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Faith has long been used to justify anti-LGBT+ discrimination – here's why this dangerous ploy won't work

In Birmingham, the wildest interpretations of Islam are being put forward to justify why kids shouldn’t know some children have two mummies. Homophobic Christians also rely on the same tactics, but is this bashing even theologically justified?

Jonathan Cooper
Friday 31 May 2019 12:04 BST
Esther McVey says parents should be able to withdraw children from LGBT relationships lessons

Protests outside primary schools in Birmingham are once again fanning the flames of hate aimed at LGBT+ community.

With Tory leadership hopeful Esther McVey facing criticism for appearing to side with the protestors, it feels rather like the days of Section 28 all over again. Section 28 was a law adopted 30 years ago that prevented schools from discussing LGBT+ rights on broadly moral and religious grounds. Back then, religion was used to foment hurt, and it seems like little has changed.

This time, it’s some people of the Muslim faith objecting to classes that normalise LGBT+ relationships. But it could have easily been Christians, as religion has been used to torment LGBT+ people for millennia. Of course not all people of faith persecute LGBT+ people, but all of the main faiths bear responsibility for directing hate towards LGBT+ people over the years.

Trans people have even been granted a reprieve by some Muslim leaders. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini recognised that surgery to “correct” gender identity was permissible under Islamic law. But this is little comfort for those who don’t need surgery to live in their gender. Guided by his understanding of Islam, the Sultan of Brunei has recently promulgated laws authorising the stoning to death of men caught having sex with each other. Under international pressure, he may have decided not to enforce those laws, but they remain on the statute book. By introducing the death penalty for gay sex, Brunei’s laws are now consistent with Iran’s as well as Saudi Arabia’s.

Secularism has taken over from religion as the guiding principle in the evolution of public policy in the West, but that doesn’t stop religious groups, including powerful institutions like the Church of England, the Vatican and Muslim organisations using faith as an excuse to harm LGBT+ people. Outside the school in Birmingham the wildest interpretations of Islam are being put forward to justify why kids shouldn’t know some children have two mummies. Christians can also rely on the same distorted rhetoric to explain why LGBT+ people must not enjoy equal human rightBut is this bashing even theologically justified? Jesus expresses so many opinions. You would have thought that if he believed LGBT+ people should be censured he would have said something about it, yet Jesus is silent on same-sex attraction. Arguably, in the only reference made by Jesus that could be relevant to same-sex love, he merely points out that some men should not marry women. Additionally, there are other Bible stories where same-sex love can be seen as unremarkable. LGBT+ antagonists keep schtum about these parts of the Bible.

There are six references to what could be homosexuality in Scripture, out of some 31,000 verses. We are constantly told that the Bible condemns gay sex. Yet when you read those scant passages in Deuteronomy, Leviticus and the letters of Paul, it turns out that they may not denounce gay intimacy after all. They are ambiguous. But for the desire to censure same sex attraction and to present it as the worst of all sins, those passages would have been ignored. And there may be something more sinister going on. What if early translators of the Bible "sexed up" these passages and inserted, mistranslated and omitted words and phrases here and elsewhere in order to bulk up a case for persecution?

The silence of Jesus is contrasted by comments made by Paul in Jesus’s name. Whether the Aramaic or Greek language used in his letters is correctly translated remains in doubt. Was Paul actually referring to obscure cults and transactional sexual exploitation and not same-sex love? And even if Paul did target gay men in his writings, doesn’t that merely emphasise the fact that he was caught up in the hum drum of the everyday and that he could not transcend his humanity unlike the exquisite ability to love offered by Jesus?

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It is ironic that Jesus preached a message of love which is universal and yet in his name love between people of the same sex was denounced. And then the law got involved. By the 4th century, the Theodosian Code, had effectively criminalised all forms of same-sex relationships, including same-sex marriage, on pain of death. Paganism and homosexuality had become indistinguishable. Shame and the fear of prosecution prevailed. Law took over from the translation and revision of Scripture and homophobia was codified. Christianity was able to show what it stood against.

Fast forward a few hundred years and the Prophet Mohammed delivers the Koran, dictated to him by God. The Koran is searing in its beauty as it makes the case for man’s relationship with God. At the same time, it codifies law. For the 8th Century CE much of this Code was uncontroversial. It adopts many of the laws that existed at the time. This includes the prohibition on same-sex relations which had now become an almost universal orthodoxy. The Koran merely repeats what was said by those who had used Christianity to establish their new world order. Like Paul, the Prophet is a man, and, as with Paul, lingering questions remain. Is the Koran clear on homosexuality or is the Prophet really concerned with sexual exploitation and not same-sex intimacy per se?

Comments on social media justifying why these particular Birmingham-based Muslims must protest against equality for all school children are not nuanced in their understanding of Islam. They are blinkered. They will not tolerate LGBT+ people and they use their take on their faith to justify their tactics. It’s a ploy we’ve seen time and time again. But, like so many Christians before them, those who try to use religion to seek to eradicate LGBT+ people singularly fail. Much to their anguish we are born again.

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