ceremony as an example.

Mr Grieve believes a serious debate is now needed on what parameters can be used by someone with a deep religious faith who works in the public sector, on the basis of them refusing to carry out an aspect of their job on the grounds of conscience.
Which is quite a timely interjection, really, in the context of a story developing over the pond. From The National Organization for Marriage:
We're not speculating when we say there will be terrible consequences if marriage is redefined in November. We're already seeing them. Let me explain.

Dr. Angela McCaskill has the distinction of being the first deaf black woman to receive a PhD from Gallaudet University, where she has served as their Chief Diversity Officer and has worked as a teacher, administrator and leader for twenty-three years.

Today she was summarily put on administrative leave while university officials "determine her future" at Gallaudet. Why? Because it was brought to their attention that she signed the petition to allow the people of Maryland to vote on same-sex marriage!

No one is safe when marriage is redefined. The architects of same-sex marriage are bent on silencing and firing those who oppose their agenda. The irony of a university putting its own chief diversity officer on leave—a woman who by all accounts has served the institution with distinction for over two decades—simply because she chose to exercise her rights as a citizen, cannot be ignored.

This is a wake up call to all of us. We all have a stake in marriage. If we want to remain a society where free speech, religious liberty and the right to participate in our democracy are respected, we need to stand for marriage.

...And please pray for Dr. McCaskill and every courageous person who abides by the simple proposition that we all have the right to have our say on marriage.

Protecting marriage means protecting citizens like Dr. McCaskill, a woman who Gallaudet University deemed was fit to uphold the ideal of diversity in their institution and who believed that diversity includes respecting all sides engaged in the debate over marriage...
You won't read about this in the MSM. Even Dominic Grieve's salient warning - as a Christian communicant of the Church of England - will not reach the BBC news editors or the pages of the tabliod press. The issue of victimisation needs to be highlighted, and the Attorney General is doing so as best he can. Here in the UK there is a host of Dr McCaskills, but we don't hear much about them.

The principal rteason for that is the increasingly ubiquitous self-censorship. There would be far more martyrs but for the fact that people are now routinely self-censoring in their public workplaces. It is too risky to ‘come out’, even when one uses carefully-framed, non-emotive language. The LGBT rights agenda now controls the heights in our public discourse, with very few exceptions.

Dominic Grieve has sounded the alarm. The Government is duty bound to heed the warning.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Boris' comedy does not make him a fool

Conservatives like their politicians to be of an essentially choleric disposition: they like gravity mingled with passion; thoughtfulness wrapped up in conviction. Humour must be dry and rationed, lest it be mistaken for levity or simpleness. Margaret Thatcher was master of the art, with her Monty Python 'dead parrot' sketch about LibDem logo in 1990, or 'The Lady's Not For Turning' from 1980, delivered with all the gravity of a Churchillian declaration of war.

And comedy - well, Conservatives tend to eschew the boisterous Music Hall as antithetical to the serious business of politics. And when they try to do it - as (for example) Peter Lilley's 'Little List' 1992 speech, after the fashion of Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Lord High Executioner'; or his 'Land of Chattering Classes', based on 'Land of Hope and Glory', the results can be excruciating - perhaps none more so than Virginia Bottomley's foray into 'HMS Pinafore'.

Comedy must be properly performed for it to work: that is to say, if a politician wants to do comedy, it helps to be something of a performer. Michael Heseltine was as flamboyant as a Victorian actor-manager, and his conference speeches always played to a packed house - standing room only. Perhaps his most famous moment was from 1976, when he spoke of the Labour government as being 'a rabble of political extremists orchestrated from within the British cabinet itself'. He portrayed the party as 'a one-legged army limping away from the storm they had created', mimicking their imagined marching orders: 'Left! Left! Left!'.

But Boris - well, Boris is a truly naturally-gifted comedian, right up there with the likes of Tommy Cooper. He's funny because he gets it wrong and you love him for it. But what many Conservative politicians fail to appreciate is that comedy is a great vehicle for communicating the serious stuff of policy, so we have the wise and omniscient Kenneth Clarke insisting that Boris 'is not serious enough' to be prime minister. "If he really wants to be a prime minister for serious reasons and not just getting his picture in the paper more often, he really does have to settle down and demonstrate he can seriously deliver on some complicated subjects," Mr Clarke said.

It is the classic snobbish error of conflating entertainment with levity, comedy with simpleness, or jesting with the inability to grasp complexity and nuance. Kenneth Clarke plainly knows what's best and lectures seriously on the merits of the proposal. Boris simple fizzes and dazzles.

But in a time of melancholic austerity and an era of bland administration and interminably grey politicking, Boris is wonderfully sanguine and gloriously technicolor. He can hold an audience of all political hues, inspire the downhearted, and communicate a profoundly serious message through ditties, gags and obscure Greek words. But it would be a grave disservice and fatal underestimation to dismiss him as a fool, not least because some fools are wise enough to be kings. As Isaac Asimov observed: 'That, of course, is the great secret of the successful fool – that he is no fool at all.'

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Policy Exchange: gay marriage, lies, and duplicity

It gives His Grace no pleasure at all to write this post: Policy Exchange is David Cameron's favourite think-tank, and has some outstanding minds doing some excellent work for the advancement of the conservative cause, especially in the fields of education and poverty alleviation. But having twice been fobbed off by their Head of Communications Nick Faith, it is important to combat misrepresentation and obfuscation with a little light and truth.

As reported yesterday, Anglican Mainstream had planned to debate the issue of gay/equal marriage at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference, using the Policy Exchange booklet ‘What’s In A Name?’ as the starting point. After a month of preparation and negotiation, at rather late notice (last week), Policy Exchange decided to pull the plug on the event, citing the inability of both sides to engage an MP to lead the arguments. His Grace wrote that this seemed a little unfair, because at no point was the participation of MPs an explicit pre-condition for this debate to take place, and members of Anglican Mainstream have lost in the region of £1000.

Bizarrely, Nick Faith tweeted: ‘Anglican Mainstream agreed to hold an event post conference so very bizarre allegation that we're not up for a debate’.

His Grace responded that a debate at the Conservative Party Conference was always the agreement, not a debate in general at some point. He also enquired as to when the 'no debate without MP' policy emerged.

Nick Faith didn't answer the question: he responded: ‘that's not the case. PX doesn't hold conf fringes without MPs. Happy to discuss if you want to call’.

His Grace was reluctant to call, not merely because he lacks a corporeal presence, but also because there is little point augmenting a he-said-she-said conflagration with further uncorroborated conversation. Mr Faith wrote: ‘why don't you give me a ring or email me. I'm in and out of fringe meetings all day’.

His Grace sent an email, but has heard nothing back. This is odd, considering that the immediacy of a phone conversation was twice requested.

So, here are the facts of the case:

On 4th September, Alan Craig of the Anglican Mainstream wrote to Neil O'Brien, Director of Policy Exchange:
...I write to ask if Policy Exchange would be willing to debate and defend your publication 'What's In A Name?' at a fringe meeting, impartially chaired and hosted by the Bow Group, at the Conservative Party conference next month.

...If you agree to such a fringe debate...

...I am aware Policy Exchange already has a large fringe programme at the Conservative conference. However, equal/gay marriage is a vital cultural and family issue, and we very much hope you and your colleagues will be up for publicly defending your analysis and proposals in front of attendees at this important and influential political conference.
On 6th September, David Skelton, Deputy Director and Head of Research at Policy Exchange, replied:
Many thanks for your invitation to a debate on equal marriage at the Conservative Party conference and for your feedback on our report.

In principle, I would be very happy to participate in the debate.
On 18th September, a meeting took place at the offices of Policy Exchange, with David Skelton and Nick Faith, chaired by Ben Harris-Quinney of The Bow Group. They thrashed out the details of the debate which included that (a) PX would ask Joey Jones, deputy political editor of Sky, to chair the debate and (b) both sides would try to find a Tory MP to lead for their side in the debate. It was also agreed that they would use Jury’s Inn – PX’s venue for fringe events at the Conservative Party conference.

In the event, unsurprisingly, both sides had difficulty finding Tory MPs who would put their heads above the gay-marriage parapet and debate against each other. On 28th September David Skelton emailed suggested holding a debate at Policy Exchange in the autumn, when MPs were more likely to be available.

Anglican Mainstream responded on the same day:
Hi David,

I reckon we should continue trying for MPs (I've currently got invitations out to three) and, if that fails, PE and AM just put up our own two speakers each.

We plan to leaflet conference attendees so hopefully there'll be adequate numbers in the audience - especially if we offer strong coffee for a spicy early morning debate! The issue itself will help draw people in.

It is evident (in bold) from this email audit trail, that Anglican Mainstream are wholly justified in their assertion that the plan was always to hold a fringe meeting during the Conservative Party Conference. For Nick Faith to assert that ‘Anglican Mainstream agreed to hold an event post conference’ is patently false. It may be the case post-cancellation that there are attempts to keep the possibility alive, but to conflate a subsequent agreement with the original plans is duplicitous and obfuscational. Indeed, Anglican Mainstream clearly initially rejected the proposal, and continued discussion with PX on such details as coffee supply and how the debate would be promoted.

Then, last Wednesday (3rd October), Nick Faith evidently phoned Alan Craig, who wrote to David Skelton: 
Hi David,

I understand from Nick that you are considering pulling the debate next week as there are no MPs who will lead it, and that you are willing to offer a debate at Policy Exchange later in the autumn.

May I request that the debate goes ahead? The evidence is there will be significant interest even at that early hour and we (and you) need to road-test our ideas with ordinary conservative punters and away from the hot-house of Westminster.

If you could supply another speaker to yourself (Robert Flint or Blair Gibbs?) we could have two from each side and have a useful informative debate - which will be available to the rest of the world through your video recording!
The message was reiterated the next day, when it was made clear to PX that publicity had already been printed and paid for; intensive work had been carried out in response to ‘What's in A Name?’; one person had even taken days off work; hotels had been booked and travel arrangements made; and that both sides might benefit from ‘robust road-testing’ of their views in front of ordinary Conservative Party members. The plea was: ‘For the sake of honest democratic debate, we reckon the event should go ahead.’

Later that day, Nick Faith wrote to confirm the cancellation of the debate ‘for logistical reasons’. He claimed that 'Policy Exchange do not hold conference events without MPs present', explaining: ‘This has been the rule we have acted on in recent years and is based on the demands such events place on our resources and the fact that MPs are really needed to make a conference event a success.’

You will note from all the preceding correspondence that at no point, even in the final phone discussions, did Policy Exchange say that MP participation was a condition of holding the debate. Moreover, it is abundantly evident that Policy Exchange do, in fact, hold conference events without MPs being present:

See also here, here, here and here.

So, it being evident – contra Nick Faith’s assertion – that this was always about a debate during the Conservative Party Conference. And it being evident – contra Nick Faith’s assertion – that Policy Exchange do hold conference events without MPs being present. And it being evident – indeed, manifest common sense – that Anglican Mainstream would not have forked out £1000 and arranged travel and hotel accommodation if, as Nick Faith asserts, they ‘agreed to hold an event post conference’, it is patent, reasonable and incontestable to conclude that Policy Exchange is being disingenuous.

Given that Policy Exchange conducted all their equal/gay-marriage research and compiled ‘What’s in a Name?’, the natural conversation partners would be those who have similarly researched this minefield: MPs undoubtedly attract audiences, but so do contentious issues. Anglican Mainstream are left scratching their heads at Policy Exchange's insistence of the presence of non-experts to lead the discussion.
It is far more likely (indeed, persuasively plausible) that they cancelled this debate at the behest of the Conference organisers, in order that the media wouldn't be distracted from the big issues by Anglican 'bigots' and 'homophobes'.  

But His Grace would like to make it known that the ‘debate’ is proceeding today at 12.45pm in Room 107, Jury’s Inn, 245 Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2HQ. Alan Craig and Anglican Mainstream will argue against gay/equal marriage, and an empty chair (featured right) will make the case for.

Considering this evidence, at the very least Policy Exchange owe Anglican Mainstream an unreserved apology. It is His Grace’s view that they ought also to offer some financial compensation.

UPDATE: 12.30pm Policy Exchange agree to debate

David Skelton of Policy Exchange - the author of 'What's in a Name?' - has agreed to debate with Anglican Mainstream today, in Room 101, Jury's Inn, at 12.45. Canon Chris Sugden will be chairing the debate, and Dermot O'Callaghan will represent Anglican Mainstream.

His Grace thinks this is what you call a result.
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