Thursday, May 22, 2008

Joel Edwards

As it is well known that I am that rare thing - a fan from within the LGBT community of Evangelical Alliance leader (as well as being a Commissioner with the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission) Joel Edwards, I thought I'd pass comment on his latest forays into the public sphere (I might even make this a regular item).

I should make clear that I do rate him as a thinker who is capable of both depth and brevity at the same time (he gathers both very good attributes in one whereas some religious thinkers only have the one, as the Archbishop of Canterbury is very deep (probably) but can't make his thought clear to ordinary folk).

So his latest forays have been an intriguing letter on the recent Dispatches programme, In God's Name.

Joel is at pains to distance himself from Stephen Green stating:

Stephen Green, a key example given of this fundamentalist movement, is an extremist. The vast majority of Christians who watched last night would, like me, have recoiled in horror at some of the statements he made.

The kind of fundamentalism shown by Stephen is not growing in the UK. Unfortunately, the oxygen of publicity provided by the media has exaggerated his influence. What is increasing is a movement of evangelicals, which currently numbers around two million.

He also uses the following in speaking of LCF's (Lawyers Christian Fellowship)
Andrea Minichiello Williams

This is how a healthy democracy operates, and while Andrea may have been naïve and controversial in Dispatches, her actions were a legitimate and transparent part of the political process.
Talk about damning with very faint praise!

Possibly wrongly I think I have learned how to interpret Joel's statements because I think he is always saying the same thing - another thing I like about him.

It really is as Joel says important to see the diversity in evangelical thought and practice (presumably this means he is encouraging evangelicals (and LGBT activists?) to see our activist groupings as less monolithic (etym: consisting of a single stone), though not without consistency.

I must confess to a little more disappointment over his recent Thought for the Day. That's the transcript, the recording's as well as transcripts of other TFTD contributions is here and he has great reading voice so is well worth listening to if you get the chance.

I must admit feeling disappointed when he refers to Iain Duncan Smith's politically motivated actions around the 'need for a father' debate, quoting it as if it was a politically neutral group (in actual fact it was Iain Duncan Smith who moved the main 'need for a father' motion.

I was also disappointed he used Thought for The Day to wade into the debate on this issue which to my mind cuts across the BBC guidelines on impartiality.

Nonetheless I was interested by this section:

For a Bill providing loopholes by which Fatherhood becomes unnecessary seems strangely regressive. Same sex parenting is a feature in our democracy. But legislation which institutionalises the absence of fatherhood seems to me like a cultural time bomb.

It's great to see the recognition (don't blink you might miss it) of same sex parenting. The idea that law on IVF clinic treatment's is the place to tell fathers to take their responsibilities seriously is simply weird, when you think about it. Because parents, mothers, fathers, same sex, opposite sex should take their responsibilities seriously but it doesn't have to be in a heterosexual setting, does it?

I also noted this and see a little more (perhaps):

In the cacophony of voices on the subject there should be room for one more: it's the apostle Paul. "You have many teachers," he said, "but not many fathers." Fatherhood is not a biological accident or cultural misogyny.

Interesting. Interesting because Paul says 'not many fathers' - presumably you can have more than one .... Interesting also because Paul is arguing he is their (the Christians at Corinth) father, so he isn't actually addressing himself to biological fatherhood, which is the very point of same sex parenting .... where the second is ... a supportive parent? (i.e. the words the Government has put into the Bill).

And of course Paul also does describe himself (to Christians of Galatia) as their mother and we know that Jesus was raised by Joseph without being his genetic father.

Just a few thoughts. Or am I reading too much into it?

Well at the very least someone that quotes Moltmann and Tillich can't be entirely bad....


Example here of an evangelical tirade against Joel for the way he has expressed his more moderate views. I have bought the book and await its delivery from Amazon.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

UK Govt to promote LGBT human rights

Full report on Pink News - Foreign Office instructs embassies to push LGBT rights

Press release here on the FCO website
Despite repeated condemnation by the UN Human Rights Committee, discrimination and denial of people’s basic human rights due to sexual orientation continues. Human rights are universal and should not be determined by sexual orientation or gender identity. We are committed to promoting equality and ending the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) around the world and have developed a programme to help achieve this. Working with human rights activists, international institutions and non-governmental organisations and like minded governments the Foreign Office is targeting states where same sex relations are illegal, to raise our concerns and encourage them to change their laws.

Why isn't Obama able to win everywhere?

Last night Obama inched yet further towards the nomination by sweeping ahead in (largely white let it be said Oregon).

Hilary still determined to stay in the race but surely now not thinking she will win but thinking no doubt of other things and of course keeping hope alive because you never know - it isn't over till it's over.

Why isn't Obama winning in every state?

Because both candidates have shown themselves to be very evenly matched in this contest and Hilary has shown her self to be extremely resilient (to her credit), albeit by shifting her message rather widly (less to her credit). There's no knock out blow because they're so evenly matched.

Does this mean she can still win?

Surely not. Because while the two are very evenly matched one of them has the edge - more pledged delegates, more super delegates, more small donors, ahead in the popular vote.

Hilary no doubt wants to get herself a name as a non-quitter and the party's foremost campaigner, the Dem's No2.

Clearly she has and will earn that right by the end of this process, whatever her formal role (I don't think two evenly balanced candidates should serve as each other's running mate, though evenly matched teams occasionally do very well......)

From today's Guardian They think it's all over by Michael Tomasky

But Appalachian states are not in conflict. They're red. Lots of pundits don't understand this yet. It wouldn't matter if Obama lost Kentucky by 80 points.

The only point now is how to end this thing. Clinton deserves respect. But she can't win. All that's needed is a referee who has the authority to send her to the locker room. Good luck with that, Democrats.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Phew! Government survives with its dignity intact

Finally we have seen that the Government has come through.

I think that hybrid embryos and saviour siblings were such issues that should have been resolved by a free vote. The Government had significant majorities.

Reinsertion of a need for a father for IVF treatment, although sounding commonsensical, would have been damaging and discriminatory in its impact.

From a Government that has legislated in favour of same sex adoption, Civil Partnerships and against discrimination in adoption services defeat on that would have been symbolic but a catastrophic loss of nerve on an issue of principle.

Although it was a completely free vote it would have been the wrong move to lower the limit for abortions.

What is worrying is the extent that politicians are demanding that their religious beliefs exempt them from the social policies of the Government, especially around fairness and equality. Worrying trend for the future.

Commons votes to maintain time limit

Vote No1 (13 weeks) 71-393 maj 322
Vote No2 (16 weeks) 84-387 maj 303
Vote No3 (20 weeks) 190-332 maj 142
Vote No4 (provisions relating to information in the event of abnormalities) 173-309 maj 136
Vote No5 (22 weeks) 233-304 maj 71

Govt wins both votes on 'need for a father'

217-292 maj 75
RESULT VOTE No2 222-290 maj 68

I shall be posting here as things develop this afternoon.

Ian Duncan Smith's speech was very well crafted and delivered, especially in its peroration, though still dogged by his 'frog'

Dawn Primiarolo gave an assured, impassioned and spirited performance - by far the best I have seen from her

Evan Harris as good and lucid as always

John Bercow gave his usual performance in intervening helpfully on speeches on his own bench

Good speeches by a number of Labour MP's, especially Chris Bryant.

Of the antis Geraldine Smith (Lab) was infuriating opining that discriminatory treatment was 'just common sense' - lost count of how often she repeated that particular mantra but also said that Lancashire Lesbians were 'more down to earth' than Lesbians elsewhere......


Agency Staff to get equal rights Breaking News on BBC

Link here.

Unions, which have campaigned for the measure for years, described Tuesday's agreement as a massive step forward.

There are estimated to be about 1.4 million agency workers in the UK.

Comment on California

Relying on Andrew Sullivan for much current commentary on this debate.

This item
links to comments about supposed judicial hast (over reach?) in the Court's ruling but notes just how out of step California was 60 years ago in ruling racially mixed marriages could not be outlawed (even when they then were by all states up to that point and a ruling by the US Supreme Court was around 20 years into the future).

The key to California's decision in both 1948 and 2008 was to look more closely at an issue that had often before been rejected out of hand. In 1948 the court said that yes "separate but equal" was the law but looked at from the point of view of the individual there was no equal substitute for one's chosen marital partner. In 2008 they said yes the "right to marry" had been stated before with the idea of a marriage being the union of a man and a woman, but if one looked at the reasons for why marriage was a fundamental right it was clear that they would apply equally to unions of the same sex. In both cases it was the careful examination that led to what I believe was the correct decision on the law. Even if you believe one or both cases were incorrectly decided, though, when it comes down to fundamental rights and minorities that have not always been treated justly, it is no virtue for a court to ignore the issue in deference to the wishes of a majority. They should strive instead strive in good faith to apply the constitution regardless of the popularity of the decision. Those that disagree should argue on against the reasoning used and the legal principles applied and not rely on overstated cries of judicial activism.

France to promote LGBT rights

Have just come across this link to an interview given by Rama Yade, French Minister for Human Rights to gay magazine Tetu (from the web site of the French Foreign Office) about France's role in promoting LGBT rights.

There is also a report from yesterday's Pink News titled France will argue for universal decriminalisation at the UN.

Elsewhere have also blogged previously about work being started by the UK Government which Gordon Brown also committed to on becoming Prime Minister.

What will you be doing to help persecuted LGBT community worldwide from persecution and violence from right wing governments? What about EU countries that are hostile to gay rights? Ross Hunter

This Government has taken a lead in ending discrimination against gay and lesbian people in Britain, but as you say, Ross, the fight to counter discrimination is not restricted to the UK.

The reports we hear are deeply concerning: around the world gay and lesbian people are outlawed, persecuted and killed for advocating their rights.

We have announced an international strategy to promote rights overseas, which includes Britain's commitment to the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality.

We are and will continue to work with foreign partners and domestic organisations to protect the human rights of gay and lesbian people throughout the world.

HFEB Day 2 (Tues)

Today's votes will be on the need for a father and the debate to lower the abortion limit.

From today's Guardian - Do families need fathers?

Duncan Smith claims that, without fathers, boys join gangs and teenage girls become pregnant. But "there's nothing magical about fathers," says Susan Golombok, professor of family research and director of the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge, and co-author of Growing Up in a Lesbian Family. "Fathers who are very involved with their children are good for children. But fathers who are not very involved - they aren't as important, and can even have a negative effect. It's a very simplistic notion to think that fathers are important just because they're male."
From today's Times - Abortion: a worrying tale of leeches by David Aaronavitch.

So this is what all this nonsense about “compromise” boils down to - telling women who are less than 24 weeks pregnant and who don't want to have a baby that, legally, they must go through with the birth. We then leave them the terrible choice of procuring an abortion elsewhere or of bearing a child they do not want.

To me, this is immoral. It is not a conjecture about lives that could be led, but an action that will damage lives that are being led. Tonight conscientious MPs should put on their leech-socks and vote against all these parasitical amendments.

On both issues we get the merest glimpse of the kind of Chamber we would have with a Conservative majority after the next election - not nice to behold.

Meanwhile, Louise has blogged extensively on yesterday's votes including Labour MP's who voted against the Government.

Monday, May 19, 2008

HFEB Day 1 - Government majority in today's votes

Hybrid embryos

Admixed embryos - Govt wins 336 - 176 Maj 160 (3 Cabinet members vote against).

True hybrids - Govt wins 286-223 Maj 63

Saviour siblings - votes as they happen

Tissue tying and sex selection - Govt wins 318-149 majority against amendment of 169.

Outright ban on tissue typing - Govt wins 342-163 majority against of 179

Restriction to use of regenerative tissue Govt wins 293-200 majority of 93

BBC report


Today's newspapers included a number of articles including a good one by Jackie Ashley in the Guardian This fight really matters, and lays bare the big party divide :

Here's the bad news. Normal people can't afford to look away. This is too big. On abortion, and much else, it is a fight between conservatives and liberals that truly matters.

Lose 100-plus Labour MPs next year, or in 2010, and you will get a much more reactionary Commons. Lose votes like the ones coming up this week and you have it already.

I don't want to live in a Britain dominated by religious teaching. I want to live in a pro-science, liberal and progressive country where real people's real suffering can be relieved by medical advances and where minority groups are not abused. Behind the tactical smoke, that's the choice before parliament this week.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

HFEB - good BBC Summary and the bishops bash back

Good BBC summary of the issues and timetable for the relevant votes.

I hope to put up a summary of events on the blog for Day One (Monday) as well as live blogging on tuesday when the 'need for a father' and the time limit for abortion are debated.

Meanwhile - Bishops Bash Back (article in the Times - that isn't the actual title of the article...)

Some quotes to let you know we're in the same old territory:

Tom wright, Bishop of Durham

We would like to make it plain that as people from other Christian
traditions we are completely opposed to the creation of animal-human hybrids,
saviour siblings and the removal of the obligation on IVF clinics to consider
the child's need for a father. This is not a narrowly Roman Catholic issue, nor
is it a narrowly Christian issue nor indeed is it a narrowly religious issue. It
is a human issue. We need to fight to uphold and protect our humanity
[That's told 'em]

Ian Lucas, Passion for Life (?)

Mr Brown [is] not respecting the conscience of his MPs

[in spite of his MPs ~ and Cabinet Ministers - all having a free vote?]

Josephine Quintavallem, Comment on Reproductive Ethics (?)

They devoted 700 hours to debate fox hunting and they’re going to give three
hours to debate whether you should kill the unborn child

[rather gives the game away that attempts to reduce the time limit are really fuelled by religiously motivated anti-abortion campaigners]

Finally we are told about the Islamic Medical Association which we are told "represents over two million British Muslims"

[two million doctors?]

Should be an interesting two days ...


A nice bit of trade union history

Have just been rummaging around the web and come across the most amazing and wonderful site and just had to do a link.

3 articles on the (what can only be called) COHSE blog about Lesbian and Gay issues within COHSE. COHSE was of course one of the 3 unions that merged to form UNISON in 1993 (alongside NUPE and NALGO).

Includes a great article about a Conference motion carried at the 1987 COHSE Conference in support of Lesbian and Gay Rights and agreeing to affiliate to the Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights, now LGBT Labour. (Text of motion reproduced below). Also references COHSE's campaigning against section 28.

I can only congratulate the authors of the blog on maintaining these historical references.

Text of the motion

Lesbian & Gay Rights

Resolution 90 COHSE Conference 1987

That this Conference opposes all discrimination against Lesbian and gay men and recognises that this discrimination is institutionalised in society as it is in the National Health Service.

Conference therefore welcomes and reaffirms COHSE's support for the lesbian and gay resolutions passed at the 1985 and1986 TUC and Labour Party Conferences and calls on the National Executive Committee to:

(i) oppose all discrimination against lesbian and gay men in the Health Service and in the trade union and Labour movement;
(ii) support the Labour councils' introduction of comprehensive equal opportunities policies including 'positive images' of lesbian and gay men such as in Ealing and Haringey Council;
(iii) support for district health authorities who have introduced comprehensive equal opportunities with union support;
(iv) campaign for all District Health Authorities to include in their equal opportunities policy opposition to discrimination against lesbian and gay men;
(v) support the awareness of lesbian and gay issues within COHSE and the trade union and Labour movement;
(vi) affiliate to the Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights and support theLCLGR Charter.


Are Christians facing discrimination?

Excellent article form Jonathan Bartley, Ekklesia

Are Christians facing discrimination?

It is not well known, but it is often the same people who are fuelling the
scare stories of Christian marginalisation that appear in the papers. A small
collection of lobby groups, these usual suspects are actively seeking out
potential cases of discrimination which they can then publicise, make a
political campaign out of, or pursue in the courts. They are also drawing advice
and training from the US, where similar strategies have been pursued.

What is behind their zeal? Their agenda is a desperate attempt to win
back, or at least try to maintain, many of the special privileges and exemptions
that Christianity has previously enjoyed, but which society is no longer willing
to grant. Their argument is that since Britain is a 'Christian country', their
faith, and its adherents, should have special recognition and dispensation.

But they are faced with an internal contradiction which virtually
guarantees their failure - and helps to explain why their have had so little


1890's recording from Walt Whitman

Taken from Andrew Sullivan's blog Daily Dish from gay American poet Walt Whitman
Also the link here on You Tube.


Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear'd, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love...


From today's papers

Quite a lot in the papers about the HFEB votes.

Simon Jenkins is excellent and rightly robust in the Times Family planning is one area in which we don't need MP's help

Some quotes:

The Commons will have a chance to stamp the medieval demand of the Catholic Church that MPs obey its edicts rather than their judgments.
Those who regard women as involuntary incubators of God’s souls treat all abortion as murder and therefore seek to ban it by law. I cannot see how this entitles them also to draw fine distinctions as between 24 weeks and 20, 18 or 13. Abortion should be a matter for women, couples, doctors and medical advance to resolve. Each case will be personal and unique. Parliament, having decided to interfere, should at least leave in place a limit validated by experience.

The opposition is like that to Queen Victoria’s use of chloroform in childbirth as “defying God’s labour”.

As for the Commons debate over whether an IVF baby needs a father, words almost fail me. Of course babies are better off with fathers, but whose business is that? We do not enforce abortions on pregnant schoolgirls for lacking a husband, despite the near-certainty of such a child being born into a dysfunctional home. What are we doing about families ruined by rotten fathers? In my experience women seeking IVF, whether gay or not, are self-selected as responsible parents by virtue of being prepared to go through this uncomfortable process.

However, anyone who thinks that parliament will do the job better should look at this week’s whipping list, with its ludicrous distinction between “government” clauses and “conscience” clauses. Every law should be on MPs’ consciences. For the most part MPs should stop meddling in how people choose to plan and protect their families. They have enough trouble with their own.

Very well and succinctly put.

Also in the Observer:

Gordon Brown Why I believe stem cell researchers deserve our backing

Should scientists be given the legal framework they say they need to pursue new cures and treatments through stem cell research or will we turn our back on these potential advances?

Should children who face death or critical illness find new hope in scientific advances that would allow their new brother or sister to be not just a blessing to their family, but also a saviour sibling to them?

And should people be able to approach IVF clinics without fear of discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation?

My answer to all those questions is an unequivocal yes.

Mary Warnock Women, not the unborn deserve our protection

For law cannot be based on what is largely a religious belief and, this apart, we know that abortions would continue to be carried out, only more dangerously, by dodgy doctors or unqualified backstreet abortionists. For those too young to remember, trust me, this is never to be wished for.

The truth, as it always has been, is that we should turn our attention instead to their mothers and consider why they are seeking to abort their babies at so late a stage of pregnancy.

We ought to pay less attention to the destruction of life by abortion than to the quality of life of those who are allowed to live. Life, after all, is not an abstract shared by everyone who is alive - there is no human life that is not lived by somebody. And it is these living people to whom we should attach value and whom we should, if necessary, protect.