Stonewall is a UK pressure group that has done lots of work to promote equality between people who experience same sex sexual attraction and then designate their sexual ideality in the Gay, Lesbian or Bi-sexual category, and those that don’t either designate themselves that way, or are not attracted to their own sex or both sexes. It was set up in 1989 to fight the Conservative Parties Section 28, which was designed to prevent the promotion of homosexuality in schools. Wikipedia has a good overview of issues surrounding the legislation and subsequent changes that have taken place in the UK here. Those changes include the leveling of the age of consent for homosexual sexual acts from 18 to 16. These and other measures are not welcomed by some parts of the church for various reasons, however that does not mean that Christians should not support aspects of Stonewall’s work. Unfortunately Stonewall, while condemning homophobic bullying, something worth supporting, also uses bullying tactics to promote their agenda. This is hypocrisy.
It is clear that there will be disagreements about what should and should not be promoted as a natural lifestyle by Governments. But it is still a matter of freedom of speech whether or not somebody agrees with the principles behind Section 28 or not, particularly because we are talking about school age children. This is why I have a problem with the term homophobia (lit. fear of self, or fear of man) and how it has been defined by Stonewall and others, especially in relation to the Church. As far as I can tell, if somebody believes that Section 28 may have been a good idea, they are deemed in Stonewalls eyes as being homophobic. However, if an act of parliament would mean religion (whether Christian or other sorts) could not be promoted in school, it would be welcomed by many friends of Stonewall as progressive and supporters of the motion would not be called haters of religion. Of course, sexual orientation and religious belief are different categories, but they are being treated by Government as protected equality strands and so I will also.
Having made that point we should not forget that there is significant common ground between those that would see Section 28 as homophobic and those that would not. So what ever you think about Governments’ relationship to homosexuality, or indeed what you think about the morality of homosexuality from your faith perspective, I think you will agree with me that it is wrong to throw faeces (even if it is in plastic bags) at lesbian and gay people as it was reported happened at the Riga Pride festival in years past. Freedom of assembly, whether for Gay Pride events or for Church marches protesting pride events, provided that they are not violent or threatening is, and should be, a part of our country’s tradition and law. It’s a mark of a healthy democracy, even if you think same sex sexual acts are immoral.
Beating gays and lesbians, or even killing them in vigilante exercises of justice (though by definition not just) is absolutely wrong. For a full overview of experiences gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people have in the EU you can read this report prepared by the FRA (EU Quango on human rights). Look for page 80. While I don’t necessarily agree with the slant of the language in the report, if it was you or your son or daughter that had to experience some of this stuff (even if they were living in sin as the religious language goes) I think you would be legitimately angry. Stonewall is fighting this sort of behaviour for which I would like to applaud them and I think the Church, in many cases, but not all, should be equally involved in condemning nastiness. This means that the church should seek to protect those that are being persecuted and this can and should be done in such a way as not to contradict God’s commands. Jesus did so when he protected the woman who was about to be stoned, for whoever would throw the first stone would have to throw it at him.
One place the Church can support Stonewall’s initiatives is in relation to homophobic bullying in schools, which is one of their most recent campaigns. Such homophobic bullying is no doubt very painful and can lead to severe confusion, anger, fear and depression, even in the mildest instances and especially during the teenage years. Bullying has been the cause, in the most harsh instances, of suicide by some young people. Homophobic bullying is up there with other sorts as being particularly horrible. We should teach our children that bullying in any form is wrong. We should also stand up against bullying in our adult society because it is unreasonable, intolerant and unloving.
That is why it is so very confusing and somewhat disappointing to me that Stonewall employs bullying tactics in the public arena to try and change policy and to change peoples minds and hearts about homosexuality. The ‘Some people are gay, get over it’ campaign is an example of this. So are the T-shirts. Now of course there is a level of difference between bullying in school and shame campaigning, nevertheless these tactics are in the same category and smell of hypocrisy.
Stonewall also run an annual fundraiser where they give a prize to the person who they think has made the most progress for the promotion of LGBT rights in the UK. However, along with this prize they also hand out the ‘Bigot of the year award‘. In the last three years the award has gone more often than not to somebody who is a Christian, and this year the nominees include a number of Christians. Well, the Phelps family is among the nominees… If any Christian deserves the title it might be them, but you understand my point anyway.
Stonewall should stop their shame campaign, even if they think they are only giving out what other people deserve a whiff of. The Church should be more vocal about inappropriate behavior towards all people, including people who we might deem to be living in sin.