Hero and Bigot

I asked some time ago why “Christian Concern for our Nation” was not concerned when Christians were being dragged from their prayers at the steps of St Pauls.

Giles Fraser was Canon Chancellor of St Pauls: he resigned because he could not tolerate the Church using the secular power of the state against protesters against economic injustice.

And he was nominated and won Hero of the Year at the Stonewall Awards by popular vote because he’d written in support of the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, but others have written in defense of the idea that Christianity’s central doctrine is not, as O’Brien claims, homophobia – Giles Fraser won because he is a hero: a Christian minister of religion who’d stood up to say that no, Christianity is not all about homophobia.

Giles Fraser wrote:

The Church of England has spoken. And apparently, we are against gay marriage. We are not “anti-gay”, we hope you understand. After all, as the statement says: “We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater rights for same sex couples.” Oh, no. We are not homophobic. It’s just that we (the straight religious people) think that if gay people are allowed to get hitched in church then that will ruin things for the rest of us. The presence of homosexuals at the altar, vowing lifelong love and fidelity, will devalue the institution of marriage. It would be like letting women join the Garrick.

Apologies for the sarcasm. But I am spitting blood about the latest ridiculous statement from the Church of England. First, it is worth exposing the straightforward lie that is expressed here – that the C of E hierarchy has been supportive of civil partnerships. It has not.

Sunday Morning Live did not have Giles Fraser on to point this out – nor Cardinal O’Brien, though that would have been a genuinely interesting debate between Hero and Bigot.

Giles Fraser, asked about the Occupy camp

sees it as appropriate that the camp should be outside St Paul’s on a “fault line between God and Mammon” and observes: “Economic justice is the number one moral issue in the Bible.” He believes this is a tremendous opportunity for St Paul’s. Under the Bishop of London’s initiative, he has already hosted a meeting (he’s working out his notice until April) between Ken Costa, former chairman of Lazard International, and six Occupiers – the first of many such talks. “It was fantastic,” he says.

In the past year, during which the poorest and most vulnerable of the UK have been under unprecedented attack by the UK goverment, where has Cardinal O’Brien’s campaigning focus been? Has he caused a letter to be read from all the pulpits of Catholic Churches in Scotland to decry the decision to cut services for the poor, to demonise welfare claimants as shirkers and scroungers?

Cardinal O’Brien hasn’t been using his bully pulpit to talk about any of these issues, to criticise the government in any way for its attacks on the poor. Instead, O’Brien’s been explaining, at length, that it would be grotesque and wrong and like legalising slavery for two men, or two women, to be able to marry.

Christian Concern for our Nation hasn’t been concerned about issues of poverty and social injustice either. Their campaign, in fact, was directed at two banks: Coutts and Barclays, both sponsors of the Stonewall Awards, both feart to be associated with an organisation that, once a year, names a bigot as Bigot of the Year.

You have to ask: really, where do Christians honestly think Jesus would be standing if he was alive today? Would he be with Coutts, who won’t consider you for a bank account unless your net worth is at least a million? With Barclays, that used a loophole to dodge five hundred million tax?

Or with the bullied children at Catholic schools?

With the Occupy protesters?

This isn’t just about a Stonewall award. This is about the nature of religion and Christianity.

And, for the secular supporter of freedom of religion, this is about human rights: the right to believe what you like, so long as you don’t impose it on anyone else.

I wrote in the Backbencher today:

Opposition to O’Brien’s right to hold those beliefs would be against freedom of religion. Opposition to those beliefs being imposed by secular law on anyone but Cardinal O’Brien himself is not against freedom of religion. In fact, while O’Brien is campaigning against same-sex marriage, and using Church funds to leaflet and advertise his own position, O’Brien is campaigning against freedom of religion: he does not wish a Unitarian priest or a Church of Scotland minister or a Jewish rabbi to have the freedom in religion to wed a same-sex couple in their faith. He does not wish a same-sex Catholic couple to be able to wed in a registry office, without reference to their faith. O’Brien is against freedom of religion with regard to same-sex marriage, and that makes him a bigot.

Update: For another look from a slightly different angle, Paul Cockburn in the Scottish Review on 6th November “How the cardinal makes bigots of us all”.

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Filed under LGBT Equality, Religion, Scottish Politics

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