What I shall say to Stephen Green

I’m looking forward to ‘meeting’ Stephen Green on Saturday. I shall be in Canterbury to attend the AGM of the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association, whose magazine – GHQ – as you know, I edit.

We have been tipped off by an evangelical Christian in Canterbury – whose loathing of Mr Green marginally outweighs his loathing of gays and “pagans” (as he calls Humanists) – that Green is intending to hijack their ‘peaceful demonstration’ against our AGM.

The group, which calls itself “Christian Family & Youth Concern Fellowship” had been planning to register their protest against our supposed aim of “promoting sexual deviancy and paganism” in a “holy city” and their leader, a Rev Darryl Griffiths, wrote to the hotel hosting the event in an attempt to get them to either cancel the event or allow their mob to wave banners in the car park. Fortunately they were told to get knotted and that no molestation of the hotel’s guests would be tolerated.

So they decided to hold a “pray-in” instead. Enter Stephen Green.

Re G&LHA Conference, Canterbury.
Sorry not to be in touch before. I should be interested in the hymn-singing vigil you mention, and could advertise this and support it with people. I’ll be pleased to send you the latest Christian Voice newsletter if you would be kind enough to email me a note of your land address and church attended …
May God bless you.
Yours sincerely,
Stephen Green, M.A
National Director, Christian Voice

But, says Rev Griffiths in his correspondence with GALHA:

“Unfortunately, I learned yesterday afternoon that one of our members, a bit of a ‘loose cannon’, has taken it upon himself to alert Stephen Green of Christian Voice to the G&LHA conference (sic). This was done without consulting me, or other fellowship members. Stephen Green is well-known within the Christian Community for his outspoken views and for a somewhat strident approach to those with whom he disagrees. Our concern is that he may well organise his own protest, which is certainly against our wishes.”

As an aside, I’d take Stephen Green’s approach any day. It is far less insidious than Rev Griffith’s alternative. Griffith says:

“Our fear, is that Stephen Green may turn up anyway, undoing all the valuable outreach work we have done in helping gays who seek salvation through prayer and Christian fellowship. If he does, we wish to make it clear that he does so without the approval or encouragement of the FYC fellowship. We oppose stridency from any quarter, as it’s always counter-productive in bringing the wayward back to the fold.”

What is his vehicle for this? Why, the Alpha Course, of course!

“[W]e will be contacting local newspapers in order to advertise the Alpha Course and encourage homosexuals to turn away from the dark path they have chosen,” says Griffiths.

The Alpha Course targets people who want to “explore the meaning of life” – in other words, people who feel lost, alienated, depressed and directionless. People who are emotionally vulnerable: like many lesbian and gay people whose minds have already been brutalised by The Church. Alpha is to religion what McDonald’s is to cuisine – and they have just as stringent branding rules. So successful is the commodifying of evangelicalism that they now advertise on London busses. (This is no surprise, since half of London’s busses are run by Stagecoach – owned by another homophobic religious nut. But I digress…

Stephen Green is in all sorts of trouble at the moment. He’s facing a prosecution for “using threatening words and behaviour” at a Cardiff gay pride event. From what I can ascertain, this didn’t amount to much more than doling out ‘turn or burn’ type leaflets.

An unrepentant Green claims that his “rights to free speech have been challenged”.

And, he’s absolutely right. I’ll go on record as saying that I support his right to express his views in a peaceful manner. The police and the courts have no moral right to pursue people for simply expressing their thoughts and opinions, as long as they do not incite violence or make violent threats.

But, since Stephen Green only speaks the language of fundamentalists, I would have to refer him to what Jesus says (as reported in Matthew 7:5):

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Stephen Green is no supporter of freedom of speech. I shan’t rehash the disgraceful tactics he used to try to shut down Jerry Springer: The Opera, since I covered it on the GALHA blog at the time.

Of course, Green and his ilk don’t balk orchestrating prosecutions of “religious hatred” when some sad facts are pointed out at their expense. The Gay Police Association is facing a possible prosecution after they revealed in an advert that the majority of homophobic incidents reported to them had a religious component.

As Peter Tatchell pointed out yesterday in his Comment Is Free piece:

“The GPA advert has reportedly prompted thousands of complaints to the Metropolitan Police by supporters of religious pressure groups, as well as by die-hard fundamentalists. They have expressed no concern about the death threats, but they want the ad banned and are demanding the prosecution of the GPA. The Met is now investigating whether the GPA advertisement constitutes an anti-religious hate crime. It has referred the complaints to the Crown Prosecution Service.”

Isn’t this all getting a bit too much? I have no illusions that the bulk of homophobia is generated by men in frocks. I want the right to confront them without the fear of prosecution. I do not fear their ludicrous tracts – bring ‘em on I say – because they can be defeated with persistent reason and clear-headed logic. I don’t need the long arm of the law to protect me from Stephen Green. But, if he has the courage of his convictions, he needs to explain why he needs the law to protect his beliefs from me.

So I shall tell Mr Green that, in this instance at least, I’m prepared to act on Jesus’s advice (also in Matthew 7), even as he so flagrantly defies it. I shall do unto others as I would have them do unto me. If he arrives on Saturday with his slogans and leaflets, I shall intercede if the Canterbury police emulate their colleagues in Cardiff. I shall say:

“For f…reedom’s sake, officer, let the man speak his mind!” – and, if necessary, I shall offer to be arrested along side him.

This madness has to be challenged.