Sunday, 10 May 2009

Gnat MSP's anti-gay bigotry

There's been a dispute in the Church of Scotland over the past few weeks about whether an openly gay minister, Scott Rennie, is allowed to take charge of a parish in Aberdeen.

Although Scott is a fellow Lib Dem, I can't say I know him. But you can read his thought-provoking insight into the dispute over his appointment here.

His appointment is to be the subject of a motion to the Church of Scotland General Assembly and this has been the subject of vigorous debate, including among MSPs.

Among the politicians commenting has been Nationalist MSP Dave Thompson. According to The Herald, he said: "I do believe, however, that once someone declares himself as a Christian that they should comply with the teaching of the Bible and that active homosexuality is incompatible with that teaching."

Well, if we're talking about textual purity, I'm interested to see how Mr Thompson squares his beliefs with the following passage from the SNP's Holyrood manifesto in 2007: "the SNP will not promote or support legislation or policies which discriminate on the grounds of race, disability, age, gender, faith or religion, social background or sexual orientation."

Some might say that once someone declares himself as a Nationalist MSP, he should comply with the provisions of the manifesto and that active bigotry is incompatible with that manifesto. Or is this yet another part of their manifesto that's not meant to be taken seriously?


Sara said...

Hope Mr Thompson never wears clothes made of two different yarns!

Denver The Last Dinosaur said...

Go you! Making this into a party political issue.

Meanwhile those of us who are of nationalist persuasion, and happen to be entirely supportive of Scott Rennie's appointment, can't help but shake our heads at such behaviour.

Just because Dave Thompson is wrong, doesn't mean we all are, so how about reconsidering the perjorative language in future?

Indy said...

While I agree that it was very foolish of Dave Thompson to comment your conclusion does not make any sense. The Church of Scotland does not make legislation.
The Scottish Parliament makes legislation.

Dave Thompson will vote for the legislation to extend hate crimes protection to gay people. That is more than can be said of a number of Labour MSPs. Will be interesting to see how your party leader votes - he avoided voting on the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Bill.

Richard T said...

And I bet his neighbours love the smell of burnt offerings from his back garden. Still, have some compassion, he can't console himself with a prawn cocktail or a bacon sandwich without being a canting humbug.

Stephen B said...

Personally, I would be far more bothered that the vicar is an active Lib Dem than the fact he might practice b*ggery.

Bernard Salmon said...

Indy: the passage in the Gnat manifesto says 'legislation or policies'. Why, therefore, is Mr Thompson backing a potentially homophobic policy within the Church of Scotland?

Stephen B said...

Bernard, the 2003 Lib Dem manifesto said, "Liberal Democrats welcome the diversity of modern Scottish society and seek to ensure that everyone, regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, disability or age is treated on an equal basis"

...and yet John Farquhar Munro voted for Rosanna Cunningham's Amendments opposing same-sex adoption rights during the passage of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Bill.

Some might have said that once someone declares himself as a Lib Dem MSP, he should comply with the provisions of the manifesto and that active bigotry is incompatible with that manifesto. Or is this yet another part of their manifesto that wasn't meant to be taken seriously?

Sorry to be mischievous!

Bernard Salmon said...

Stephen, John F was wrong then, just as Dave Thompson is wrong now. I'm not making a party political point on this. There are homophobes in every party, just as there are people in all parties who support equal rights for everyone regardless of sexual orientation. But when someone makes a public statement on something like this, I think it is entirely in order to take issue with them.
By the way, thanks for the reminder that Mr Thompson is not the only person in the SNP who doesn't believe in equal rights for all. Am I right in thinking that Fergus Ewing also voted the same way as John F and Roseanna on that issue?

Stephen B said...

Bernard, the people who voted for Amendment 95 which would have added the words 'not of the same sex' to the definition of one of the acceptable couples in this context of 'persons who are civil partners of each other' were as follows:

*Adam, Brian (Aberdeen North) (SNP)
*Aitken, Bill (Glasgow) (Con)
*Cunningham, Roseanna (Perth) (SNP)
*Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
*Gallie, Phil (South of Scotland) (Con)
Gillon, Karen (Clydesdale) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alex (North East Scotland) (Con)
*Matheson, Michael (Central Scotland) (SNP)
McLetchie, David (Edinburgh Pentlands) (Con)
Milne, Mrs Nanette (North East Scotland) (Con)
*Morrison, Mr Alasdair (Western Isles) (Lab)
*Munro, John Farquhar (Ross, Skye and Inverness West) (LD)

Those starred also voted for the previous amendment that sought to limit adoption to married couples only.

Fergus Ewing doesn't seemed to have been present.

Full details here.

Indy said...

Sorry - I thought this was a Labour blog – on re-reading it it’s a Lib dem one, oops. Hard to tell the difference though. It was Iain Gray who 'missed' the vote.

Re Bernard's comments on 'policies and legislation' - I can't believe you are making a serious point.

The interface between the democratic process and churches is where there is a matter of public policy - such as, for example, the adoption issue.

The Scottish Parliament has no role in the internal matters of the Church of Scotland – any more than it would have in the internal matters of any other organisation. This is a dispute which concerns the Church of Scotland not the Scottish Parliament. No public money is involved, no public policy is involved.

If you are not a member of the Church of Scotland then what business is it of yours? I am not a member and I don’t care. I presume Dave Thompson is and does care.

If you want the Parliament to take a stance on the Church of Scotland’s approach to this then what comes next? Should we be demanding that the Catholic Church ordains women?

Do you think that would be a good idea?

Bernard Salmon said...

Indy: I agree it is for the Church of Scotland to decide their own business and I am not suggesting otherwise. But I would note that Mr Thompson seems to be commenting on this issue in his capacity as an MSP, not just as a member of the Church of Scotland.
The opinions and values of our elected representatives are a matter of public concern. Given that Mr Thompson represents me in the Scottish Parliament (even though I didn't vote for him), I am entitled to take him to task when he expresses views which I disagree with and which are contrary to the stated policy of his own party.
I could also point out that the fact the Church of Scotland is not a state body is irrelevant. If Mr Thompson was a member of a private organisation which sought to exclude blacks or women or the disabled, would that be irrelevant to his position as an MSP? And if not, why should seeking to exclude gays be seen as being any different?

Stuart Winton said...

Indy said:

"The Scottish Parliament has no role in the internal matters of the Church of Scotland – any more than it would have in the internal matters of any other organisation."

So if the Scottish Parliament thought it appropriate to intervene in the internal matters of a private business or private club in respect of the smoking ban then should the present matter be an appropriate one for government intervention?

Colin said...

Any MSP who belongs to an anti-gay organisation (such as the Kirk) should have a black mark against them anyway. I don't see why it should be a cause for additional outrage that they then parrot the doctrine of that organisation. If someone joined the BNP, would it compound their offence to add that they think non-whites should be deported?

Indy said...

No Bernard - I think he was commenting as a member of the Kirk who is also an MSP.

That was a foolish thing to do and he should not have done it.

Politicians lose the right to be individuals when they are elected. Whether intentionally or not what they say reflects on the party they represent, as this stramash has illustrated.

Stuart - no. The only way in which this might interface with the public sphere is if it went to court as an employment case. You could possibly make an argument that the Church was breaching the law if it refused to appoint someone to a particular position solely because they are gay.

But I expect his appointent will be confirmed. It may be that a splinter group will then leave the Church and set up yet another sub-sect of the Church. Which will make absolutely no difference to any of the rest of us.

Stuart Winton said...

Indy, you seem to be reverting to a similar argument as that you used in relation to our recent discussion on the Muslim veil, ie if it's within the current law then it's OK rather than an evaluation of whether the current law is right or wrong.

If government can intervene in the employment context to stop discrimination then why stop there?

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