Religion

Time to Apologise for 2000 Years of Christian Homophobia

An Open Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop of Canterbury,
Lambeth Palace,
London SE1 7JU

14th December, 1999

Dear George Carey,

You and your church will shortly mark the Millennium by celebrating 2,000 years of Christianity. But many lesbians and gay men will not be celebrating with you. We will be mourning two millennia of Christian homophobia, which has inflicted terrible pain on homosexual people.

The church has incited prejudice, discrimination and violence against queers for 20 centuries.

Over the last 2,000 years, church homophobia has led to hundreds of millions of homosexuals worldwide being rejected and reviled by their families, driven to depression and suicide, discriminated against by antigay laws, and condemned to death for the ‘sin’ of sodomy.

The church has never expressed any remorse for its persecution of queers. Your Millennium address is an opportunity to atone for the genocide inflicted on us. We ask you to express your sorrow for the church’s crimes against queer humanity, and to apologise to the lesbian and gay community.

Leviticus 20:13 demands that homosexuals be put to death. For over 1,800 years, the Christian churches followed that Biblical injunction, sponsoring a Homo Holocaust and organising the mass murder of queers.

We were stoned to death in antiquity, burned alive during the medieval era, and, in this country, hanged from gallows until the mid-nineteenth century.

This slaughter of sodomites was conducted in Britain by the church itself prior to the 1500’s, and thereafter by the State — with the official blessing of your predecessors, the Archbishops of Canterbury.

While the church no longer advocates the death penalty for homosexuals, it still preaches a gospel of sexual apartheid, arguing that homosexuality should not be accorded the same moral or legal status as heterosexuality.

This straight supremacist doctrine is used to justify the treatment of queers as second class citizens. Most Christians, including yourself, continue to support discrimination against gay people with regard to the age of consent, marriage, employment and fostering and adoption.

The time has come for Christian contrition. An apology is long overdue for the suffering inflicted on queers by the church.

Peter Tatchell
OutRage!

Decima Exhibition: Art or Blasphemy?

The Catholic Media Office and Evangelical Alliance have written to complain about the exhibition “Was Jesus a Homosexual?” currently on show at London’s Decima Gallery.

Although the Catholic Media Office declined to send anyone to view the exhibition, the Evangelical Alliance sent a Free Presbyterian priest (the same extremist sect as the notorious Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley) on the evening of Saturday, 10th March, to protest against the exhibition.

While some of the exhibits apparently offend doctrinaire Christians with no sense of humour, the artists have obviously derived great satisfaction from producing their work. Items include a “brass rubbing” by Gilbert & George, and Prof. James Kirkup’s poem “The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name” which led in the 1970’s to the prosecution of “Gay News” by Mrs. Mary Whitehouse.

Evidence supporting the thesis that Jesus was gay was uncovered in 1958: as reported by OutRage! before the 1998 Lambeth Conference. The presbyterian priest, believing homosexuality to be a sin, considered this notion blasphemous.

Rart & Sete
“Fuc King Wan King Suc King Spun King” 1999 (detail)
Shane Wheatcroft
“The Sins of Saint Sebastian” 1999
Shane Wheatcroft
“Sleazus H Christ” 1999

The exhibition runs until Sunday, 18th April. The Gallery is at 3, Decima Studios, Decima Road, London SE1; tel/fax 020-74.03.60.20.

Sweden, Ecce Homo

The “Ecce Homo” exhibition by Swedish artist Elisabeth Ohlson last summer was held in Sweden’s most important cathedral, Uppsala.

The exhibition included a controversial painting of the Last Supper, depicting Jesus in high heels and the Apostles in drag: but was defended by Lutheran Archbishop Hammar, and indeed by all the Swedish bishops bar one.

When the Pope then cancelled an audience with the Archbishop, Hammar held a press conference, stating that “as a church leader, I’m not only an institution, I have a duty to push for development”.

Lambeth / Festival Pier

Forty gay rights activists demonstrated tonight, Tuesday, 28th July, between 6 and 7 p.m., as 800 Anglican bishops from the Lambeth Conference arrived at Festival Pier on London’s South Bank to take a boat trip down the Thames.

The demonstrators from OutRage! and other queer rights groups, including the NUS, castigated the bishops over their support for legal discrimination against homosexuals, and demanded a “Queer Reformation” to end church support for antigay discrimination. (During the recent House of Lords vote on the age of consent, Bishops voted two-to-one against equality.)

©1998 John Hunt/OutRage! London
This picture may be copied in the cause of furthering our aims, provided that the source is acknowledged.

Boating Bishops picketed by Mitred Protesters

Forty gay rights activists demonstrated tonight, Tuesday, 28th July, between 6 and 7 p.m., as 800 Anglican bishops from the Lambeth Conference arrived at Festival Pier on London’s South Bank to take a boat trip down the Thames.

The demonstrators from OutRage! and other queer rights groups, including the NUS, castigated the bishops over their support for legal discrimination against homosexuals, and demanded a “Queer Reformation” to end church support for antigay discrimination. (During the recent House of Lords vote on the age of consent, Bishops voted two-to-one against equality.)

A giant billboard was erected by the protesters at the entrance to Festival Pier, emblazoned with the words: “Anglicans! Stop opposing gay human rights!”. Protesters chanted: “Church of hatred, church of fear, stop crucifying queers!”.

Some of the protesters were dressed as bishops, nuns and priests. Two OutRage! ‘bishops’ kissed each other, while a gay male nun from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence sprinkled “homo water” on the bishops from the Lambeth Conference as they arrived, “to cleanse them of the sin of homophobia”.

As Archbishop Carey arrived and hastened onto the waiting “Mayflower Garden”, the protesters redoubled their shouts of “Shame!”. But support was offered by several Conference delegates who smiled and waved approval. The Bishop of Oxford came over to express his support for lesbian and gay equality. The Bishop of Rochester, however, attempted to defend church denial of homosexual human rights, claiming that church morality overrides civil law.

“Dr. Carey and many of his Bishops are acting like the leaders of the Afrikaaner Church in South Africa during apartheid”, said John Hunt of OutRage!. “They are opposing equality and endorsing discrimination.”

As well as opposing an equal age of consent, the Anglican Church also advocates other violations of lesbian and gay human rights. —

“The Church of England Children’s Society is alone amongst the major adoption agencies in denying lesbians and gay men the right to foster deprived children, claiming that we are unfit to care for children”, said Hunt.

“Archbishop Carey supports the denial of legal rights to lesbian and gay couples, which deprives them of recognition as next-of-kin in the event of accident or death.”

FURTHER INFORMATION: Peter Tatchell 020-74.03.17.90
PHOTOS OF PROTEST: Gary Trotter 01628-54.25.54
Rob Todd 0467-42.02.83

Carey hides from Gay Rights Protesters

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been accused of cowardice after he was smuggled by minders this morning (Monday, 20th July) into the opening session of the Lambeth Conference at the University of Kent by the back door, to avoid lesbian and gay rights protesters from OutRage! who were peacefully picketing the front entrance. “Carey was too cowardly to face us”, said Marina Cronin of OutRage!.

Immediately after he finished delivering his presidential address, Dr. Carey was hurriedly bundled out of a side fire exit, to escape the OutRage! protesters, who were waiting to challenge him over his opposition to an equal age of consent. They held placards saying: “Carey opposes an equal age of consent”.

The OutRage! protest –against Dr. Carey’s support for continued legal discrimination against lesbians and gay men– was warmly received by many of the 800 delegates arriving at the conference hall. “Apart from homophobic abuse from two bishops who supported the church’s opposition to homosexual human rights, a gratifyingly large number of delegates gave us a warm reception”, said Marina Cronin. “We were greeted with smiles, handshakes, and words of thanks and encouragement. Bishops Harries, Selby and Spong came over and expressed their support”, said Cronin.

Last month, the Archbishop spoke out against the equalisation of the age of consent, and vowed to use his influence to reinstate a discriminatory age of 18 for gay men when the issue is debated in the House of Lords this Wednesday (22nd July).

“By opposing an equal age of consent, Dr. Carey is supporting a discriminatory law that allows 16 and 17 year old gay men to be arrested, dragged to court and jailed for up to two years for consenting homosexual relationships. His attitude is blatant persecution”, said Ray Harvey-Amer of OutRage!.

“We fear that Dr. Carey and the Bishops who sit in the Lords may succeed in overturning the Commons’ vote in favour of equality at 16.”

The age of consent is not the only issue where Dr. Carey endorses discrimination against homosexual men and women. —

“The Archbishop is opposed to lesbian and gay partners being granted legal rights, such as recognition as next-of-kin.

“As President of the Church of England Children’s Society, Dr. Carey endorses its policy of refusing to allov homosexual couples to foster children”, said Harvey-Amer.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Peter Tatchell 020-74.03.17.90
PHOTOS OF PROTEST: Rob Todd 0467-42.02.83
Simon Bebbington (ISF reporter) 0378-30.76.36

Court refuses witness summons for Dr. Carey

On Friday, 12th June, Canterbury Magistrates Court refused to allow gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell to witness summons the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey.

Mr. Tatchell condemned the decision as “unjust and unfair”. “I am being denied the right to call a witness who is crucial to my defence”, he said.

“Dr. Carey’s evidence is necessary to establish the facts of the case. He was the only person who witnessed the entire protest from start to finish. The court’s refusal to summon the Archbishop will seriously hamper my defence against the charge of ‘indecency’.”

The court also turned down Mr. Tatchell’s request to secure evidence that is being withheld by the prosecution. His bid to change the venue of his trial was also denied.

Mr. Tatchell’s trial date was today fixed for 25th and 28th September at Canterbury Magistrates Court. He is charged with “indecent behaviour in a church”, contrary to Section 2 of the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act of 1860, (formerly part of the Brawling Act of 1551), following his interruption of Dr. Carey’s Easter Sunday sermon in Canterbury Cathedral.

Mr. Tatchell’s request for the disclosure of unused prosecution evidence was rejected by the court, even though it was conceded that this material may undermine the case against him. “The prosecution admitted the evidence they are withholding could aid my defence”, said Mr. Tatchell. “Being denied these documents will make it harder for me to win this case”.

Mr. Tatchell’s application to move the trial from Canterbury to another town was also refused. He argued the trial should be transferred because one of the key prosecution witnesses is a magistrate at the Canterbury Court.

“It would not be appropriate for the trial to be heard by magistrates who may be friends of a prosecution witness”, said Tatchell. The court ruled that his case be heard by a stipendiary magistrate from outside the Canterbury area.

“Despite these setbacks, I will continue to fight this case on the issues of free speech and the right to peaceful protest. The real crime is Dr. Carey’s support for discrimination against lesbians and gay men, not my demonstration for human rights in the Cathedral.”

DEFENCE FUND APPEAL

OutRage! is appealing for contributions to the Peter Tatchell Defence Fund.

“We need financial help to fight this prosecution”, said David Allison of OutRage!. “Peter’s case is an important test of civil liberties. We must defend the right to peaceful protest and resist this attempt to stifle freedom of speech”.

Cheques should be made payable to “OutRage!” and sent to:
OutRage!, P.O. Box 17816, London. SW14 8WT

Terrence McNally’s new play, Corpus Christi, defended

Was Jesus Gay?

American playwright, Terrence McNally, (Love! Valour! Compassion!), has had a scheduled run of his new play, Corpus Christi, cancelled by the prestigious Manhattan Theatre Club in New York, following threats to kill the staff, burn down the theatre and “exterminate” McNally.

McNally’s play –modelled on the biblical story of Jesus– is about a young gay man, Joshua, and his sexual adventures with his 12 disciples.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in New York has vowed to “wage a war” against any attempt to stage the play. Top playwrights –Tony Kushner, Edward Albee and Athol Fugard– have urged the theatre to reverse its cancellation, accusing the theatre of “capitulation to right-wing extremists and religious zealots”.

The depiction of a gay Jesus has been defended on the grounds of artistic freedom and legitimate historical speculation by the London-based gay rights group OutRage!. It claims that a suppressed version of St. Mark’s gospel –which remains the subject of academic dispute– alludes to Jesus having a homosexual relationship with a youth he raised from the dead.

According to the U.S. Biblical scholar, Morton Smith, of Columbia University, a fragment of manuscript he found at the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem in 1958, showed that the full text of St. Mark chapter 10 (between verses 34 and 35 in the standard version of the Bible) contains a passage which includes the following text. —

“And the youth, looking upon him (Jesus), loved him and beseeched that he might remain with him. And going out of the tomb, they went into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days, Jesus instructed him and, at evening, the youth came to him wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God”.

Peter Tatchell of OutRage! says there is no authoritative information about Jesus’s sexuality: “We don’t know for sure whether Jesus was straight, gay, bisexual or celibate. There is no evidence for the Church’s presumption that he was heterosexual. Nothing in the Bible points to him having relationships with women. The possibility that Christ was gay cannot be ruled out.

“Since there is no proof of the heterosexuality of Jesus, the theological basis of Church homophobia is all the more shaky and indefensible.

“Jesus was born a man and therefore presumably had male sexual feelings. But there are no references in the gospels to his sexuality. Large chunks of Jesus’s life are missing from the Biblical accounts. This has fuelled speculation that the early Church sanitised the gospels, removing references to Christ’s sexuality that were not in accord with the heterosexual morality that it wanted to promote”, said Peter Tatchell.

Update, 6-June-1998
Faced with mounting pressure in support of McNally, the Manhattan Theatre Club has now reversed its previous ban, and has agreed to stage Corpus Christi in September.

Update, 29-August-1999
After being staged in New York, Corpus Christi has now just completed a run as part of the Edinburgh Festival.

Tatchell fights to defend the right to peaceful protest

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of OutRage! plans to make his court hearing a “civil liberties test case” when he appears at Canterbury Magistrates Court this Friday, 15th May, at 9:45 a.m..

He is calling for the repeal of the law under which he has been charged, arguing that “it gives the Church privileged immunity from public protest and dissent”.

Tatchell was originally charged with “violent behaviour”. This week, that charge was dropped by the prosecution: and he is now being charged with “indecent behaviour” in a church, contrary to Section 2 of the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860. The prosecution claims that any form of unseemly behaviour in a church is “indecent” under the terms of the Act.

The charge against Tatchell arises from OutRage!’s Easter Sunday protest in Canterbury Cathedral on 12th April 1998. Interrupting the sermon of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Tatchell condemned Dr. Carey’s support for discrimination against lesbian and gay people with respect to employment, the age of consent, fostering and marriage.

Tatchell plans to summons the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral to testify in his defence.

“I will fight the prosecution on the issue of free speech”, said Tatchell. “The right to peaceful protest does not stop at the door of a Cathedral.

“Under this ancient law, the Church has privileged protection against protest. No other institution is granted these special, sweeping powers to suppress dissent. It should not be a crime to criticise the Archbishop of Canterbury in his Cathedral.

“What is at stake in this case is the precious, hard-won freedom to demonstrate. If the prosecution win, it will be a defeat for civil liberties and a victory for authoritarianism.

“The restrictions on the right to protest under the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act are incompatible with a democratic society and should be repealed”, said Mr. Tatchell.

DEFENCE FUND APPEAL

OutRage! is appealing for contributions to the Peter Tatchell Defence Fund.

“We need financial help to fight this prosecution”, said David Allison of OutRage!. “Peter’s case is an important test of civil liberties. We must defend the right to peaceful protest and resist this attempt to stifle freedom of speech”.

Cheques should be made payable to “OutRage!” and sent to:
OutRage!, P.O. Box 17816, London. SW14 8WT

Update
At the preliminary hearing on 15th May, the case was adjourned till 5th June.

At the hearing on 5th June, the case further was adjourned till 12th June.

OutRage! seeks to protect for Sexual and Religious Minorities

Proposed Amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill

OutRage! is proposing an amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill that would extend the tough new penalties for race hate crimes to crimes of prejudice against homosexuals and religious believers.

The amendment, to Section 68 of the Bill, will be tabled by MP’s in the Committee stage, with cross-party support.

Sections 22-26 and 68 of the Bill empower the courts to impose harsher sentences on those convicted of crimes against ethnic minorities, where there is evidence that the crime was motivated by race hatred.

The OutRage! amendment, drafted by Peter Tatchell, would also introduce tougher sentences in cases of hate-inspired attacks on people because of their homosexuality or religion.

“We believe that all hate crimes should be treated with equal severity”, said Huw Williams.

“As well as cracking down on racial violence, the law also needs to come down heavily on the perpetrators of prejudice-motivated assaults on religious and sexual minorities”.

Whilst OutRage! is opposing crimes of prejudice against people of faith, religious supporters in the House of Lords recently succeeded in amending the Human Rights Bill to exempt religious institutions from the Bill’s anti-discrimination provisions. This will allow religious authorities to continue to discriminate against lesbians and gay men.

“While OutRage! is campaigning to stop the victimisation of religious minorities, the churches are fighting to maintain the right to discriminate against homosexuals”, said Williams.

“We argue that ALL forms of prejudice are wrong, but religious leaders insist that denying equal treatment to gay people is right.

“Despite Christian, Muslim and Jewish opposition to homosexual human-rights, OutRage! will continue to support equality for people of all faiths and sexualities.”

Justin Fashanu destroyed by homophobia

“Justin’s death is a tragedy. He was a sincere, warm-hearted person who was destroyed by homophobia, Christian fundamentalism, and a lack of support from fellow football players and managers”, according to Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who knew Fashanu from the early 1980’s.

Tatchell recalls: “We met at the London gay nightclub ‘Heaven’ in 1982. I had been selected as the Labour candidate for Bermondsey, and he had recently transferred to Nottingham Forest for £ 1 million. We became close friends for the next ten years.

“Even though he was not open about being gay in the early 1980’s, we went out together to nightclubs, parties, family celebrations and public events where Justin was the guest of honour. He knew the press might be there. It was almost as if he was challenging the tabloids to expose him.

“In the early 80’s Justin often phoned me, and we frequently discussed the problems he was having at Nottingham Forest and his difficulties in coping with his homosexuality.

“The pros and cons of coming out were a frequent subject of conversation. Although I helped him come to terms with being gay, it was only a temporary respite. When his football career went on the slide, he turned to evangelical Christianity. In the long-term, that caused him immense grief.

“Justin was very distressed by his treatment at Nottingham Forest. He felt that Brian Clough treated him badly and never gave him proper support. Not surprisingly, his on-the-pitch peformance nose-dived.

“Becoming a born-again Christian screwed up his life. He became very confused and unhappy abour his sexuality. While publicly proclaiming Christian celibacy, he resorted to furtive gay sex. That made it impossible for him to have a stable gay relationship.

“He was devastated when his brother John publicly denounced him after he came out. Justin never got over that betrayal”.