No right to whip up bigotry
Friday 02 November 2012
Barclays and Coutts banks should think twice about blackmailing gay rights charity Stonewall into dropping its Bigot of the Year annual award.
Stonewall was set up to defend lesbian and gay people against being bullied into submission and anonymity by narrow-minded bigots.
Bankers’ public image is not so good that these wealthy companies can ill afford being seen as the bullies they show themselves to be.
Barclays is currently in the frame for trying to manipulate energy prices in the US. It has already been fined £290 million for rigging the Libor benchmark interest rate.
And the bank has also set aside £2bn to meet the cost of what is politely termed “mis-selling” payment protection insurance – fraud, as it should be called.
So any bid by Barclays to assume the moral high ground by warning Stonewall that persistence with the “bigot” award will cause the bank not to support the annual awards ceremony should be treated with the contempt it merits.
Businesses give financial support to campaigning charities such as Stonewall to polish their corporate image. Some need more buffing up than others.
It does not give them the right to tell them what level of outrage against discrimination is acceptable.
Barclays executives may be unaware of the degree of hurt suffered by many lesbians and gay men by dint of the campaign headed by Cardinal Keith O’Brien to prevent civil marriage in Scotland.
The fierceness of the cardinal’s rhetoric on this issue is in stark contrast to the mealy-mouthed platitudes uttered in response to the widespread abuse of children carried out by Catholic clergy and, worse still, the systematic cover-up at all levels of his church.
Cardinal O’Brien has sought to mobilise Catholics in Scotland to press the Scottish government to deny homosexuals the right to marry in a registry office.
Draft legislation imposes no compulsion on any religion. Religious denominations will continue to be able to set their own rules on who marries in their places of worship.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who received a Stonewall award as the first openly gay leader of a major political party, distanced herself from the “bigot” description, insisting that she “will also respect those who hold a different view.”
Respect must go two ways and Cardinal O’Brien’s disagreement with the principle of universal equality before the law has been less than respectful.
Calling this a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right” goes beyond the normal bounds of decency, as does his equation of gay marriage with slavery.
Advocacy of discrimination is not a victimless crime.
Lesbians and gays are aware that hostility to their legitimate wishes can be fuelled by the cardinal’s words to an extent that puts their personal safety at risk.
They have every right to defend themselves through mockery, which is what the Bigot of the Year award is about.
A church spokesman’s categorisation of this award as revealing the depth of Stonewall “intolerance and willingness to attack and demean those who don’t share their views” speaks volumes, as does his suggestion that government funding of the charity should be reconsidered.
Public organisations and individuals must understand that, if they can dish it out, they should be able to take it.
No-one has the right to whip up bigotry against a minority if they can’t take being described as a bigot.
This video is called Losing Faith: Abuse, Cover-Up and the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien to give up frontline role in Catholic Church of Scotland: here.