Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Spring 1999

Homophobia versus Humanism

by Brett Humphreys

The Web provides ample space for the expression of many views, including some that are very different from those of humanists.

HateWatch, rightly opposing any attempt at censorship, seeks to counter the growing number of hate sites by exposing them to a wider audience. A veritable catalogue of over 200 nasties takes in racists, white supremacists, neo-nazis, homophobes, anti-semites and anti-christians among others. Currently seven sites are listed in the anti-gay hate category, including the one belonging to the Nobodaddy of them all, Rev. Fred Phelps (see Web Watch and Hate Comes to Provincetown, G&LH Spring 1998). Another good source of information on anti-gay hate organisations is the Matthew Shepard Online Resources site, named after the gay student whose homophobic murder in Wyoming in October 1998 focused attention on the activities of such groups.

Perhaps more insidious than the out-and-out hate sites are those like the US-based National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, with its veneer of scientific respectability. This band of dissident psychiatrists in the tradition of Irving Bieber remain dedicated to the idea that homosexuality is a “perversion” to be “cured”. They help to fuel the “ex-gay” movement (whose many websites are a topic in their own right).

The Christian Institute, a fundamentalist group based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, is one of the main UK organisations actively campaigning against lesbian and gay rights. One of its patrons is Baroness Young, spearhead of the opposition in the House of Lords to an equal age of consent, who must surely have greatly extended the list of people not sorry to see the impending demise of that undemocratic institution. The other patron is the equally homophobic Baroness Cox. The stated aims of the Christian Institute include “to challenge humanism, relativism, and other ideologies” and “to equip Christians for action”. The latter no doubt refers to the political lobbying that is much in evidence on the site. One noteworthy feature of the site, albeit now rather dated given that it was prepared in March 1997, shortly before the last General Election, is a list showing how each MP voted in a range of free votes on social issues between 1988 and 1996. CI spokespeople seem particularly keen on pointing out (based on the 1990 National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles) that in the UK “some 70% of men believe that [male] homosexuality is always or mostly wrong”. Variants of this appear no less than six times on the website. By selective quotation of the figure that best suits their purpose they not only ignore lesbians but also, it seems, expose their contempt for the views of women in general.

Another organisation whose name conceals the extent of its focus on political lobbying is Christian Action, Research and Education (CARE). Its professionally designed website is substantial, well organised, and technically one of the most advanced I have come across. Needless to say, the content is less praiseworthy. The Parliamentary and Campaigns section contains many references to the age-of-consent legislation, against which CARE, like the Christian Institute, is actively campaigning.

Reform, the evangelical organisation set up in 1993 to oppose liberalisation in the Church of England, also has many unkind things to say about homosexuality. This is perhaps not surprising since one of its main founders was Rev. David Holloway, Vicar of Jesmond Parish Church, Newcastle, and the Christian Institute’s leading exponent on gay affairs. This rather messy site is probably of more interest to Anglicans than humanists, but if you do visit it, watch out for the many broken links and peculiar use of frames within frames.

On a more pleasant note, homophobia is nowhere to be found on the pages of the various UK local humanist groups that have appeared on the Web over the last year or so. They include the Bristol Humanist Group, Greater Manchester Humanist Group, and Harrow Humanist Society. The Bristol site is fairly small, and unfortunately rather out of date, not having been updated since July 1998. At present the Harrow site is even smaller, just three pages hosted by Clarence Wilson, but it is up to date, and does come with music, humanist wallpaper and an animated ‘humanist’ globe which visitors are invited to take a copy of.

The Manchester site, by contrast, launched in August 1998, now runs to over 100 pages, some of them quite long, including an extensive FAQ on humanism. It doubles as the personal site of the group’s secretary Arthur Chappell and has a wide selection of his writings from a humanist perspective, including essays, reviews, poems and even a full-length Dr Who fanzine novel. There is a detailed report of the group’s November 1995 meeting at which Prof. Howard Hughes of GALHA spoke on the subject of homosexuality, to which there is also a positive attitude throughout the site. This site contains a great deal of good material and is well worth a visit.

Roy Saich has recently launched his own independent humanist website, updated monthly. Among other things it provides commentary on current news items, details of forthcoming humanist events throughout the UK (as well as some overseas), and miniature biographies of over thirty people who have contributed significantly to the humanist tradition. Take a look around the site then press Roy’s feedback button to let him know what you think of it.

From small beginnings towards the end of 1996, the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association’s site, later joined by the Pink Triangle Trust, has continued to expand. A growing collection of articles from current and past issues of Gay and Lesbian Humanist now includes Web Watch Online, with more detailed and up-to-date links than is possible in the printed version. Highly recommended (dare I say?) for anyone wanting to follow up on the sites and pages mentioned in this or previous editions.

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Created : Sunday, 1999-04-18 / Last updated : Saturday, 2008-10-18
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