Saturday, 30 May 2009

Not to be sneezed at

I heard from an insider that the Manx ‘Third Sector’ have been grumbling at their lack of consultation on a possible flu pandemic. Some even appear to have said so at a recent ‘emergency meeting’ with government officials when the first news of Swine Flu in Mexico broke. It must have been a classic meeting, given that some politicians and government officials knew less about the subject than the charitable bods they were supposed to be briefing.
Maybe this is why Dr Kishore, the Director of Public Health, is giving a lunchtime lecture on the topic to them on 22nd June. Given what I’ve seen, it might also explain why it’s only expected to take an hour.
You see, various strands of the ‘Third Sector’ were invited to explanatory talks by public health officials here two years ago. I was at the one for ‘faith leaders’, and those who bothered to attend and show interest continued to talk to each other and health officials.
This is how the Flu Ethics Committee I’ve been part of at Nobles Hospital came together and has continued to work ever since. In the case of certain faith groups and their preference for top-down structures and hording power and knowledge, it might also explain why not even their fellow ‘professionals’ (never mind their congregations) ever shared the vital information given then by the public health officials.
Given the prolific publicity about their Manx ‘charitable work’ it was also revealing that evangelicals could only put up one attendee at the original meeting and have never been back, despite open offers of a seat at the table.
Maybe they took the hump when, after having had it patiently explained to all that the thing to do was avoid public gatherings, the sole attendee said it was ‘impossible’ to close a profitable little café they run because it was a ‘valuable community outreach’. He was then told, not so patiently, that knowingly contributing to the spread of a contagious disease by operating a business after being told to persist by a public health official was an offence punishable by large fines and years of imprisonment.
Many ‘Third Sector’ busybodies (again, predominantly the faith-led, cult-like ones) also want to turn threats of a crisis into a funding bid for their dubious ‘community services’. But I’m not sure that anything which targets and socially isolates the vulnerable, destroys families which don’t fit the Stepford ideal and generally turns their victims into vegetables dependent on religious cults is a ‘community service’ in the first place. Certainly not one worthy of public funding.
For the benefit of anyone worried I’ll lay out some simple facts established by recent UK government work on the Mexican outbreak.
The pattern suggests something closer to the 1957 flu outbreak than the much deadlier 1918 Spanish Flu will be this winter’s flu strain. It’s milder than feared, will kill less and the immediate danger will simply be identifying the symptoms as the HSN1 strain, not common or garden winter flu. The remedy is for doctors to treat all winter flu as the dangerous stuff just in case.
Providing you look out for vulnerable neighbours and relatives, ring your doctor instead of rushing to the surgery or hospital, get your or their Tamiflu, stay home for a few days and not rush back to work it need not be a huge deal. The biggest dangers are running around cross-infecting people and dipstick major employers who, doctors fear, are planning to buy in Tamiflu and hand it out to employees willy-nilly as a way to get them to work on. This lowers your resistance and means you are surrounded at work by others who carry infections which you will then pass to your families and friends.
So, the way to stop the flu spreading is to chill out. Read a book, watch TV, browse the ‘net, but don’t exert yourself and don’t kid yourself you’re so vital to the way the world turns you rush to work. How hard is that?
Oh, and cults, voodoo merchants and other busybodies? Nothing for you here.
You’re surplus to requirement. There are no public funds to raid, no place to rattle a tin. So shut up and butt out.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Once upon a time in the Western Isles

Living on a small, rainlashed, windswept, and bible-bashed island, it’s easy (especially on days when all three persist at once) to forget you are not the only one with such problems, and not even on the only island where they exist.
I was touched by a letter in this week’s National Secular Society Newsline from one Elma MacLeod. She’s a wee bit stressed, and I can’t blame her.
I thought the least I could do is reprint her letter, in the hope someone might send her a helicopter hidden in a bible…or something!
Elma writes:

"Finally – The Western Isles has appeared in Newsline. I had a telephone conversation with you last year about the local council here and its Sunday policies.
Now Caledonian MacBrayne is being attacked by the local hooligans from the Lords Day Observance Society. You told me that you could help with some publicity to expose the intolerable situation that goes on in these islands regarding the religious stronghold of a very vocal, aggressive and quite frankly bonkers minority. Please, please help us now. This needs to be told to the whole country.
British soldiers have died in the Middle East while trying to liberate a people from intolerance and religious fanaticism. We, here in the Western Isles of Scotland, are not allowed to swim in the local pool on Sundays, we are not allowed to play golf on our local golf course on Sundays, the cinema is closed on Sundays and we are not allowed to travel to another town across the minch for a day out with the family on Sundays. An official from the local Lord's Day Observance Society, the Rev I D Campbell said last week "no one has the right to come and go off this island as they please". This is not right. We need help. All we ask is a few basic leisurely pursuits.
The Western Isles Council behaves more like the Vatican than a local authority in a small island town. The councillors have lost sight of their actual role. Instead of being public servants, they behave like public masters. The council has its own laws and makes up its own commandments. The 11th commandment actually originated in Lewis and it is "thou shalt not take thy children to any of the local council run green areas on the Sabbath otherwise one of the local councillors will come out and cut thy football with a knife." Is there anything you can do? Please help – it's nearly Sunday Arrghh!!"

Poor woman. Living on the Western Isles sounds like being trapped in a lift with George Bush and Billy Graham - forever.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Christ on a bus

If there’s any truth in a rumour that’s circulated prison reform groups for years, a watchdog group on the Isle of Man might interest Dan Brown, the writer of conspiracy novels who gets up the Vatican’s nose so much.
I learnt about the rumour over a year ago, when joking to some prisoners rights activists that the most hated prisoner governor in recent British history had become a bit of a trainspotter since retiring here. Knowing my interest in religious fruitcases, one of them replied, much amused, but asking if I’d heard the trainspotting pensioner in question was also an Opus Dei member.
Sorry, I’ll make that a bit clearer. Brendan O’Friel was Governor of Strangeways at the time of the infamous riots in the early 1990’s. After retiring he moved back to the Isle of Man, where he has reinvented himself as head of a local transport watchdog, Travelwatch Isle of Man.
Amongst prisoners, it was a common belief that his rigid views on running prisons were rooted in his rigid religious views, and that while other prison officers got in or on in the service by joining the Masons, O’Friel, as a Catholic, had done it via another secretive bunch of hocus-pocus merchants, namely Opus Dei.
This wild story, which I’ll openly admit might stem more from whatever pulp fiction prisoners can get hold of than hard fact, got me thinking. Do trainspotting and religion have more in common than a tendency to attract nerds who love trivia and can’t cope with adult relationships?
I decided to look into it, and almost the first hit I got was a story published on 27th May about a group called London TravelWatch who want to ensure bus routes are planned to take account “of the faith and cultural make-up of Londoners”.
Apparently they weren’t happy with the results of enquiries by Transport for London into the transport needs of ‘minority faith communities’. TfL did a lot of modelling, public surveying and so on, and found little need to change.
This annoyed London TravelWatch, who did their own survey of demand for a bus route between the Orthodox Jewish communities of Stamford Hill and Golders Green.
We’re told that Sharon Grant, Chair of London TravelWatch, said: “It was clear from the responses to our survey that there is a very clear requirement for a direct bus link between the two places, both of which have strong Orthodox Jewish communities, despite TfL’s modelling showing insufficient demand. We are asking TfL to reconsider, and investigate the provision of a bus service on a trial basis.”
Cheeky, freeloading gits! You can read the report at, which itself seems to have it in for Boris Johnson and thus might not be entirely balanced.
(Update - Mayorwatch stress they don't take a position on Boris, just....well, do as it says on the tin and watch the mayor (see comments), so I'm happy to take an honest fellow blogger at their word there!)
But if it all gets out of hand(special tube trains for lasses in burquas, no guide dogs, no public transport through Orthodox Jewish areas on Saturdays or Muslim ones on Fridays…….) don’t say you weren’t warned.
All right, I’m winding you up, letting my imagination run away with me here. Trouble is, folk with invisible friends don’t joke about these things, and make little distinction between real world needs and faith-fixated fantasy – especially when public money and facilities are involved.

No Wee Timorous Beasties here, thank you

I was going to post something high-minded and serious today.
Thankfully I first read Garry Otton’s take on the ridiculous Church of Scotland rumpus over an openly gay minister. That brought me back down to the gutter where I belong; looking up at the stars, sure enough, but also laughing like a drain.
There’s been comment about the Kirk’s dimwit stance here and there, but, sadly, mostly managing to sound almost as stern as John Knox himself with piles.
So what a relief to see someone blunt enough to point out:
“These men are supposed to marry women like Susan Boyle and produce babies. Using storks.”
Getting into his stride Gary snipes:
“In the topsy-turvy world of the militant religionist, jacking-off on X Tube is less forgiving than the sin of strutting round in a mixed fibre twin-set from Primark, shovelling oysters down your neck or having a foreskin.”
The piece, over on Scottish Media Monitor, is entitled My Thought For The Day – if only! Yes, if only you could hear this on Radio 4 instead of some tweedy cleric chuntering on I’d ….consider paying my licence on time.
I might even buy a radio to hear gems like:
“Churches are like newspapers. They desperately want to fill the pews with sweet, singing, skipping children from The Sound of Music without upsetting the (mostly sweet) old dears that totter in for some company, a cuppa, a cream slice and a good Service. Meanwhile, behind the closed doors of the Assembly and its wee pretendy court it carries on hurting people by its hopeless fudge and fumbling on issues of which it knows nothing.”
Read the whole thing at
Go on, you know you want to!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Christian Car Wars

I’ve blogged once or twice on the anti-social driving habits of Manx Christians, and in particular their habit of blocking narrow pavements or obstructing more considerate motorists with their gas guzzlers.
Yesterday I heard of some new outrages, and also of parking wars going on between tightfisted members of rival Douglas congregations. Considering there is adequate parking for anyone in Douglas on an average Sunday, this is taking ’Jesus Saves’ to ridiculous extremes.
St. Matthews, which used to be a lowly quayside parish church catering to seafarers and the local poor, is the latest centre for ugly goings on. The Gilbert Scott designed church got gentrified in the heritage boom of the 1980’s, and things got much worse when Forward in Faith - Anglican nutters who hate women and gays and favour hooking up with Catholics and Eastern European Orthodox churches – turned it into their island base.
The punters turn up in £50K motors and the pews are a chav-free zone. There’s also metered parking less than 100 metres away; but the skinflints won’t use it.
They prefer to block the sidestreets with their Mercs and Jags, and this has led to a run-in with another church. Two streets away is the Salvation Army hall, which has come up on here before for car crimes – quite ironic as the main culprits are employed to stop crime.
Then it was a Department of Home Afffairs executive level staff member parking his Chelsea Tractor on the pavement on a narrow, busy road, causing pensioners and mums with buggies to take their lives in their hands to get to their flats round the corner. These days it’s lighter stuff. The DHA staff continue to be immune to parking tickets or police warnings (not going to write warning letters to themselves, are they?), but elsewhere things are turning nasty as other Sally Army types and Anglo-Catholic reactionaries turn up earlier and earlier to get the few spots within metres of their respective places of worship.
But where would we be without Broadway Baptists and their ever more bizarre crowd-pullers? It’s all out war these days between Broadway and their redneck Southern cousins at Port St. Mary for ‘lowest common denomination’ status.
They’ve had ‘Weightlifting Ex-Cons for Jesus’, ‘Ex-Hells Angels for Jesus’ and every variant you can imagine on that to get ‘down wiv da kids’, and last week it was some ‘Cross and the Switchblade’ type imitator or other.
Now, Broadway punters could park in various well-protected spots over the road or round the corner. But that would mean walking up a hill or hurrying across a road.
Most of the burger-munching mouth-breathers who make up the congregation can’t or won't do that. So, they park their fatmobiles with two wheels on the pavement instead, blocking access up or down the hill to any pensioner out for a Sunday stroll along the prom.
And there’s no argument the hideous collection of vehicles blocking the street belong to them. Who else but a Baptist could own a turd-coloured people carrier with a holy haddock sign on the bumper. Who else would want the number plate MAN 4 60D?

Monday, 25 May 2009

Potting the potty pontiffs

The editor of Gay & Lesbian Humanist today weighed into church leaders who recently urged people not to vote for bigots.
The Archbishops of both Canterbury and York, Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, say voters should not let the current scandal over MPs’ expenses drive them to vote BNP.
In a joint statement, both warned: “This is not a moment for voting in favour of any political party whose core ideology is about sowing division in our communities and hostility on grounds of race, creed or colour.”
But Mike Foxwell wasn’t about to let spokesmen for a religious organisation which sows a bit of division itself come over all preachy and innocent.
Mike says:
“I deplore the hypocrisy of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, warning the public of the socially divisive doctrines of the BNP on the grounds of ‘race, creed or colour’, and imploring the public not to vote for this political party.
“But what the archbishops forget to mention is that the church has a great deal in common with the BNP, as both the BNP and the Christian church are vehemently homophobic and cast gay people as sinners, second-class citizens and perverts who should keep their distasteful predilections in closeted privacy.
“Indeed, people should be aware of the socially divisive evil of BNP doctrine, but equally they should be aware that the Christian church shares some of the most repugnant beliefs of the BNP.
“Decent people who care about equality and fairness in our diverse and complex modern British society should shun the BNP and the church – for the same reasons.”
Spot on Mike.
Incidentally, I recently saw evidence of similar hypocrisy on the Isle of Man. I know of a letter sent to the local papers which tackles bigotry eminating from the same churches which, in public, decry it. It is only fair to see if IOM Newspapers print the letter first, but if not, I am prepared to put it up here, along with some background, later this week.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Will Iran try Delara Darabi's executioners?

Stop Child Executions (see sidebar) has written a letter to the head of judiciary in Iran challenging him to put those who executed Delara Darabi on trial. It may not achieve anything, but is such an obvious strategy I don’t know why nobody else has tried it.

The letter in full reads:

"Your Excellency Ayatollah Shahrudi, the head of Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran:

The unexpected news of the execution of Ms. Delara Darabi in the prison of city of Rasht has raised many questions in the minds of the caring citizens of Iran and the world.
Despite your official order for a two month stay of the execution and without any prior notice to her family or attorneys, in the early morning hours of Friday May 1, 2009 Delara Darabi was hanged.

According to official laws of the Islamic Republic, Iranian juveniles convicted to death sentence only after 48 hours official notice to the family and attorneys and only in their presence can be executed; however neither of these requirements was met in the case of Delara Darabi.

Your Excellency Ayatollah Shahrudi:

Presuming that the Islamic Republic despite its official ratifications of the both UN Conventions of the Rights of the Child and the Rights of Prisoners which had also been approved by Iran’s Guardian Council has no obligation in their implementations and can execute those juveniles who have committed a crime before the age of 18:

Presuming that the Islamic Republic of Iran has no obligation to respect the international laws as its own after they have already been approved by the Iranian parliament:

Presuming that it was legal and just that the initial court hearing of Delara Darabi continued its session without the presence of her first attorney:

Presuming that a few hours of court time were sufficient enough to decide the life or death of a young girl:

Presuming that the initial confession that was taken from Delara Darabi was true and a scared 17 year old minor should not have been made aware of her self-incrimination rights and consequences of such confession before obtaining it:

Presuming that the five years that Delara languished in prison, claiming her innocence until the end had no weighted significance:

Presuming that Delara Darabi had no legal appeal rights for reconstruction of the murder scene to establish whether or not this small framed left-handed girl committed the offence or not:

Presuming that Delara Darabi was guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt and her 17 years of age had no bearing on the death penalty verdict:

Presuming that your official order as the head of the judiciary to grant a two month stay of execution for Delara Darabi had no significance to the lower judges, prison officials and the executioner in the city of Rasht:

Presuming that the victim’s family insisted on Delara Darabi’s immediate execution the day before she was hung:

Presuming that the numerously repeated words of "merciful and compassionate” in the very beginning of every chapter of the Muslim holy book Quran had no relevance to Delara Darabi’s fate:

Presuming all of the above 11 points:

- In accordance to the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran was it not Delara Darabi’s right, for her family and attorney to be given 48 hours official notice before her execution?
- And at the very least as a human, a Muslim and an Iranian and according to the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran did Delara Darabi have the right to have her family and attorney present at the time of hanging?
- On the day of the hanging of Delara Darabi were the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran violated or not?
- Why is one like Delara held responsible before the law for murder while the others responsible for her illegal execution are not?
- Should the written laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran be implemented or are they simply written words that can be violated by anyone with an official title or clothing?
Your Excellency, as the head of the judiciary if you expect Iranians to respect and act according to the written laws and be held responsible when the laws are broken, then also those who were responsible for the illegal execution of Delara Darabi should be brought to justice."

SCE also say that, according to Iranian newspapers, an unidentified 20 year old boy convicted of a murder in August of 2006 was hanged in the central city of Shiraz. He was probably 17 at the time of the alleged murder. SCE will be investigating his age and identity. If a juvenile, this would be the third known child execution in 2009.

Do carrots have souls?

Time to admit a secret vice.
Every Sunday morning there’s a TV programme called The Big Questions which is essential viewing in our house. We watch it – well, almost religiously I suppose, but mainly while rolling around the floor screeching with laughter.
It’s the spawn of an earlier BBC quasi-religious but mucho PC and determinedly multi-culti thing from BBC Manchester whose name I now forget. I ought to know because (another confession) it was originally created by students and tutors from my old college as part of a ‘Christian Communication’ final year option. Two of the students got a first and at least one continues to work in religious programming: the main tutor is also a BBC employee and advises the English Catholic hierarchy on their media strategy.
The general format is you have three 20 minute ‘moral questions’ debated by a rigorously mixed studio audience under the stewardship of Nicky Campbell, who struggles to keep tongue firmly in cheek throughout. Lots of dog collars, weird beards, and turbans on show, and everyone seems to represent some two man and a dog pressure group with names you just could not make up.
This morning’s themes, unsurprisingly, included the Irish Catholic child abuse report. Only one ‘official’ Catholic apologist there, a Father John Owen who is apparently a communications officer for Welsh Catholicism. He distinguished himself by saying we should face the ‘fact’ (dragged from only he knows where) that 95% of offenders were homosexuals and most victims were teenage boys, so the real lesson (presumably) was to witch-hunt gays out of the priesthood. This went down badly, and I really thought we were going to see a priest lynched live on TV.
The next topic was ‘should prostitution be legalised’, and the floor given to various Christian ‘human rights campaigners’ against ‘traffiking’. Surprisingly, God’s Pimp himself, Rev. Steve Chalke, while a regular whingebag on the show, wasn’t there to solicit more public funds for his Stop The Traffik scam.
His argument was mouthed by a couple of former street girls who resembled the Betty Bowers spoof group Crack Whores for Christ in their demeanour and logic. They seemed to be on heavy medication, but then, Baptist converts always look like that to me.
The other ‘reformers’ were from Christian Concern for our Nation (or ‘Nazis for Jesus’, as they never had the nerve to call themselves). When even the lady from the W.I. (one of Chalke’s attempted allies for law change) opined that the UK should follow the admirable New Zealand model of legalisation and licencing for small brothels to keep sex workers off the street I think even they realised the argument was lost.
The final topic was ‘Do pets go to heaven?’ This allowed a lady cleric from the Gloucester Cathedral Animal Prayer Group (no, really, that was the name and she gets paid to run it) and someone else who runs a business offering pet funerals with some sort of new age shamanistic twist to say they do.
One of the Crack Whores for Christ intervened in support of fluffy bunny angels - or something, but by this point the medication was really kicking in. Her comments were followed by a short silence as the audience scratched their heads and fidgeted nervously. Finally, one cynic said if animals do go to heaven he wasn’t looking forward to meeting all the cows, chickens and pigs he’d eaten, or hearing what they had to say about his cannibalism.
In short, this is the theological equivalent of Britain’s Got Talent, and if you ever despair of campaigning against religious privilege you need to watch it. The sheer audacity and paucity of religious arguments – apparently the best the major churches can muster in some cases – will inspire you to mock without mercy and without fear of an intelligent response.
OK, it will have the side-effect that godbotherers can claim an audience exists for religious programming and use it to gain employment. But it would be worth a few pence of your licence fee just for the entertainment.
Alternatively, just as the excellent Platitude of The Day website (see sidebar) is much more thoughtful and funny than the ‘real’ thing (and the BBC ought to sponsor it) maybe the Beeb should just rebrand this programme along the lines of ‘talent search’ shows. There’s a much bigger audience out there for freak shows, and they could always recoup the money from phone-voting.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Homelessness whitewash

I was frustrated this week to read the report of the AGM for one of two Manx government misrun homelessness pseudo-charities (see
I was on the steering committee that set up Kemmyrk around two years ago. I was so involved I even named the charity (‘Kemmyrk’ is Manx Gaelic for ‘Shelter’), so my sorrow is well informed.
I am saddened because I know how much public good will there was to solve the problems and how it has been utterly betrayed, mostly by government staff on six figure salaries who are, in effect, employed only to come up with bogus solutions while avoiding government expenditure or effort to eliminate absolutely solveable and particularly Manx problems. I am also saddened because I know the few genuine good guys involved in Kemmyrk, and therefore that they mean well but are fighting with their hands tied behind their backs.
Right from the start it was obvious Social Services and local evangelicals were pulling the strings. Suggestions and comments we made at the steering committee meetings never even made it to the next meeting, and at each new meeting we arrived to an agenda set elsewhere.
People who didn’t attend the meetings mysteriously became officials, and an agreement by steering committee members not to stand for membership of the official charity committee was forgotten on election night, when evangelicals none of us had met appeared out of the blue with a crowd of supporters and got elected.
Then there’s the laughable comment in the story that: “Information and statistics on homelessness can be difficult to obtain because the problem is often hidden”, and further that: “A homelessness database was established in May 2008 and all agencies likely to come into contact with the homeless were asked to put details on this anonymous database. The statistics will be collated and analysed at the end of the 12-month period.”
That is utter tosh, and whoever at Social Services supplied the story to IOM Newspapers to reprint verbatim knows that.
I and one other steering committee member, along with Fiona Robinson, attended the meeting of government agencies at which the database details were to be thrashed out. A two page questionnaire provided by Shelter was offered as an ideal template . The public sector time wasters who could be bothered to turn up and claim overtime disliked that so much they reduced it to a ‘manageable’ 14 questionnaire, then took it away and further reduced it to 10 questions.
Curiously, most of these were directly or indirectly about racial origin. Even curiouser, none of the questions left would produce evidence of the major problems which cause Manx homelessness, such as the racism, sexism and homophobia of evangelical Christians and relevant public sector staff (some are notoriously both), their unavailability for advice or help at key crisis points, slum landlords and in particular properties run by front companies for local politicians, the absurd qualifying rules for local government housing which mean, in effect, you can only join the long lists after 10 years island residence and 5 years continual residence in one town, and so on, and so on.
Then there is: 'A multi-agency housing option programme will include input from health professionals, guidance on housing issues, benefits and finance, assistance in funding and job careers advice and training in basic maths, English, IT, social and life skills, designed to improve opportunities for funding and sustaining accommodation.'
Actually that already exists – twice!
It exists once as a program at David Gray House, the local bail hostel run by the Salvation Army. As the chairman and secretary of Kemmyrk are, coincidentally, the local Salvation Army officer and the manager of David Gray House you would think they had noticed.
It exists again as a service run between the probation service and the prison and based at the Department of Home Affairs. That is also run in conjunction with David Gray House, and the relief family liaison officer at the prison is one of the key figures at Graih, the other government run homelessness pseudo-charity.
Finally there is the worrying news that: “To try and reduce the number of young people leaving home, Kemmyrk is working with St Christopher's UK and the Department of Education on a peer education scheme.”
For the benefit of off-island readers, St Christophers UK got the contract to run secure accommodation for Manx kids after the previous service provider, also faith-led, lost it because of a double murder at a kids home. They put in by far the lowest bid and it shows. The local youth professionals I talk to, without exception, regard them as worse than useless and warn that it is now a matter of when, not if, another death or serious tragedy happens in a Manx government run care facility for kids.
In short, the Manx government are paying or taking advice from the very people abused kids leave home to avoid in the first place.
In addition, the only database capable of getting to the root of Manx homelessness has been doctored. When it first reports - which will not be to the general public - no evidence of the cause of the problem will be found, because those who know they are to blame have ensured any relevant questions cannot be asked and that evidence gathered.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

War on the hard of thinking

Folk who know me know how irritated I get at the laziness of ‘liberal opinion’, and in particular the way in which there’s a conspiracy of blandness which stops anyone here asking proper questions about vital things like charities or the voluntary and public sector.
According to this fuzzy logic, all charities and social workers are nice and everything to do with the finance sector is nasty or crooked, so only nasty free market types ask awkward questions. It’s like being tazered by the Mothers Union some days trying to hold incompetent or just outright dangerous ‘charity initiatives’ to account.
The funny thing is, these are comfortable Guardianistas grumbling. I don’t even get this from the evangelicals or conservative clergy whose ideas and actions I am 'naturally' supposed to disagree with most.
In fact, only the other day one vicar, absolutely tongue in cheek, offered to pray for me when I have my op next month. He needs me to get out intact. Who amongst his own flock causes him to question everything he believes on a weekly basis?
So while checking out the sites on the sidebar I’ve been particularly inspired by folk putting minority views who make new arguments when the established one would probably get them a nice safe grant or steady employment.
Take Turkish journalist Ayse Onal, whose work has already got her blacklisted. When writing about honour killings it would be so easy to tap into a mainstream Western sentiment that the men who carry them out are just subhuman, or play on some hardcore feminist sentiment that ‘all men are bastards, so what do you expect?’
She doesn’t. She faces the hard fact that people who enable or commit such killings are also, while not exactly victims, at least socially trapped between a rock and a hard place. In a new book and documentary she talks to them too, and it sounds like stuff we should pay attention to when calling for national or international change to stop the killings. You can find out more about that at
Then there’s Peter Hitchens, the Hitchens brother who isn’t a secular saint and isn’t beyond putting a view that liberal atheist types find objectionable. Still, I was quite taken a while back with his account of being unable to take part in a university debate because some leftie rentamob or other thought a rightwinger like him shouldn’t be speaking in the first place.
As I recall, the debate was on legalisation of drugs and he was up against Howard Marks, but had recently sounded off about another topic – possibly to do with the right of David Irving to put his obnoxious views if only so that he could be slapped down by someone with at least half a brain. What was noteworthy was that while Marks could have just had a cosy chat with sympathetic studes, plugged his book and pocketed the appearance fee he also refused to go on if he couldn’t have a stand-up row and take the chance of having his views ripped apart by Hitchens.
So in an Index on Censorship piece at Hitchens says that we’ve lost that ‘inch of difference’ between Left and Right that used to be the place where feisty but fruitful arguments took place between folk who hated each other’s views, but valued the chance to put each other straight without getting arrested or punched in the face before they could finish a sentence. As Hitchen says, what also matters is that the views on both sides were each radical, different or unpopular, and a polite 21st century ‘consensus’ means nothing serious gets discussed and there are no intelligent routes out of the grey muddle we seem to live in, even though nobody remembers consenting to it in the first place.
Crikey, me telling folk to go read the ‘wrong’ Hitchens brother for inspiration. If that doesn’t show how bad things are, I don’t know what does.

Monday, 18 May 2009

A tribute to James Kirkup

There are tributes on a few secularist websites today to the poet James Kirkup, who died recently.
Kirkup is best known as the poet who so upset Mary Whitehouse with “The Love That Dares to Speak its Name” that she brought a blasphemy case against Gay News for printing it.
An issue of The Freethinker a couple of years back celebrated an anniversary of that famous trial and featured a tongue in cheek homage to Kirkup’s poem. "The Centurion’s Story" was by Denys Drower, founder member of Isle of Man Freethinkers and, by a remarkable coincidence, the same age as Kirkup.
I thought it would be a suitable Manx tribute to Kirkup, and Denys once kindly sent it to me to republish to all who might also enjoy it, so here it is.


Massada A.D.73

Gaius Lepidus stood at the foot of the rock.
Before him were the tumbled, twisted bodies;
Israelites, lying where they’d fallen
From that last desperate leap, or driven
O’er the edge by thrusting Roman swords.

Lying near his foot, a skinny grey-haired corpse;
Older than most with weathered, wasted limbs.
He turned it over with his foot and looked,
Then called across to one of his companions:
“Julius, look at this man’s wrists and feet -

“This one has once been crucified, I’m sure.
And now I look, I think I know the man.
His name was Jesus, a wand’ring Nazarene
who preached and maddened the Sanhedrin .
by threatening their pomp and dignity.

Forty years ago it was, the year the moon
obscured the sun in Passover.
They brought the man to trial, whipped up the mob;
Asked the Governor, Pilatus, for his death.
And Pontius reluctantly agreed.

My job it was to oversee his death.
Pilatus sent for me, “Go easy on him, Gaius;
He’s done no wrong that you or I can see;
– The thing’s political - that slimy Caiaphas!”
I chose my squad and set out for the place.

A man I knew was standing at the scene.
A well dressed Arimathean with a band
Of half a dozen servants dressed in white.
We had a chat and came to an agreement;
A tomb nearby was his and could be used.

I said the men were not to smash his legs.
But one young idiot took a spear
And jabbed him in the side, the thrust
Puncturing his bladder. I had the
Fellow flogged for disobeying orders.

By nightfall, it seemed the man was dead.
They took him down and laid him in the vault.
The guards had settled down to watch
With three wine skins presented by my friend.
I left, returning to the palace.

In later years I learned the truth from Joseph;
By midnight all the guards were snoring drunk.
He looked inside the tomb and saw some signs of life.
So took him home to hide him in his house.
He rolled the stone back, left two servants there.

For days the preacher hovered near to death.
Hidden in the rich man’s summer house.
His wounds began to heal with Joseph’s care.
Meanwhile the wildest stories flew,
Some claimed he’d risen from the dead.

The priests demanded that the governor
Should institute a search throughout Judea.
Pilatus, though, conceded no such thing.
“Waste the Legion’s time to look for him?
If he’s survived, then justice has been served,”

Joseph summoned Jesus, sat him down.
“Good fortune, bribes, your constitution,
have this time saved you; but it cannot happen twice.
Go to ground, change your looks, your name,
Cut short your hair; pretend that you are Greek.

“Your disciples, convinced that you were God
Believe you risen from the bed of death.
Let’s leave it so; leave them to preach your word.
I’ve work that you can do to earn your bread
Your brains more help to me than any sword.”

That’s what Joseph told me. Many years ago.
Posted then to Egypt, I lost touch
I later heard he’d died in Antioch.
And Jesus? I wonder why on earth the fool
Joined this futile plot to throw off Roman rule.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

IDAHO - a Manx perspective

Today is IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia), a chance to annually take stock of local or international battles to rid our communities of a blight on humanity. On the Isle of Man few community leaders are openly homophobic any more, but compared to the UK we’re still rednecks.
Take Liverpool or Belfast for a comparison. In both cities the council openly supports gay pride and IDAHO events. In the Isle of Man the nearest we got to a gay pride event was in about 2005, when the local gay group (now pretty much defunct) held a coffee morning with local employers and government officials at which they tried to lay out the current situation.
In schools the situation is similar. We should take heart that during the public debate about equalisation of the age of consent one of the strongest reprimands to the dimwit lay preacher posing as an Education Minister at the time came from sixth formers at a local school. On the other hand, it was the only secondary school on the island where an evangelical Christian isn’t at least second or third in charge. The situation is now so bad that when the island’s only C of E primary school advertised (strictly speaking illegally, incidentally, in Manx law) for a ‘committed Christian’ head teacher they had to settle for a sheep from one of the island’s two most extreme evangelical flocks instead.
So, determined on this day to find someone Manx doing something positive on the issue, let me direct you to a letter written by a veteran gay activist who at least grew up over here to the UK’s Secretary for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls.
George Broadhead’s family kept a large and classy boarding house in Douglas in the ‘bucket and spade brigade’ era. He moved away to university and, as many bright folk do, did not return. But he did go on to help found GALHA and be involved in many of the classic gay rights struggles late last century. While officially ‘retired’ as secretary of GALHA (a post he held from the start) he is still very active.
George was also, I think, the first Manxman to openly declare himself gay in a Manx newspaper. That was during a quite nasty era leading up to partial decriminalisation in 1991. It was so bitter, and the resentment so long lasting, that even I’m still blacklisted from involvement or employment by some major public sector and voluntary groups. My ‘crime’ was just to say then in local print that decriminalisation would indicate Manx civilisation was not an oxymoron.
On behalf of the Pink Triangle Trust, George recently wrote to protest about further exemptions to faith schools which will let them get away with preaching superstitious poison about sexuality.
The full text of that letter reads:

‘As a gay educational charity, we were shocked to learn that the new government plans to compel all schools to teach sex education will allow faith schools to educate pupils in line with their religious beliefs.
It seems that a get-out clause for faith schools will permit them to present sex education “in line with the context, values and ethos” of the schools and clearly this will permit them to tell pupils (in line with the teachings in their holy books) that lesbian and gay sexual relationships are morally wrong.
Homophobic bullying plagues the majority of our schools and shocking levels of bullying are meted out to school pupils and teachers who either are gay or perceived to be gay. That is the conclusion of a wide-ranging study carried by the gay equality organisation Stonewall. The study found that nearly two thirds of lesbian and gay pupils reported instances of homophobic harassment and significantly this figure jumps to 75% for those attending faith schools.
When this survey was issued, you yourself pledged to stamp out all forms of bullying in schools.
It is surely unacceptable that a large proportion of our schools should be allowed to tell their pupils that same-sex relationships are wrong with the inevitable consequence that anti-gay bullying will increase.’

As of the publication a few days ago of the latest issue of G&LH, there had been no reply from Ed Balls or his office.
For more on the letter, go to!.htm.
But why stop there?
The entire issue is, again, a rich mix of well argued opinion, vital information and humour. So just read it all at .

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Will Eurovision do the right thing tonight?

Tonight is the Eurovision Song Contest, and my household were planning on watching. We haven’t the slightest interest in the UK entry winning, but we do love the naff excess and wanted to see if Terry Wogan’s successor, Graham Norton, could equal Tel’s waspishness without sinking to his racism.
Now we have another reason to watch Norton & the show closely, one closer to this blog’s heart, and so do you.
See for news on how a gay gathering in Moscow, timed to coincide with both the gay-friendly Eurovision and IDAHO (International day Against Homophobia), has been broken up by police and participants, including Peter Tatchell, arrested. Curious, by the way, that while Moscow Pride was outlawed by Moscow’s notoriously homophobic mayor, a counter-parade of mainstream Nazis and their Christofascist chums wasn’t.
Tatchell has posted a bulletin to UK supporters, which I’ve just picked up on via the PTT Blog (see sidebar), in which he says:

"Between 35 and 40 Russian LGBT activists have been arrested, including British human rights activist Peter Tatchell and Chicago LGBT activist Andy Thayer. Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev was held down by 5 fully armed riot police and arrested.
European Embassy diplomats who witnessed the violence are said to be planning a joint diplomatic action.
Slavic Pride organisers have called on the artists and performers of Eurovision to boycott tonight’s showpiece event in solidarity with the beaten and arrested protesters.”

As mentioned by Tatchell, one of those arrested has been the energetic and inspiring gay Russian activist Nikolai Alekseev, who said:

“I call upon all of the artists who are due to perform at tonight’s Eurovision to boycott tonight’s event and send a message that Russia’s state oppression of human rights is not acceptable.
The Russian Government is using this years Eurovision in Moscow as a gala showpiece to show the world how far the country has improved since the early 1990’s. However, what was witnessed this afternoon on the streets of Moscow shows the world just how little Russia has travelled when it comes to supporting fundamental human rights.
The police brutality that we witnessed here this afternoon is shocking. We planned a peaceful march to highlight the dire state of LGBT rights in Russia today. The police, given violent legitimacy by the openly homophobic Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, did not hold back with their weapons, despite the world’s media watching.
We were defending the often violated human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Russians. We demand the same legal protection against discrimination and hate crimes that none LGBT people enjoy.
This episode has shamed the Russian Government and Moscow authorities before the world.”

Mike Foxwell, editor of the online Gay & Lesbian Humanist has also contacted Eurovision organisers suggesting that at such a gay-friendly event and with a European audience of countless millions they simply have to make a protest. PTT seem to be posting updates as they can get them for those surfing the web throughout the day.
I tell you what. Let’s see if Norton and the Eurovision crowd do what’s right by a significant number of their audience. And if they don’t, let’s protest ourselves, via any media we can, about fair weather campers who go all M & S instead when it matters.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Beware rabbits in waistcoats

After reading some of the PR twaddle produced by Manx government departments and drifting into the local press I have to declare a state of national emergency. This island is now being run solely for the benefit of whimsical geriatrics who collect pictures of rabbits in waistcoats.
Take this ( ) for example. Sentamu’s Apprentice has chuntered about fairies, the Tourist Department chunters about fairies, now some finance sector dropout wants to run a café where you can talk to them.
Or maybe the café is for the fairies too. Whatever! The owner is away with them anyway.
Then you have the godbothers getting Tourist Department help to try and get in touch with their Celtic roots (see
For the benefit of the non-Manx, the keills were the chapels built by the first Christian monks in remote hilly areas. For the best part of a thousand years they were happily abandoned except by a few sheep or the odd hippie having a sly toke.
I blame Clannad myself. Until they did that spacey Robin Hood theme music Celtic traditionalists were content with folkdancing and incest: now new age mystic malarkey is an international industry. With all that money for old…….knotwork(!) on offer no wonder the churches are in there with a collecting bucket.
Oh well, if a bunch of superstitious crinklies want to wander the hills at night in rain and fog getting inspired but soaked I suppose that is their business. Maybe there’s a niche tourist market for ‘extreme praying’. Let’s just hope our emergency services won’t be too tied up rescuing bonkers biblebashers when saner folk need an ambulance.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Watch out, watch out, there's a cult about

I had to smile at the idea that a local school is tackling phone pests who pick on kids. Or rather, given that the Education Department has had complaints about an evangelical halfwit pestering kids with text messages there, I am amused that they’re ignoring that but paying someone from a pseudo-charity to help kids deal with a threat which, by their own admission, does not even exist in the school. Look at and you might see what I mean.
Remember, this is the school which not only let a ‘youth pastor’ troll for victims, but where one of the staff must have passed confidential details about a girl who refused his advances. How, otherwise, did he get her confidential cell phone number and text her at home?
Amazingly, though at least one complaint (possibly several) was made by parents and guardians of pupils affected I hear he is not only still pestering but has opened a branch in a Douglas high school too. Thankfully, talk is rife amongst parents of that school’s first year intake, and even those due to start in September, about ‘some Moonie cult’ running a bible club there.
One quite decent, religiously inclined, parent summed up his dilemma to me the other day. He hasn’t forced his views on his children, but thinks it OK that adolescents ‘explore their spirituality’ at school as they explore everything else – with a bit of responsible adult guidance. Only they cannot get that.
Teachers don’t get involved in lunchtime or after-school clubs any more unless there’s a career advantage. And kids can’t even leave school premises or go home before working parents get there, because of police clampdowns led by panic stories about teenagers wandering the streets at lunch, or misguided safety nazis who think they’ll smoke crack or burn the house down. Then, smelling fresh victims and public money, in come the evangelicals to run extra-curricular ‘activities’.
Having seen these freaks in action when he collects his kids, my fellow parent, like others I’ve spoken to recently, says he is not about to lose them to a deranged cult which operates with Education Department approval, and possibly even public funding. If it means breaking the law or tangling with interfering ‘child protection agencies’ so be it. We at least expect our kids to be safe in school, and we don’t see some Education Department staff protecting them while they attend the same churches as those our kids are most in danger from.

Monday, 11 May 2009

An Irish reformation

The campaign against a blasphemy law in Ireland (see Down with that sort of thing! )is gathering pace rapidly, and the associated website at is well worth a look. Why not add a message of support while you’re there.
Atheist Ireland, the group behind it, has only been around since December 2008, and though I keep in touch with Irish humanists north and south of the border I hadn’t seen these guys before. There’s a website at, again well worth a look, especially the blog.
The latter reveals a lively interest in the kind of topics favoured on here – e.g. free speech, censorship, religious privilege – and a robust, no nonsense stance. They definitely join my list of fellow spirits to keep an eye on and collaborate with should opportunities arise.
It’s great to see things are perking up in Ireland, as also demonstrated in the latest issue of Humanism Ireland, which dropped through my letterbox this morning. OK, got to declare an interest as this blog started life as a column in that mag’s predecessor, which continues in the current mag. That said, it’s a cracking wee mag which equals any Brit humanist publication: in fact the wide range of articles, topics and contributors is evidence of a real open door policy which I only wish those mags would try to emulate.
You can find out more at , though unfortunately the usual sample articles from the latest (and particularly informative) issue aren’t up on the site yet.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Mind your own business, make your own choice

I was intrigued to see veteran assisted suicide campaigner Michael Irwin apparently attacking a fellow campaigner, Philip Nitschke, in the Torygruff (see
I have to declare an interest here. Pat Kneen, the Manxman whose death caused the attempted prosecution of Michael Irwin and Pat’s widow, was a good friend. That’s why I was secretary of Pat’s Manx Death with Dignity campaign, and that’s why I know Michael Irwin personally.
In fact, I gladly collaborated with Michael again last year on a campaign to ‘road test’ a model Irish Living Will. In return for Manx people commenting they got a template to take to a Manx advocate and try and get something which will at least offer minimal protection in the absence of a Manx equivalent of the UK’s Mental Capacity Act.
Ironically, one reason I was involved was the Kneens weren’t up on computers or the internet, although the subsequent campaign was greatly aided by being able to receive and pass information off-island quickly, so they needed help there. The other was my straightforward and non-negotiable libertarian belief that anything that consenting adults do behind closed doors which doesn’t harm others is none of the state’s damned business.
It’s also why I’m slightly suspicious of this report, because I know that Michael always felt staff at the Torygruff disliked him enough to try and trip him up or misrepresent his words and actions. That said, I think the article does fairly represent his stance on the issue.
The thing is, in a funny way both the mainstream ‘for’ and ‘against’ opinion is guided by an old school ‘doctor knows best’ attitude. Michael believes doctors alone ought to be able to act on the informed wishes of terminally ill patients who don’t want to continue living. Pro-lifers say they think doctors shouldn’t ‘play God’, though of course condemning someone to more suffering is playing a god who decides they should, and curiously it also doesn’t seem to apply if UK pro-lifers decide to slip funds to or protect US nutters who bomb abortion clinics or shoot doctors. I make that last claim because, in an exchange with the spokesman of a prominent UK anti-abortion group in the local paper a few years back, I challenged his organisation to openly condemn such murderers and their sponsors; he would not or could not do it.
But the point is, they both believe ‘doctors know best’, and even the ‘pro’ lobby (perhaps unwittingly) tends to favour only terminally ill people from an upper middle class professional background as being capable of taking an informed choice. I doubt Michael Irwin thinks, say, a manual worker dying from an industrial respiratory illness should be able to take his own life or be helped to do so by his workmates.
Michael plays the gentlemanly family doctor to put a case for law change protecting other such gentlemanly types. I like him for it, but Philip Nitschke seems, by comparison, a model of antipodean bluntness, and I like that too.
The truth is, any old Cobber with a computer these days can decide to get the pills over the internet and use them. True, as with dodgy Viagra or ‘vitamin pills’, you might not get what you ordered. But is any of this finally anybody else’s business but your own?
So, I am not about to take sides or condemn either for going about things the way their cultural background taught them works – for them.
On the one hand, I hope, like Michael Irwin, for a more compassionate law. On the other hand, as I don’t believe it was ever the state’s business anyway I absolutely defend those, like Philip Nitschke, who help people make their own choices about their own private lives.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Clunes meets our Loons

Looks like the island is gearing itself up for another A.A. Gill moment.
The non-Manx won’t know what an ‘A.A. Gill moment’ is, so try and
Yes, it’s painfully accurate, and no, we shouldn’t snigger, though I almost broke a rib laughing when the first one was published, and couldn’t believe it when he came back for a second shot. Absolutely nothing to do with local ramblers and their scabby dogs who caused sheep to bolt over a cliff on land owned by Gill’s mate Jeremy Clarkson either, I’m sure.
The latest ‘Gill moment’ is actually a ‘Clunes moment’. That’s Martin Clunes, once a badly behaved man, now the new Reggie Perrin.
Clunes is fronting a TV series about the smaller British isles which next features the Isle of Man, and in this week’s Radio Times he commented of the island: 'I just got a bit sick of everybody coming up to me saying, "It's great, you don't pay any tax and none of my money goes in Gordon Brown's pocket. And I thought, "Well none of mine does either, you t**t". It's just unattractive.'
Seems fair enough, as he’s not having a go at ordinary locals. Sounds to me like he bumped into some of the white flighters who were enticed over here by a cretinous new resident policy in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Can’t blame him for taking a dislike to such folk. Very few people here like them either, so it is a shame if Clunes throught they were typical Manxies.
Actually, when you see the decidely twee agenda the Tourist Department dreamt up to show off the island (see my only surprise is the poor man didn’t leave us in a straitjacket. Manx cats, fairies, tin baths, our Glorious Leader in his shop…..even Guantanamo would be a summer holiday by comparison with that lot!
The local paper picked up on the story (see and now we wait with baited breath to see if his on-air views match his press comments.
… or maybe the whole thing is just a cunning plan by the TV production company to get people watching when there’s more interesting fare on the other channels.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Do you believe in fairies?

Late last year I ran an item on Sentamu’s Apprentice getting so desperate for inspiration he turned to plundering local fairy folklore (see Manx fairy tales for more).
Now another unelected political parasite is doing the same, as you can see for yourself at
Locals who know this loon probably wish he’d stuck to doing what he does best, hosting crap Country & Western programmes on local radio. How he ever got to be the ‘political correspondent’ for Manx Radio, never mind an MLC, we’ll never know.
Actually, we do know how he got to be an MLC. He was so accomodating to our dimmest politicians in his ‘interviews’ he should have had ‘Welcome’ tattooed across his face. At least these days Stuart Peters asks the scrotes proper questions.
But this is a hoot of a story for more than sad old losers like Callister and Cringle who jump on board the Whimsy Express for free publicity. Just look at the first comment from Dr Andrew Standring.
Only in the Isle of Man could a spacefiller about fairies turn into an earnest debate because the Tourist Department might be publicising the ‘wrong’ kind of fairies!
At first I thought Dr Standring was one of the island’s legion of underemployed folklorists (well, even family connections can’t get them all jobs at Manx National Heritage or the Centre for Manx Studies). I couldn’t wait for phase two of the argument, when a local farmer weighs in with tales taught at his granny’s knee, or some other professional Manxman points out Manx should be spelt ‘Manks’ as there’s no X in the Celtic alphabet, only to set off someone from the rival Manx language group. I see Gill got a mention almost at once - and for those off-island, that is no relation to A.A. Gill, who set off a major riot here by describing locals at the World Tin Bath Championships a wee bit too accurately.
But it’s wilder than that. I realised Dr Standring must be the same Dr Standring who works at Nobles Hospital and keeps any number of TT riders alive.
I’m due up there soon for some surgery. I warn you, if the anaesthetist asks me to spin round three times and make a wish……I’m gone!

Will this revolution be televised?

Here’s an interesting question…
Why would a post on the Guardian's 'Comment is Free' website section be closed to public comment in less than 24 hours, and with only seven comments?
If you read the post at you might take it for a nonsensical bit of religious opportunism, but no more.
Andrew Graystone, who admits to being the Director of the Churches Media Council, argues that "Religious programming must be bold". He seems to have been given a chance to reply to a far superior Sunny Hyndal post of late April which suggested the CMC was lobbying for the BBC to restrict head of religious programming applications to professed Christians.
So far, so uncontroversial. But surely the Grauniad wouldn’t pull the comments plug so fast just to stop readers commenting how dull and unconvincing Graystone is.
I really do not know, though being a trainspotter who actually wonders who takes BBC religious programming decisions I sussed out Graystone a long time ago. I found, amongst other commitments, he also runs a website for the Evangelical Alliance and even works as a BBC producer.
In fact, if you were friendless and stuck in front of the TV over Easter 2008 you could have seen one of his worst efforts. He produced a totally pointless BBC crucifixion feature film, which was heavily publicised for weeks beforehand, avoided like the plague by most of the population and sank without trace. Possibly the worst case ever for an increase in BBC religious programming hours.
Which makes you wonder how on earth he ever managed to be in a position to ‘advise’ the BBC as an ‘independent’ representative of Christian opinion, while simultaneously working for both the Beeb and a group which thinks UK Christians should be prepared to violently overthrow the state if they can’t keep their privileges any other way.
Ah, so you thought the Evangelical Alliance is just a respectable, if batty, religious organisation?
Then who said: "If, as most Christians accept, they should be politically involved in democratic processes, many believe this may, where necessary, take the form of active resistance to the state. This may encompass disobedience to law, civil disobedience, involving selective, non-violent resistance or, ultimately, violent revolution."
The answer may be found in a Daily Telegraph article published in November 2006. You can read it in full at . You may never want the EA's loudest and most obnoxious spokesman, Joel Edwards, to be let into any public gathering again without being frisked.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Down with that sort of thing!

I’d thought before about mentioning a Facebook campaign to declare September 30th as an annual Blasphemy Day. The date concides with the publishing of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons, and you can find the group at if you’re interested.
Since then we’ve also seen the attempt by Islamic nations to have the UN prevent folk poking fun at their precious prophet. Though an international clampdown on religious jokes led by the kind of freaks who like to stone women to death sounds far more serious, I still wasn’t worried.
Then I read that this month even the Irish government may regress to the middle ages and introduce a crime of blasphemous libel into a new Defamation Bill.
Ironically, one reason seems to be that there’s only been one (unsuccessful) attempt at a blasphemy conviction over there under legislation based on the original English law (which was itself finally abolished last year). That was in 1999, and failed because Ireland’s Supreme Court concluded that it was impossible to say “of what the offence of blasphemy consists”.
An added complication, of course, was that the English legislation to which they had to look for guidance in effect only prevented people waxing cynical about Anglicanism – as Muslims discovered during the Satanic Verses saga.
So now the Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, has proposed a new section for the Defamation Bill, stating:
“A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000”.
Obviously keen not to drop another bollock in court, they’ve also defined blasphemy as material:
“that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.”
But where it gets really startling is when you see that:
“Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section, the court may issue a warrant authorising the Garda Síochána to enter, if necessary using reasonable force, a premises where the member of the force has reasonable grounds for believing there are copies of the blasphemous statements in order to seize them.”
Once my jaw was back off the floor I just creased myself laughing, having had a vision of a bunch of burly gardai storming into Waterstones and seizing the entire James Joyce section.
OK, the opposition is proposing reducing the fine to €1,000 and excluding 'matter of artistic merit', but why can’t politicos just tackle spook fanciers head on about their fear of legitimate criticism?
You can read more about the whole depressing thing at
The funniest thing is, there’s a perfectly good mechanism to tackle this in Ireland already, and the Humanist Association of Ireland, the nation’s humanist group, are part of it.
In 2005 the group were the first to make a submission to the ‘Dialogue between Government and Religious, Philosophical and Non-Confessional Groups’ but had to wait until 26th February 2007 for the eventual launch of the project. I gather much of that was because Catholic bishops were playing hard to get.
25 religious bodies are involved in a bilateral project where all meet several government ministers on an open, transparent basis, with government obliged to listen to concerns raised.
HAI in particular have aimed to remove numerous religious assumptions and references in the Irish Constitution and press for changes emphasising ‘a republic which treats people of all religions and none in an equal manner’, which sounds about right to me.
Mind you, their representative, Catherine O’Brien, once described to me and some other Celtic heathens the hissy fits when she walked into the first meeting.
Just what was it about the sight of a middle aged woman that drove 24 Father Ted clones to huddle up in one corner of the table fingering their rosaries and whimpering? Silly sods even tried pulling a few strings to try and get her removed on the grounds a ‘militant atheist’ wasn’t a fit person to sit in such exclusive company.
What worried them? Concern that she looked better in a dress than they do?
Anyways, September 30th. Mark it in the calendar and be sure to take time out to mock voodoo merchants mercilessly, and often.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Another day, another child executed in Iran

Delara Darabi was hanged in Rasht Central Prison, Iran, earlier today, becoming the second person to be executed in Iran this year after being convicted of a crime alleged to have been committed while the accused was under 18. She was executed despite being given a two-month stay of execution by the Head of the Judiciary on 19 April.
I covered the background to this case last month at for those who want the fine detail. Suffice to say it’s pretty sick, if nothing more than we’ve come to expect from a government of rug-butting throwbacks who seem to hate most of humanity, and women in particular. Significantly, the courts refused to consider new evidence that her lawyer said would have proved she could not have committed the murder.
Amnesty International has expressed outrage, more politely than I ever could, that another child offender was executed despite an international ban on capital punishment of those convicted of crimes committed when under the age of 18.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
'Amnesty International is outraged at the execution of Delara Darabi, and particularly at the news that her lawyer was not informed about the execution, despite the legal requirement that he should receive 48 hours' notice.
'This appears to have been a cynical move on the part of the authorities to avoid domestic and international protests which might have saved Delara Darabi's life.
"This indicates that even decisions by the Head of the Judiciary carry no weight and are disregarded in the provinces.'

The execution brings to at least 140 the number of executions in Iran so far this year. She is the second woman known to have been executed in 2009 and the second child offender.
Since 1990 Iran has executed at least 42 child offenders, eight of them in 2008 and one on 21 January 2009. These executions went ahead in total disregard of international law, which unequivocally bans the execution of those convicted of crimes committed when under the age of 18.
If you’re in London on 6th May you can join Amnesty International at the Iranian Embassy to lay flowers in memory of Delara. That’s happening from 4.00pm - 6.00pm, and the Iranian Embassy is at 16 Princes Gate London SW7 1PT.
Please wear black; Amnesty is providing flowers.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Out in the sticks no-one can hear kids scream

There was more in this week’s local paper about the plans for a new redneck brainwashing centre (sorry, ‘Christian youth facility’) at a former country pub out in the sticks where no-one can hear the victims scream. You can read it at if you have a strong stomach.
I howled with laughter at comments like….

‘You can see their excitement and the relationship between them and the volunteers growing. The one that sticks in my mind is it's boys who do not have fathers, they have no male role models ... the volunteers are successful guys that can operate as role models’.

Since when is a bumpkin with a bible a ‘role model’, unless you’re planning on becoming a professional bigot when you’ve failed school?
And how about….

'There is a generation of fatherless boys. Single mums do a fantastic job but they can not be fathers. Well over 50 per cent of our volunteers are males, it's often women who do this kind of work, so it's good to see guys stepping up to the plate and putting in an effort there. It takes time to listen to their stories and want to share their stories and feed into their lives. I was able to share about God being the heavenly father who never rejects us, it's a lovely parallel.’

Oh, pass the sick bag! And if you are responsible for a young person, then do NOT let these voodoo-merchants into the same room as your loved one.
Look, I happen to know that this ‘role model’, while involved in a ridiculous ‘mentoring’ scheme in a local high school, sent text messages to a girl in her early teens who had previously, and emphatically, rejected his ‘offers’ of ‘help’. He is an unwelcome religious parasite, and the subject of at least one complaint sent directly to the Director of Education for this and similar incidents. I saw one of the letters, and there was even talk of a petition to get him banned from any school premises.
You have to ask yourself; how does a ‘youth pastor’ (not a member of school staff so there as a guest and with no access to confidential pupil records) get hold of a mobile number not given to any except the girl’s closest friends and otherwise known only to key staff for emergencies?
The answer should have led the Director of Education to investigate staff collusion with evangelical cults, and in particular staff openly connected with the Southern Daft Cult. It didn’t, and as far as I know ‘youth pastors’ are still trolling around certain school corridors looking for fresh victims.
Another worrying thing is the way that kids from non-conventional families are targeted by such klingons as needing ‘pastoral help’, and that the Department of Education turns a blind eye to illegal activity which, to be blunt, most of us would regard as ‘grooming’. Ironically, while this is an offence under the very same Sexual Offences Act which a couple of years ago equalised the age of gay consent with the UK, it was only included in the first place to keep prominent local Christian homophobes happy.
I also happen to know that local evangelicals see it as ‘legitimate tactics’ to try and split such kids from their families because non-Christians (and even Catholics) are seen as a ‘bad influence’. I have that from an evangelical in a key government position who openly admitted it as ‘background information’ for a story when I worked for the local press.
People with a serious interest in child welfare need to ask themselves if, the way things are going, we need better protection for our kids. Not just from superstitious halfwits like Porter and his lawbreaking teacher buddies, but the Education Department’s plans for‘Multi Agency Teams’ where similar flat-earthers will be over-represented.
That you can take as a depressing certainty, so better start idiot-proofing your offspring now.