Thursday, 27 October 2011

Jeffrey get your facts right about cafés, the bible and LGBT in this country

Today in PMQs the DUP's MP for Lagan Valley, Jeffrey Donaldson, asked David Cameron the following question:

Q8. [76635] Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): The Prime Minister has warned African countries that unless they improve gay rights, he will cut their aid, yet in many African countries where we pour in millions of pounds of aid, Christians face great persecution and destruction of churches, lives and property. Here in the UK, anyone who displays a Bible verse on the wall of a café faces prosecution. Was Ann Widdecombe right when she said that in the 21st century hedgehogs have more rights than Christians?

Now me being curious wanted to take a look at just how many cafe owners had faced prosecution for the offence of displaying a bible verse as I know a few of them around Northern Ireland that do so. Though I do know that potentially there are a few that are on permanent display on roadsides in Northern Ireland that could cause offence to certain sections of the community under section 75 (1) of the Belfast Agreement and I have yet to hear of anyone or any LGBT group protesting or prosecuting their existence.

It appears I wasn't the only one to want to do a fact check, read this piece by full fact check.

The Ann Widdecombe reference comes from this article in her Express column. But she doesn't mention anything about Cafes.

No that honour goes to the Fail on Sunday (again I have to apologise to readers for the link). After 24 paragraphs of reporting in which it is said that

  • the cafe owner was threatened with arrest
  • that he was told to stop playing his DVDs of the New Testament
  • that he faced and intensive inquisition for over an hour after the police arrived unannounced
  • that he was being bullied by the police
  • that he feared being put into handcuffs
  • that the Christian Institute (yes them again) are preparing a complaint on the cafe owners behalf

We get to this statement from Lancashire Constabulary after it says that they turned up to look into a complaint from a member of the public under the Public Order Act 1986 (which also for the record states that criticism of sexual conduct shall not in itself be deemed threatening or to stir up hatred):

"At no point did the officer ask the cafe owner to remove any materials or arrest the man and we took a commonsense and objective approach in dealing with the complaint. We believe our response and the action we took was completely proportionate and our officers are always available should the cafe owner want to discuss the matter or need any advice in the future. 
"The Constabulary is respectful of all religious views. However, we do have a responsibility to make sure that material that communities may find deeply offensive or inflammatory is not being displayed in public. 
"No complaint has been received about the conduct of the officer in question and we are satisfied that they performed their duties professionally."

Yeah it is another non-story in the Fail.

Maybe Jeffrey should look at some of the activity within his own party. Of course there is the former chair of the Health Committee who said that homosexual should see her little Christian psychiatrist friend for a cure. Or the current deputy chair who says that all those who take part in Pride are repugnant. Even those it would seem who offer counselling to suicidal LGBT young and not so young people, those who offer sexual health advise to all whether LGBT or straight, those who are men/women of the cloth, those who sit with them in Stormont or council chambers across Northern Ireland.

In America the so called family group, the American Family Association (AFA), have this week attacked the Trevor Project, a helpline for suicidal prevention among LGBT teens. So clearly they don't want people to tell these LGBT teens, who are five times more likely to take their own lives that straight teens, not to commit suicide. Sadly that is not so far removed from the actions and words of many in the DUP and indeed the tone with which Mr Donaldson asked his question. The figures for homophobic bullying of teens in Northern Ireland are as bad as in the USA where the AFA operate are just as bad.

Those of us who have been through those feelings in the past want to tell Northern Ireland LGBT teens, young people and not so young that it gets better, but how can we when our leaders fail to get their facts right about issues of homophobia real or alleged.

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