Yesterday the panel of five Supreme Court justices ruled unanimously to allow the appeals from two gay men, from Cameroon and Iran, who had been refused asylum on the grounds they could hide their sexuality by behaving discreetly.
Lord Hope, who read out the judgement, said: “To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny his fundamental right to be who he is. Homosexuals are as much entitled to freedom of association with others who are of the same sexual orientation as people who are straight.”
What interests me are the comments he added later. He said that for many years some countries had simply insisted homosexuality did not exist, which avoided the evil of persecution. However, anti-gay sentiment had dramatically worsened in some places, fanned by “the rampant homophobic teaching that right-wing evangelical Christian churches indulge in throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa” and “the ultra-conservative interpretation of Islamic law that prevails in Iran”.
If I used the phrase “rampant homophobic teaching that right-wing evangelical Christian churches indulge in” I might have been hauled over the coals by the Changing Attitude trustees for using intemperate and provocative language. I would expect to have been attacked by conservative evangelical groups in the UK and USA who work in alliance with African Provinces, bishops and Primates to whose public comments about homosexuality Lord Hope’s criticism applies.
The teaching of right-wing evangelical Christian churches is indeed often rampantly homophobic. Their western allies who deny that their own teaching is homophobic are responsible for endorsing the prejudice and hate of others and of campaigning and arguing for their right not just to hold such views in the Anglican Communion but for those views to influence Anglican teaching and policy.
The furore over the appointment of the next bishop of Southwark has a direct connection with the homophobia identified by Lord Hope. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Crown Nominations Commission and the potential for Canon Jeffrey John to be appointed bishop have been infected by the anti-homosexual views of conservative evangelicals.
Belief in the false report of the beheading of a gay member of Integrity Uganda gained traction because such a horrendous act is now all too possible in Uganda, Nigeria and other African countries where people like Bahati whip up hatred by propounding the most extreme and abusive accounts of gay behaviour.
Groups such as Anglican Mainstream in this country are engaged in similar activity by repeatedly posting news about paedophilia, bestiality, polyamoury, AIDS, converasion therapy and ‘cures’ for homosexuality. Why do they do it? To prove that homosexual people are intrinsically drawn to extreme forms of sexual behaviour. The tactic is wicked.
The applicant to the Supreme Court from Cameroon, identified as HT, had been told he should relocate elsewhere in his country and be “more discreet” in future. He had been attacked by an angry mob at home after being seen kissing his partner. He has been fighting removal from the UK for the past four years. He told the BBC. “I cannot go back and hide who I am or lie about my sexuality.” In Cameroon jail sentences for homosexuality range from six months to five years.
The other application was from a 31-year-old Iranian gay man, who was attacked and expelled from school when his homosexuality was discovered. Like HT, he had been told he could be “reasonably expected to tolerate” conditions back home that would require him to be discreet and avoid persecution. Punishment for homosexual acts ranges from public flogging to execution in Iran.
Two members of Changing Attitude Nigeria have already been granted asylum in the UK and one of them, Davis Mac-Iyalla the founder, continues to work to achieve justice and safety for other vulnerable gay Africans.
Christians should be campaigning for justice and protection for LGBT people in Africa. Those who misuse the Bible to teach that homosexuality is sinful and gay people should be condemned must be challenged. Prejudice must be overcome so that homosexuals no longer need to hide their identity in their home country nor need to seek asylum here.
A massive re-education of christian attitudes towards homosexuality is still urgently needed. Lambeth Resolution 1.10 was and is a disaster for the Anglican Communion, let alone for those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This is most especially true for those trying to live in cultures where prejudice is endemic, reinforced by Christian taboos.