[Content note: Anti-gay bias, Christian supremacy, and descriptions of violence against LGBT*QI people]
To: The Right Reverend and Right Honourable The Lord Carey of Clifton PC (formerly The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1991-2002)
From: Dr Aphra Behn, Associate Professor of Historical Ladybusiness
Dear Lord Carey,
Whew! That was quite a typing-handful, that title of yours. Living in the United States, I'm not usually concerned about such things, but I wanted to be sure to get it right for you. After all, I understand that you have been feeling a bit low about the alleged persecution of Christians in the United Kingdom these days, and I don't want to get started off on the wrong foot.
Because I am about to ask a fairly awkward question, and I hope you'll take it in the right spirit:
In a country where you hold such a very impressive title, served as Primate of the still-official state church, where Bishops still sit in the House of Lords, where the Monarch is still the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and where the official calendar of holidays still enshrines Christianity's holy days as holidays...
...how ON EARTH do you come to the conclusion that Christians are being "driven underground"?
Then there is your claim that "[i]t is now Christians who are persecuted; often sought out and framed by homosexual activists."
So are you alleging that LGBT*QI people are no longer persecuted, but it’s actually Christians unjustly “framed” by some conspiracy, receiving the kind of persecution gays have endured?
Okay, Lord Player.
The cases mentioned in the article include someone who refuses to do her job in conducting a same-sex civil partnership ceremony (not a marriage, I note, let alone a Church wedding), and a therapist who refused to give counseling to gay people, because, I guess counseling ethics go out the door with gay people. The complainants apparently lost their jobs because they refused to do them. (There are also cases related to wearing religious symbols on the job, but since those don’t seem to be related to your claims of “homosexual activists,” I won’t address them here.)
For comparison, let’s consider the past and present state of gender and sexual minorities in the U.K. and the Commonwealth.
For centuries, sodomy was a capital offence in English law (albeit a rarely prosecuted one), a sentence "mercifully" changed to life imprisonment in 1861. Perhaps you have forgotten that in more "liberal" times, Oscar Wilde was only the most famous of those who served hard labour for the "gross indecency" of same-sex relations. Or that Alan Turing, whose work on Enigma proved crucial to Allied success in the Second World War, was only one of the many men to be given a choice between chemical castration or imprisonment upon conviction for the same crime. He was also only one of many to take his own life as a result of such state-sponsored anti-gay violence. On January 26, 2011, Ugandan activist David Kato was found brutally beaten to death, murdered in what was almost certainly a response to his decision to fight back against a newspaper's "war against gays." He is only one of many who today face death thanks to anti-gay legislation and prejudice around the world.
Those are a few examples of persecution against queer people, my Lord. I could give many others, but perhaps you can see how outlandish is your claim that Christians are somehow being persecuted simply because the law does not precisely coincide with all aspects of your interpretation of Christian belief, nor does it fully protect those who refuse to do their jobs because of said beliefs.
It is not persecution when your bigotry is labeled what it is, and when the law no longer fully supports it. That is a loss of privilege. While I understand that a loss of privilege still feels like a loss, labeling it persecution does no credit to you or your cause.
More importantly, your words have consequences for oppressed people. With your invocation of frankly fictional “gay activist” conspiracies, you undermine attempts to win human dignity for LGBT*QI people around the world. Those looking for evidence of gay perversion and subversion, that trans*persons are enemies of the state, that lesbians must be hunted, that queers must be re-educated and controlled--they have found support and encouragement in your words. These are words that will hurt real people. Some of those people are your brothers and sisters in Christ. All are your siblings in common humanity. They will face genuine persecution, for the simple reason that the statements of current and former Archbishops of Canterbury are influential in this world.
Because, seriously. Living in Lambeth Palace? It ain't exactly hiding in the catacombs.