Do Something!,  Secularism

Oppose Pope Benedict’s State Visit to the UK

Protest the Pope  

This Sunday 14 February 2010

Meet at 1pm outside Westminster Cathedral (not Westminster Abbey).

Victoria Street, London SW1 (near the corner with Ambrosden Avenue) 
March to the Italian Embassy in Grosvenor Square for a rally at 3pm.

We support:

• Women’s equality and reproductive rights

• Equal rights for LGBT people

• A secular Europe – immune to the Vatican’s agenda

• One law for all, no religious exemptions from the law

• State neutrality in matters of religion and belief  

We oppose:

• European Union collusion with religion (Lisbon Treaty Article 16c)

• The special status of the Vatican in the United Nations

• State-funded faith schools

• The economic privilege and political influence of the Vatican in Italy

• Taxpayers funding the Pope’s State Visit to the UK this September

• Misogyny, homophobia, fascism, racism and xenophobia 

Protest against the Pope’s State Visit to the UK 

“We want a secular Europe, where the Vatican and the Catholic church cease attempting to impose their harsh, intolerant morality on everyone else,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who is speaking at Sunday’s protest and assisting with its organisation.  

“The Pope opposes women’s rights, gay equality, embryonic stem cell research, death with dignity and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. 

“He wants the Catholic Church to be exempt from equality and anti-discrimination laws that apply to everyone else.   

“Pope Benedict played a key role in the cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy.  

“He has rehabilitated the Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, and even though Pope Pius XII failed to speak out against the Holocaust he plans to make him a saint.

“Given that he opposes universal equality and human rights, Pope Benedict should not be accorded the honour of a State Visit to Britain.

“The estimated £20 million cost of the visit will be funded by the taxpayer. The Pope has already denounced our equality laws. He is likely to abuse his presence in Britain to further attack our democratically-agreed legislation that gives equal rights to women and gay people. 

“The Pope has discouraged the use of condoms in countries where HIV infections are decimating whole populations. Such teachings are irresponsible and immoral,” said Mr Tatchell.

Sunday’s demonstration is organised by the Central London Humanist Group in partnership with the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society, One Law for All, the Gay And Lesbian Humanist Association, the Rationalist Association and OutRage!.  

It is in solidarity with the demonstration happening the same weekend in Rome, also against the Vatican and its reactionary interference in Italian, European and world-wide politics. 

Program of the demonstration: 
– Assemble: 1pm at Westminster Cathedral (not the Abbey) 
– March: 2pm – 3pm from Westminster Cathedral to the Italian embassy 
– Rally: 3pm – 5pm at the Italian embassy (Grosvenor square) 
Speakers at the Italian embassy (3pm) : 
* Bob Churchill (British Humanist Association), 
* Derek Lennard (Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association) 
* Maryam Namazie (One Law for All) 
* Gerard Phillips (Protest The Pope) 
* David Pollock (European Humanist Federation) 
* Terry Sanderson (National Secular Society) 
* Peter Tatchell (OutRage!) 
* Josh Kutchinsky (Central London Humanist Group)


Protest organiser, Marco Tranchino, writes:  
The tiny Vatican State is inhabited mainly by priests. It is extremely powerful and its “moral” crusades adversely affect the lives of millions of people in Europe and across the world. 
Officially part of the UN, its “observer-state” status means it can access, influence and pressure UN debates on issues such as birth control, abortion and homosexuality. No other religion has such privileged UN status.  
The Vatican has diplomatic relationships with almost all the countries in the world (174 when John Paul II died) and in many EU countries it benefits from the support of Catholic politicians and, in many cases, of Christian political parties.

Of the 27 countries of the European Union, 14 are bound to the Vatican by at least one treaty. No other faith has such political power in Europe and the world; prompting the Economist to publish an investigation about the diplomatic service of the Vatican, questioning whether it deserves its special status in the UN (21 July 2007) 
The Catholic Church is an extremely profitable business. It owns businesses such as hotels, restaurants, shops and private schools and the Vatican pays no tax! On top of this, the Vatican receives public money in many countries: in Italy about 1000 million Euros in taxes paid to the Vatican every year (991 millions € in 2007 ). 
Through its very considerable political, diplomatic and economic power, the Vatican adversely impacts on the lives of European citizens, and the wider humanity.

The issue of women’s rights and the Catholic Church goes way beyond the hierarchy of the church, where women are unable to ascend to priesthood as a result of their gender. Women who have had a divorce, women who want to have an abortion and women who are living as single parents in Catholic countries are often victims of moral intimidation and discrimination. The Pope encourages us to view women as unequal to men, by consistently and publicly stating that the two genders are different and that women are naturally inclined to be mothers and child-carers. In some Catholic countries, like Ireland and Poland, abortion is illegal. In others, like Italy, the right to an abortion is constantly under threat from the Vatican’s pressure on the government. 
The Pope says that being gay is an “objective disorder” and a “moral evil”. In nearly half the countries in the world, homosexuality is totally illegal and punishable by long terms of imprisonment. A proposal for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality was opposed by the Vatican in the UN in 2008. It has a long history of blocking attempted UN debates on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights; often refusing to condemn homophobia and opposing laws to protect LGBT people against discrimination. .

Although Britain is a fairly “secular” society, Christianity still has considerable influence in many British institutions and it continues to enjoy unfair privileges. 
A limited right to abortion has been granted to women living in England, Scotland and Wales, but in Northern Ireland it remains illegal. This anomaly is significantly due to religious influence, including that of the Catholic Church. Christian lobbies are engaged in continual efforts to restrict a woman’s right to abortion and have succeeded in reducing the time limits for an abortion.

Religion retains undue influence and power in various ways. With increasing numbers of state funded faith schools (1 in 3 of all schools in the UK is either Catholic or Church of England), religious institutions continue to exercise an influence on many young people. 
The churches (especially the Catholic church) made sure that the proposed EU Constitution – and the now approved Lisbon Treaty (article 16c) – dangerously commits the European Union to “an open, transparent and regular dialogue with Churches and religious organisations”. Why should religious bodies receive this special treaty guarantee, which is denied to humanists and human rights advocates?  
The state should be neutral in matters of religion or belief.

No faith should have privileged legal or social status, or special access to government 
The beliefs of one group should not be used to limit the rights of others. 
We affirm the common values of the people of Europe as expressed in the Brussels Declaration.  
We want to protect democracy and to champion human rights against those who seek to retain undemocratic influence and deny equality and protection against discrimination to others.