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Brighter Brains Institute publishes a collection of Leo Igwe’s essays

Leo Igwe is the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, a former representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, a human rights activist, and a journalist who has published scores of essays in the last decade in media such as Modern Ghana, Ghana Web, The Maravi Post, Butterflies and Wheels, Sahara Reporters, African Herald Express, the James Randi Educational Foundation, the Freethinker, and the USA think tank Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology.

He is currently working on his PhD at the University of Bayreuth in Germany. His doctoral thesis is on “Witchcraft Accusations and their Social Impact.”

Igwe is also a member of the Brighter Brains Institute. Its mission is to promote humanism in Africa, by building and supporting humanist schools, clinics, and orphanages.

BBI has recently collected many of Igwe’s essays in an ebook, entitled, No God, No Saviour. His articles discuss humanism and atheism in multiple African countries, and are catalogued semi-alphabetically, from Botswana to Zimbabwe. Problems caused by religions in Africa – Islam, Christianity, and traditional witchcraft – are carefully documented by Igwe. The book can be purchased at BBI’s “market” webpage for $5 US. It was edited by BBI Board member Karen Zelevinsky and the cover was designed by BBI Board member Alex McGilvery.

Review: Outrage! An Oral History

In the spring, 1999, edition of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist, DIESEL BALAAM reviewed a book by IAN LUCAS, published in November, 1998.

OutRage! has succeeded in putting lesbian and gay issues on the public agenda as never before, and its impact on gay identities and culture is undeniable. Confrontational, but never violent, they have predictably attracted a great deal of criticism, not least from other campaigning organisations piqued by the success of OutRage! – and on a fraction of their own budgets.

Stylish, audacious, and with a shrewd idea of how the media operate, they have always known when to seize the moment, shaming the rest of us for our sluggishness, apathy and inactivity. Nonetheless, it’s probably still too soon to assess the true impact of OutRage! on gay politics and wider society, so Ian Lucas’s decision to assemble an oral history of this many-headed queer phenomenon seems particularly astute. Many people from inside and outside the gay community have criticised OutRage!, with its most famous member, Peter Tatchell, coming in for some seriously nasty attacks, including from one-time GALHA chairperson Daniel O’Hara.

But as this book shows, the group itself was riven by internal dissent. Two groups in particular seem to have been very big thorns in the side of the OutRage! body politic – a faction of the International Trotskyist Committee for the Political Regeneration of the Fourth International (all three of them), and a clique of post-modern journalists, whose theory may improve on that of obsolete socialist stalwarts, but whose practical contribution to OutRage! seems to have been somewhat negligible. The heated arguments and bitchiness continue to this day, via the personal testimonies that punctuate Lucas’s deliberately cool narrative prose.

For those involved in any way with gay politics during the past decade, landmark protests and events are re-lived and illumined from the “inside” by those directly involved. Many key players, quoted here, will be familiar to members of GALHA – John Jackson and Marina Cronin speak eloquently and well – and more than once Peter Tatchell’s humanity shines through when he is likened, affectionately, to a mother hen protecting and fussing over her chicks.

Judging by this book, many actions fell short of expectations, while others appear cheap and puerile (the “bend over for your member” protest is a case in point, when a line of gay men pulled their trousers down outside the Houses of Parliament). However, most were well-researched, displaying imagination, daring, and panache – the famous “kiss-in” around the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, to highlight discriminatory laws against public displays of affection being an obvious example, together with the “Turn-Yourself-In” demo at Bow Street Police Station, and the “Queer Weddings” in Trafalgar Square.

They were also present at the near riot outside the Houses of Parliament in 1994, when the House of Commons refused an equal age of consent, despite reformers “winning all the arguments”. While the Stonewall representatives appealed for calm (no doubt anxious that their Labour Party junketings were about to disappear down the pan), OutRage! recognised instantly that at this particular juncture, a riot was the only dignified and appropriate response.

But perhaps the most famous and controversial actions of OutRage! involved the “outing” of allegedly closeted homosexuals. Picking on the harmless Jason Donovan does seem unfair in retrospect, but only the lily-livered could object to the exposing of hypocritical Tories, bishops and Christian pop singers. The history of “outing” in the UK is well-documented here; how it took its early lead from Queer Nation in the US, via the originally serious intention to “out” 200 leading public figures, through to the coincidental death of bigoted Ulster Unionist MP Sir James Kilfedder, who had a heart attack shortly after receiving a letter gently inviting him to “come out”.

Sadly, the opportunity to out the 200 prominent figures (thus changing the parameters of debate in this country forever) was fudged and frittered away, with the feeble claim that it was all just a hoax to expose tabloid hypocrisy. This was a rare instance of OutRage! losing its nerve, but it nonetheless generated useful public debates about the role of homosexuals in public life.

From its inception, OutRage! was on a collision course with the Church, and some of its most colourful, entertaining, and even surreal zaps have taken place in churches. While the Daniel O’Haras of this world are content to muse over which bishops may, or may not, be gay, OutRage! has been laying siege to the pulpits, releasing helium-filled condoms inside Catholic Cathedrals, and wrecking meetings of the “ex-gay” movement. Admittedly, a disproportionate amount of time and energy has been devoted to the increasingly irrelevant Church of England, but as the book makes clear, it is a simple and effective strategy for grabbing publicity, and taking the piss out of Christians is always enormous fun.

OutRage! has also broken new ground by tackling the Moslem menace – the sinister legacy of Britain’s post-war immigration policies – but here the response, to date, has been strangely and unnecessarily reticent.
Terror groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir are quite up-front about their intention to seize power and kill homosexuals, yet the response of some OutRage! members in the face of this threat seems like political correctness gone mad. Take, for example, this limp-wristed response, from one Simon Edge: “Hizb-ut-Tahrir were being vilified in the Press. I thought it was a bit dodgy to say ‘Yeah, yeah, we hate them too’, because we’re gay.”

Tellingly, the book highlights the great emotional toll OutRage! has taken out on its core membership, but in its determination to push the debates forward, and the ability to seize the moment, it has changed the political and cultural landscape of gay identity for good. I think we could all do with taking a leaf out of
this illuminating book.

US presidential candidate threatens to reverse hard-won equality gains

Writing for Politico Magazine back in July, San Franciscan Laura Turner said “Trump needs the religious right to win this election. The religious right needs Trump in order for its agenda to move forward.” Her article appeared just days before the 2016 Republican National Convention was staged in Cleveland, Ohio, and it was there that Trump won the presidential nomination on the first ballot, and Indiana Governor Mike Pence won the nomination for vice president.

Surprisingly, Trump used the occasion to champion gay rights. During his 75-minute speech at the convention reportedly Trump reportedly looked genuinely surprised at the roar of applause when he said, “as your president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.”

Momentarily going off script, Trump added, “I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.”

Since the Orlando gay nightclub shooting in June, which killed 49 people, Trump began portrayed himself as “a warrior” for gays, but, as Turner pointed out in her article, if Trump is to win he needs the support of Christian conservatives. As he was then way behind his rival Hillary Clinton in the polls, he began furiously backtracking, and in September, with Trump’s creation of a 35-member Catholic Advisory Council, it became clear that under his presidency the US would be a far less inclusive country for LGBT and other minorities.

The council Trump established includes US Senator Rick Santorum, a two-time presidential candidate with a lengthy anti-LGBT record.

In addition to Santorum, who in a 2003 interview infamously compared homosexuality to “man on child, man on dog” behaviour, his advisory council includes other individuals with anti-LGBT records.

“Religious liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution,” Trump said in a statement outlining “Issues of Importance to Catholics”.

“It is our first liberty and provides the most important protection in that it protects our right of conscience. Activist judges and executive orders issued by presidents who have no regard for the Constitution have put these protections in jeopardy. If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths.”
“Judicial nominations, particularly appointments to the United States Supreme Court, are one of the most critical issues of this election,” Trump added. “I will appoint Justices to the Supreme Court like the late and beloved great Catholic thinker and jurist, Justice Antonin Scalia, who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not legislate from the bench.”

His statement reiterated the position he outlined earlier this year when he told ABC’s This Week host George Stephanopoulos that he would appoint conservative Supreme Court justices to the bench that would “stand against” same-sex marriage if he were elected President. In January, Trump told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that he wasn’t happy with the way the Supreme Court handled the same-sex marriage case and believes the issue of same-sex marriage should have been addressed at the state level and not by the federal government.

“If I’m elected I would be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things. They’ve got a long way to go. At some point, we have to get back down to business but there is no question about it and most people feel this way,” Trump told Wallace when asked about the issue.

Another member of Trump’s advisory group is Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who fought the ruling in favour of same-sex marriage in his state, rescinded an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees and signed into law a “religious freedom” bill against LGBT students.

Trump’s Catholic Advisory Group is similar to the evangelical advisory group he created in June that gave top billing to former presidential candidate and Rep. Michele Bachmann, who also has an anti-LGBT reputation.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of the pro-LGBT Catholic group DignityUSA, said she doesn’t recognise all 35 names on the council, but “many whose presence among Trump’s chosen advisors on Catholicism raise grave concern.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke

“It seems to be a group hand-picked by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops – anti-LGBTQ, anti-women’s rights, for the expansion of religious exemptions,” Duddy-Burke said. “Among them are people well known for anti-LGBTQ statements and actions, including Rick Santorum, Marjorie Dannensfelser, and Austin Ruse. Overall, this seems to be a blatant attempt to court conservative Catholics, to shore up Trump’s anti-choice credentials, and to show himself as aligned with Catholic doctrine.”

In another display of just how far he has backtracked, Trump confirmed he would sign a extreme Republican-backed law to directly permit homophobic discrimination.

In a statement, Trump confirmed he would sign the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which bans the government from taking any “action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognised as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”

The broadly written law would effectively legalise all discrimination against LGBT people in all sectors – from employment to retail to healthcare – as long as the person discriminating claims it was due to their religion.
He said in a statement: “Religious liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is our first liberty and provides the most important protection in that it protects our right of conscience. Activist judges and executive orders issued by Presidents who have no regard for the Constitution have put these protections in jeopardy.

“If I am elected President and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths.”

In September, Trump also aligned himself with American Protestants. In a sickening display of faux piety, Trump allowed himself to be pawed by a clot of dimwitted evangelicals in Cleveland, Ohio, as “a protective measure against demonic attacks”.

Speaking at the Midwest Vision and Values Pastors Leadership Conference held at his church in Cleveland, Rev Darrell Scott, CEO of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, revealed that a “nationally known” preacher had warned Trump prior to the launch of his presidential campaign that “if you choose to run for president, there’s going to be a concentrated Satanic attack against you.”

Scott added: “There’s going to be a demon, principalities and powers, that are going to war against you on a level that you’ve never seen before and I’m watching it every day.
Then Scott, his wife, Belinda, and others including Trump’s vice presidential running mate Mike Pence and campaign surrogates Ben Carson, Michael Cohen and Omarosa Manigault joined in the laying on of hands to ward off the alleged attack.

Said Belinda Scott: “We need someone that will honour our beliefs and our faith and our feelings and I really know for a fact that Mr Donald J Trump would do that. He’s a family man, he’s a business man, he’s got tremendous stamina, I don’t know anybody that could get up on a plane and do all this stuff … I appreciate this man.

Televangelist Frank Amedia, who leads Touch Heaven Ministries in Ohio and is described in Time as Trump’s new “liaison for Christian policy,” then led the audience into what he called the “Jericho shout”.

“We wanna tear the walls down of division in the country and the walls that have built themselves up to oppose a man that God has called to bring us to a new place. We are on a journey together and it is a movement even as Mr Trump says but this movement is also a kingdom movement that we know God has released.”

Trump’s cuddling up to the Catholics and evangelicals over the past few weeks appears to be working.

At the time of my writing this article, polls showed that Donald Trump was trailing Hillary Clinton by just two percentage points.

BBC resurrects Mary Whitehouse

BILL JAMESON reports on an episode of Radio 4’s Unforgettable.

In a new five-part series launched this August, BBC’s Radio 4 broadcast imaginary conversations between the living and the dead. The series was called Unforgettable and the second episode featured a conversation between the late Mary Whitehouse, self-appointed nanny to the nation, and filmmaker Tony Garnett, above, a man whose work angered her for its sexual and political content.

Whitehouse, who died in 2001 aged 91, was particularly incensed by two of Garnett’s films, Cathy Come Home, a 1966 BBC TV play, and Up the Junction, a 1968 movie which dealt with backstreet abortion.

When Whitehouse insists that she acted to promote Christian values, Garnett says: “Christian values are not what most people want to embrace. What you call morality I would repressive purity.”

Garnett, who says “I am not a Christian”, goes on to tell Whitehouse: “You were a total failure in your campaigns about sexual morality ... almost everything you dreaded has happened, and I applaud this.

“But on a political level you won beyond your wildest dreams. The changes to the market economy, the cruelty against the poor, the elevation of the rich, the political system you espoused through Moral Re-Armament has triumphed.”

Not mentioned in the programme was the fact that Whitehouse, much to her horror, was directly responsible for the establishment of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association. You can listen to the Radio 4 conversation here.