Archive for September, 2008
Sexual cleansing in Iraq
Islamist death squads are hunting down gay Iraqis and summarily executing them
WATCH the video link below – and weep:
By Peter Tatchell
London & Baghdad – 25 September 2008
STOP PRESS: This morning, news came from Iraq that the coordinator of Iraqi LGBT in Baghdad, Bashar, aged 27, has been assassinated in a barber shop. Militias burst in and sprayed his body with bullets.
The so-called improved security situation in Iraq is not benefiting all Iraqis, especially not gay ones. Islamist death squads are engaged in a homophobic killing spree, with the active encouragement of leading Muslim clerics, such as Moqtada al-Sadr, as Newsweek recently revealed.
One of these clerics, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Shia Islam, issued a fatwa urging the killing of lesbians and gays in the “worst, most severe way possible.”
The short film, Queer Fear – Gay Life, Gay Death in Iraq, produced by David Grey for Village Film, documents the tragic fates of a several individual gay Iraqis.
Watch and weep. A truly poignant and moving revelation about the terrorisation and murder of Iraqi lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Since this film was made, the killings have continued and, many say, got worse.
For gay Iraqis there is little evidence of the transition to democracy. They don’t experience any new-found respect human rights. Life for them is even worse than under the tyrant Saddam Hussein.
It is a death sentence in today’s “liberated” Iraq to love a person of the same-sex, or for a woman to have sex outside of marriage, or for a Muslim to give up his / her faith or embrace another religion.
The reality on the ground is that theocracy is taking hold of the country, including in Basra, which was abandoned by the British military. In place of foreign occupation, the city’s inhabitants now endure the terror of fundamentalist militias and death squads. Those who are deemed insufficiently devout and pure are liable to be assassinated.
The death squads of the Badr Brigades and the Madhi Army are targeting gays and lesbians, according to UN reports, in a systematic campaign of sexual cleansing. They proudly boast of their success, claiming that they have already exterminated all “perverts and sodomites” in many of the major cities.
You can view photos of a few of the LGBT victims of these summary executions here:
My friends in Iraq have relayed to me the tragic story of five gay activists, who belonged to the underground movement gay rights movement, Iraqi LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender).
Eye-witnesses confirm that they saw the men being led out of a house at gun-point by officers in police uniform. Yes, Iraqi police! Nothing has been heard of the five victims since then. In all probability, they have been executed by the police – or by Islamist death squads who have infiltrated the Iraqi police and who are using their uniforms to carry out so-called honour killings of gay people, unchaste women and many others.
The arrested and disappeared men were Amjad 27, Rafid 29, Hassan 24, Ayman 19 and Ali 21. As members of Iraq’s covert gay rights movement, for the previous few months they had been documenting the killing of lesbians and gays, relaying details of the murders to the outside world, and providing safe houses and support to other gay people fleeing the death squads.
Their abduction is just one of many outrages by anti-gay death squads. lslamist killers burst into the home of two lesbians in city of Najaf. They shot them dead, slashed their throats, and also murdered a young child who the women had rescued from the sex trade. The two women, both in their mid-30s, were members of Iraqi LGBT. They were providing a safe house for gay men on the run from death squads. By sheer luck, none of the men who were being given shelter in the house were at home when the assassins struck. They have since fled to Baghdad and are hiding in an Iraqi LGBT safe house there.
Large parts of Iraq are now under the de facto control of the militias and their death squad units. They enforce a harsh interpretation of Sharia law, summarily executing people for what they denounce as “crimes against Islam.” These “crimes” include listening to western pop music, wearing shorts or jeans, drinking alcohol, selling videos, working in a barber’s shop, homosexuality, dancing, having a Sunni name, adultery and, in the case of women, not being veiled or walking in the street unaccompanied by a male relative.
Two militias are doing most of the killing. They are the armed wings of major parties in the Bush and Brown-backed Iraqi government. Madhi is the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr, and Badr is the militia of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is the leading political force in Baghdad’s governing coalition. Both militias want to establish an Iranian-style religious dictatorship. The allied occupation of Iraq is bad enough. But if the Madhi or Badr militias gain in influence and strength, as seems likely in the long-term, it could result in a reign of religious terror many times worse.
Saddam Hussein was a bloody tyrant. I campaigned against his blood-stained misrule for nearly 30 years. But while Saddam was President, there was certainly no danger of gay people being assassinated in their homes and in the street by religious fanatics.
Since his overthrow, the violent persecution of lesbians and gays is much worse.
Even children suspected of being gay are abducted and later found shot in the head.
Lesbian and gay Iraqis cannot seek the protection of the police, since the police are heavily infiltrated by fundamentalists, especially the Badr militia. The death squads can kill with impunity. Pro-fundamentalist ministers in the Iraqi government are turning a blind eye to the killings, and helping to protect the killers. Some “liberation”.
* Iraqi LGBT is appealing for funds to help the work of their members in Iraq. Since they don’t yet have a bank account, they request that cheques should be made payable to “OutRage!”, with a cover note marked “For Iraqi LGBT”, and sent to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT.
More information on Iraqi LGBT or to make a donation by PayPal:
A homophobic mob has attacked participants in a gay festival in Bosnia.
People were dragged from cars and others were beaten in the streets of Sarajevo last night by hooded youths chanting Allahu akbar (God is Greatest), reports Reuters.
A much larger group of fascist protesters threw stones at people arriving at the opening event of the festival at Sarajevo’s Art Academy.
The police said one of their officers and two local journalists were among at least eight people injured.
Three of the mob were arrested.
Police had dispersed large crowds of protesters but they reportedly hid in side streets and attacked people as they left the event.
Reuters reported that a Danish national was seriously injured.
The Sarajevo Queer Festival has angered some Muslims in the country as it coincides with Ramadan, a month-long religious observance.
Croat and Serb leaders also expressed their displeasure at gay people holding such an event.
The Festival, the first of its kind in the country, began yesterday and ends on September 27th.
Posters appeared on the streets of Sarajevo earlier this month proclaiming “Death To Gays” and imams have spoken out, claiming that homosexuality is immoral and contrary to the Koran.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a potential candidate country for EU membership.
If admitted it would have the largest Muslim community of any member state.
The adherents of the Wahhabi sect make up a small section of Muslims in Bosnia.
Recent figures indicate that 40% of the population are Muslims, 31% are Orthodox Christians and 15% are Roman Catholics.
There is an equal age of consent but discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is “widespread” according to the EU.
URGENT ACTION – Uganda
Please support this appeal on behalf of our arrested and harassed LGBT brothers and sisters in Uganda.
This appeal is being coordinated by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
Below is the latest information on the homophobic witch-hunt in Uganda, and a sample letter you can send to the Ugandan President and others (their email addresses are below).
International solidarity works, as we know from the global campaign against apartheid in South Africa.
Thanks for your support for our Ugandan LGBT friends.
Peter Tatchell, OutRage!, London
September 19, 2008
INTERNATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Uganda: Action Alert-Demand An End To Official Harassment of LGBT Activists
In what appears to be an all-out effort to silence the sexual rights movement in Uganda, police have again arrested high profile members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, this time two male-to-female transgender gay men – Georgina (aka) Oundo George and Brenda (aka Kiiza). According to Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), two men who identified themselves as police officers, but were not in the customary Ugandan Police uniform arrested both men at the home of Georgina on Wednesday September 10, 2008.
Georgina and Brenda were held at Nabweru Police Post for a full week without access to lawyers or to bail. They were never brought before a judge, even though Article 3.9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that, “anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge.”
Article 23 of the Ugandan Constitution requires that an arrested person must appear before a judge within 48 hours of arrest.
Brenda and Georgina report being beaten, kicked and hit with batons round the legs and ankles during their detention as interrogators demanded that they provide information about the names and addresses of other LGBT activists. Brenda and Georgina were finally released on September 17, 2008, but have been required to report regularly to the police station. They have been accused of “spreading homosexuality,” though no such crime exists under Ugandan law. “Carnal knowledge against the order of nature” is punishable by up to life imprisonment in Uganda.
Among the rights violated in this most recent incident are:
The right to liberty and security of person; freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
The right to freedom from torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
The right to freedom of expression
IGLHRC requests that its members send appeals to Ugandan authorities as quickly as possible:
Demanding an end to the harassment of Oundo George and Kiiza through the requirement that they report to the police on a regular basis. Calling on the Ugandan government to immediately end illegal arrests and detention of LGBT individuals and human rights defenders.
Asking for a repeal of Section 145 of the Penal Code Act of 1950, which ostensibly criminalizes homosexual acts.
Please feel free to cut and paste from our letter (below) and send faxes and e-mails to the following officials:
PO Box 7168
Fax: + 256 414 346 102
Salutation: Your Excellency
Inspector General of Police
Major Kale Kayihura
PO Box 7055
Fax: + 256 414 255 630
Salutation: Dear Major
Minister of Justice
Hon. Makubuya Kiddu
PO Box 7183
Fax: + 256 414 234 453
Salutation: Dear Minister
Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission
P.O .Box 4929, Kampala,
Fax: +256 414 255 261
Salutation: Dear Chairperson
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of Uganda accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND COPIES OF ALL APPEALS TO IGLHRC SO THAT WE CAN TRACK THE RESPONSE:
Fax: +27.21.462.3024, fax
Your Excellency President Museveni,
I am writing to you to express my concern about the unwarranted arrest and arbitrary detention of two lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) human rights defenders in Uganda on September 10, 2008. George Oundo and Kizza Brenda were held in detention for eight days without going before a judge. Article 23 of the Constitution of Uganda makes it unconstitutional to hold a suspect for over 48 hours. Furthermore, it is my understanding that these two individuals were arrested and detained solely as a result of their sexual orientation and gender identity
The continuous violation of the basic human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people perpetuated by the Ugandan government is of great concern. I understand that Uganda is party to various
regional and international human rights covenants such as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which condemn arrests based on
arbitrary categories such as race, ethnicity, political belief and sexual orientation, among others.
I would ask that your government ceases and desists from harassing and arresting LGBT people simply because of their sexual orientation and gender identity and end the harassment and intimidation of LGBT human rights defenders. I would also urge you to consider the repeal of Section 145 of the Penal Code Act of 1950, which criminalizes homosexual acts. Such laws have been declared a violation of the rights to privacy and equality by the United Nations and have caused great pain to many of your citizens.
Executive Director International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Cc: Major Kale Kayihura, Hon. Makubuya Kiddu, Margret Sekagya
In the past five years, there have been nearly a dozen arrests of LGBT people on charges related to homosexuality in Uganda. Authorities have harassed LGBT human rights defenders in their homes and in public and fined a private radio station that broadcast a program on HIV prevention among men who have sex with men. In July 2005, Uganda’s Parliament passed an amendment to the constitution making Uganda only the second country in the world to use its supreme law to outlaw marriage between people of the same sex. In 2007, a coalition of religious leaders marched through the streets of Kampala demanding the arrests of LGBT people with one cleric even calling for the “starving to death” of homosexuals. Buttressed by the official homophobia of the state, the Ugandan media has published lists of gay men and lesbians, leading to physical violence, loss of employment and the curtailing of educational opportunities for those LGBT people who were named.
On June 4, 2008, Usaam Mukwaaya, Pepe Julian Onziema and Valentine Kalende, were arrested and charged with criminal trespass while peacefully attending the HIV/AIDS Implementers Meeting in Kampala. The arrest of the activists was condemned by local and international organizations, including UNAIDS, as well as by the U.S. government. Usaam Mukwaaya was rearrested on July 25, 2008 on his way from Friday prayers and was detained and tortured for several days.
IGLHRC is deeply concerned that this increasingly clear pattern of abuse – arrest, mistreatment in detention, and then release – is a systematic attempt to silence the Ugandan LGBT, feminist and human rights communities through constant harassment. There have also been reliable reports that authorities have a list of LGBT leaders including addresses, photographs and other personal information. Some activists have fled into neighboring countries to escape arrest.
The Mission of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is to secure the full enjoyment of human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression and/or HIV status.
Peter Tatchell is the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East
www.greenoxford.com/peter and www.petertatchell.net
This is a generic event but some people on here that are in London on the Sunday 28th may be interested in coming. The counter demo starts at 1pm at Piccadilly Circus.
Call for Al-Quds Day Counter Demo on Sunday 28th Sept
Islamic Republic sponsored annual march through the streets of London is due on Sunday 28th Sept.
To oppose this Islamic Republic propaganda march, we will assemble for a standing counter-demo at Piccadilly Circus at 1:00 PM.
Join us to oppose the Islamic Republic march on this day.
Last year’s Al-Quds march and counter demo:
Erm before I and others organising the counter demo get denounced for being a stooge of Bush and the US government I would draw attention of people to this little fact.
It is not just gay asylum seekers that have trouble with the British and US authorities.
The story had a happy ending and Arash is now out of the detention centre (Arash’s case has not been re heard by the Home Office though).
Dr. Kamiar Alaei should be in Albany right now, continuing his 2nd year of doctoral studies at SUNY Albany School of Public Health. Instead, he and his brother, Dr. Arash Alaei – internationally respected HIV/AIDS physicians – have been detained by the Iranian government and are being held without charge. Next week, on Wednesday September 24 at Noon, Physicians for Human Rights and a coalition of health and human rights groups are holding a vigil to call for their release during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to NYC for the UN General Assembly.
Please attend this important event and call on the Iranian Government to respect the human rights of these two doctors.
Vigil Location: Iranian Mission to the UN, 622 Third Ave.
When: Wednesday, September 24 at Noon
Show your solidarity with the Drs’ Alaei: if you are a medical professional, wear your white coat. If you are coming from academia, wear a university shirt. If you are coming from an NGO, wear your organization’s shirt or insignia. Anything to show the support of the health and human rights community!
More information on this campaign can be found on www.iranfreethedocs.org, where you can also sign a petition in support of Kamiar and Arash.
With your help next week, we can pressure the Iranian Government to release the Dr.’s Alaei so that they can continue their important medical and public health work for the betterment of the people of Iran and the world.
If you can attend, please RSVP to Sarah Kalloch at email@example.com.
Please invite colleagues in the NYC area to attend this important event.
Outreach and Constituency Organizing Director
Physicians for Human Rights
2 Arrow St. Suite 301
Cambridge, MA 02138
Serbia is one of the least gay-friendly countries in Europe. Discrimination is widespread and impacts not only members of the LGBT community, but also persons with disabilities and the Roma community.
All of which makes it remarkable that the festival, Queer Beograd, is taking pride to the streets of Belgrade:
Pink News reports: “Cabaret, street performance and film will all be on show at next week’s Queer Beograd X5 in Belgrade.
The festival begins on Thursday 18th with cabaret Direcktno featuring activists turned performers from London, Amsterdam and Berlin, and runs until Sunday.”
The Eurovision Song Contest was held in Belgrade earlier in the year. Far right groups issued warnings that gays would be targeted. One of these groups, Obraz, is classified as an ‘Orthodox clero-fascist’ organization and is well known for its virulent anti-gay views – also for assaults on gay people.
An organizer of Queer Beograd offered his assessment of some of the challenges:
“Serbia has seen some changes in the last year, a referendum, the ‘passing’ of the so called constitution, the fall of government, the independence of Kosovo, yet another election. All the time the political climate moves increasingly to the far right neo fascist identity.”
“It is from this position that we place the agenda for our festival as direct action and antifascism – because we always want to take the most concrete steps to build bridges to smash borders, to see our liberation linked with everyones.”
Remballe ton pape !
Communiqué de presse
Un regroupement d’associations, syndicats et organisations politiques appellent à manifester à Paris dans la soirée du vendredi 12 septembre pour dénoncer, a l’occasion de sa venue en France, les positions prises par le pape. Les signataires s’opposent à l’intervention de la religion catholique dans les affaires publiques et dénoncent l’écoute bienveillante des propos du Vatican par nombre de responsables politiques français.
Les signataires refusent les retours en arrière concernant les droits à l’avortement et à la contraception, dénoncent les appels criminels du pape à ne pas utiliser les préservatifs, défendent le droit de choisir son genre et sa sexualité. Elles réaffirment leur attachement à la solidarité et aux luttes sociales visant à accéder ici-bas à des vies décentes.
Les signataires exigent :
– que l’Eglise catholique cesse de s’immiscer pas dans la politique,
– que l’Eglise catholique cesse ses déclarations criminelles,
– que les gouvernements français mettent tout en place pour s’affranchir de l’idéologie catholique,
– le libre accès et la totale gratuité des moyens de contraception et de l’avortement.
La manifestation partira du métro Filles du Calvaire le vendredi 12 septembre à 18h30
Signataires : Marche Mondiale des Femmes (MMF), Panthères roses, Alternative libertaire (AL), Offensive libertaire et sociale (OLS), Scalp, Collectif National Droits des Femmes (CNDF), Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR), Coordination des associations pour le droit à l’avortement et à la contraception (CADAC), Collectif libertaire de Bourges, Coordination des Collectif Unitaires pour une Alternative au Libéralisme de l’Hérault, Coordination Femmes Egalité, Scab (Suisse), Fédération Sud-PTT, Ligue du droit des femmes, Mouvement Français pour le planning familial (MFPF), Dones D’Enllac (Catalogne), Collectif de pratiques et de réflexions féministes “Ruptures”, Réseau féministes “Ruptures”, Act-Up – Paris, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples (MRAP) – Marseille, Union Syndicale Solidaires, Association culturelle des travailleurs immigrés de Turquie (ACTIT), SOS sexisme, National Secular Society (Angleterre), Espoirs de femmes, Coordination égalité, Les Alternatifs, Mix-Cité – Paris, Jeunesses communistes révolutionnaires (JCR), Gauche Alternative 67, Initiative féministe européenne (IFE) – France, Les Amis de la Commune,
Lundi 8 septembre 2008
Justice Secretary, Jack Straw MP, is being urged to rescind the license granted to the Catholic Church for the exhumation and reburial of Cardinal John Henry Newman, on the grounds that it is “certainly unethical and probably illegal.”
“It is morally wrong and arguably unlawful for the Ministry of Justice to grant a reburial license that violates Newman’s instructions to his executors and that gives a non-relative third party control over his remains,” according to human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
“Newman insisted that he should be buried with the man he loved, Father Ambrose St John. The two men would be separated under Vatican plans to rebury him in Birmingham Oratory church.
“The Justice Secretary has caved in to Vatican demands and given the Catholic Church disposal rights over Newman’s body.
“It not only plans to move his remains to a church tomb, it also intends to break up his body and distribute his bones as holy relics.
“The Vatican’s bid to rebury Cardinal Newman comes ahead of him being made a saint. The Catholic hierarchy is embarrassed by Newman’s love for Father St John and the fact that they are buried together in a shared grave. It wants to rebury Newman separately, in the hope of squashing suggestions that the Cardinal might have been gay,” said Mr Tatchell.
In his letter to Jack Straw, Mr Tatchell writes:
“Could you please explain the Ministry of Justice’s justification for making a decision that goes against Cardinal Newman’s clear, unambiguous and emphatic instructions to his executors that he should be buried with Father Ambrose St John?
“Did the Ministry of Justice have full information about all Cardinal Newman’s repeated instructions to his executors when it made the decision to grant a licence for his exhumation and reburial?
“Could you please explain the Ministry of Justice’s legal and moral authority for granting a reburial license to a non-relative and non-descendant third party that is intent on violating Cardinal Newman’s explicit and repeated requests concerning his burial?
“I would respectfully request that in light of the overwhelming evidence that Cardinal Newman wished to be buried with Ambrose St John that you either revoke the licence in its entirety or amend it to stipulate that the Cardinal’s remains can only be exhumed and reburied on condition that Ambrose St John is also moved and reburied with him.
“I urge you to ensure that Cardinal Newman’s wishes are adhered to and respected.” concluded Mr Tatchell’s letter to the Justice Secretary.
For additional background about Cardinal Newman see:
Was Cardinal Newman gay?
Violating Cardinal Newman’s wishes
Cardinal’s body to be dismembered
Copy of Peter Tatchell’s letter to Justice Secretary, Jacks Straw MP:
4 September 2008
Dear Jack Straw
The exhumation and reburial of Cardinal Newman
I understand that in July the Ministry of Justice gave the Catholic Church a license permitting it to exhume and rebury Cardinal John Henry Newman.
Did you personally agree and approve this license? If not, which Minister did?
Could you please explain the Ministry of Justice’s justification for making a decision that goes against Cardinal Newman’s clear, unambiguous and emphatic instructions to his executors that he should be buried with Father Ambrose St John?
These instructions – and their sources – are set out in my attached Guardian article.
Did the Ministry of Justice have full information about all Cardinal Newman’s repeated instructions to his executors when it made the decision to grant a licence for his exhumation and reburial?
Could you please explain the Ministry of Justice’s legal and moral authority for granting a reburial license to a non-relative and non-descendant third party that is intent on violating Cardinal Newman’s explicit and repeated requests concerning his burial?
I would respectfully request that in light of the overwhelming evidence that Cardinal Newman wished to be buried with Ambrose St John that you either revoke the licence in its entirety or amend it to stipulate that the Cardinal’s remains can only be exhumed and reburied on condition that Ambrose St John is also moved and reburied with him.
Moreover, it would be entirely justified and reasonable for the Ministry of Justice to revoke or amend the license if it was not fully aware of all Cardinal Newman’s various instructions to his executors when it granted the license in July.
I urge you to ensure that Cardinal Newman’s wishes are adhered to and respected.
Since this matter is of some urgency, given the reburial plans, I look forward to your reply at your earliest convenience.
Yours with appreciation and best wishes,
Human rights campaigner
London – 8 September 2008
“The Vatican is panicked that allegations about Cardinal Newman’s sexual orientation may derail its plans to make him a saint”, said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the London-based gay rights group OutRage!
“The Pope’s spin doctors have gone into over-drive to denounce claims that Newman was gay and to justify his exhumation and reburial. This reburial is contrary to Newman’s instructions to his executors. He wanted to be buried with the man he loved and with whom he lived for much of his life, Father Ambrose St John.
“Following news stories suggesting that Cardinal Newman might have been gay, the Pope ordered Archbishop Angelo Amato, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood, to go on the offensive and issue a stern rebuttal.
“Archbishop Amato asked Father Ian Ker, an Oxford theologian and Newman biographer, to assert the Cardinal’s heterosexuality, which he did in an article published on 2 September in the Vatican daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.
“Although he denounced suggestions that Newman could have been gay as “quite horrendous” and “absolute rubbish”, Ker offered no evidence of the Cardinal’s heterosexuality, only speculation and conjecture.
“Why are Ker and the Vatican being so defensive? After all, in a major theological document authored two decades ago by Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict), The Vatican conceded that having a gay orientation is not a sin. Why, then, does the Catholic Church apparently have such a big problem admitting that Newman might have been gay by orientation?
“Ker claims that the Newman-St John relationship was typical of the “loving friendship” between two heterosexual men that often occurred in the nineteenth century.
“But many of these platonic relationships were, in fact, expressions of latent homosexuality which never found physical expression because the men concerned lived in a homophobic culture where they either had no conception of the possibility of same-sex love or, for religious reasons, dared not express this love sexually.
“Ker’s article is full of bald assertions that Newman was heterosexual, but it offers no proof or evidence. It dismisses the possibility that the Cardinal could have had a relationship with St John and even condemns the plausible suggestion that he might have been gay and celibate.
“How can the Vatican be so sure? Were its spies in Newman’s bedroom every night of his life?
“The history of the Catholic Church is littered with popes, cardinals, bishops and priests who were secretly gay.
“Down the ages, lots of clergy have had gay relationships. Indeed, about one-quarter of the current Catholic priesthood is estimated to be gay. Why should anyone be surprised by the suggestion that Cardinal Newman might have had a same-sex relationship? It would not be extraordinary. It is fairly normal in the priesthood.
“It is impossible to know whether the relationship between Newman and St John involved sexual relations. Equally, it is impossible to know that it did not. That is why the Vatican’s and Father Ker’s denials lack credibility. They claim to know something that is unknowable.
“Why should we believe The Vatican? It has a sad history of dishonesty and suppressing the truth. It lied, for example, in its anti-safe sex propaganda which claimed that condoms have tiny holes through which the HIV virus can pass. The church’s lies, promoted by the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, were exposed in a BBC Panorama programme, Sex and the Holy City, broadcast in 2003.
The denials about Newman’s sexuality should be treated with the same contempt. Even if the Vatican knew he was gay, it would never admit it. The Pope would deny the truth to suit the Vatican’s homophobic agenda.
“Although we cannot know for certain, it is not unreasonable to believe that Cardinal Newman could have had a loving, long-term same-sex relationship with the man whose grave he shares. The passion of his letters and writings about Father Ambrose suggest this possibility.
“There is little doubt that Newman and St John were mentally and spiritually in love; sharing a deep bond and intense relationship. They were inseparable; living together for over 30 years, like a married husband and wife.
“The Christian historian Alan Bray has done major research on the relationship between Newman and St John, sifting through the Cardinal’s diary, letters and notes. His findings are published in his book, The Friend (2003): http://tinyurl.com/6qq5nb
“They include the following admission that Newman wrote in his diary about Ambrose’s love for him: “From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable.” He later added: “As far as this world was concerned, I was his first and last…he was my earthly light.'”
“Newman stated that St John was “fair and Saxon-looking, my Angel Guardian,” who, he said, had come to him as Ruth came to Naomi and as the angel Raphael came to Tobias.
“Reflecting on St John’s death in 1875, Newman compared their love to that of a married couple: “I have always thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband’s or a wife’s, but I feel it difficult to believe that anyone’s sorrow can be greater than mine…This is the greatest affliction I have had in my life.”
“While we need to be careful about making stereotyped assumptions, it is true to say that the Cardinal was not exactly macho. In his portraits, he looks quite camp. His soft, gentle, effeminate demeanour is typical of what we often associate with some gay men (and, to a lesser extent, some straight men too). There were allegations during his lifetime about his circle of young homosexual friends. Close relations with women did not feature at all in his life.
“To be fair and to err on the side of caution, given both men’s rather orthodox religious beliefs, they probably did not have a sexual relationship. It is likely that they had a gay orientation but chose to abstain from sex. Sexual abstinence does not, however, alter a person’s orientation. A person can be gay and sublimate their gayness into spiritual and artistic pursuits, and into strong, intense platonic same-sex relationships, which is probably what Newman and St John did,” said Mr Tatchell.
For further information, see my 4 September Guardian website article:
Violating Cardinal Newman’s wishes:
The French minister of human rights and foreign affairs has confirmed that she will appeal at the United Nations for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Rama Yade also said that the EU wanted to take the lead in stopping violence against women worldwide.
Until the end of 2008 France will speak for all EU member states at the UN General Assembly, as they hold the rotating Presidency of the European Union.
Earlier this year it was reported that the French initiative on decrminalisation will take the form of a solemn declaration from UN states, rather than a vote in the UN on the matter.
However, Ms Yade said yesterday that France will submit a draft declaration at the UN General Assembly in December. The British government already advocates universal decriminalisation.
She was speaking at 61st Annual Conference of Non-Governmental Organisations at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
It is the first time in its history that the Conference has been convened outside of New York.
1,700 NGOs associated with the United Nations have gathered for three days of debate held under the banner of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon opened proceedings by satellite link this morning.
More than 80 countries outlaw same-sex relations in all circumstances.
The maximum punishments range from a few years jail to life imprisonment.
In nine countries, or regions of countries, the mandatory punishment for homosexuality is death by execution.