Belfast Church Ad Condemning ’Sodomy’ is Banned
A church in Belfast, Ireland, is appealing a ban on a newspaper ad that claims gays have a "perverted form of sexuality."
The full-page ad, which was placed by Sandown Free Presbyterian Church, ran in 2008 in advance of the Belfast Pride celebration, according to a Sept. 11 BBC News article.
The ad set "The word of God against sodomy," and drew a number of complaints, after which the Advertising Standards Authority declared that the ad may not be subsequently run.
The church appealed the decision on the grounds that its freedom of expression and freedom of worship had been violated by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The High Court ruled on Sept. 11 that there were grounds to proceed with a legal challenge to the anti-gay ad having been banned.
The Justice in the case noted that with some minor correction, the ad would be printable, since it was not the church’s religious objection to gays but the offensive wording that led to the ban.
Said Justice Weatherup, "It would seem there’s not a great deal of change required in the wording and tone, perhaps, in order to meet the objections made by the ASA."
Attorneys for the church argued that the ASA had not understood a Biblical citation used in the ad that decried same-sex physical intimacy between consenting adults as an "abomination," the article reported.
The citation is from the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, which also bans shaving, defecation within the city limits, and the eating of shellfish such as shrimp.
Leviticus also labels menstruating women as "unclean," advocates animal sacrifice and the stoning deaths of unruly adolescents, and promotes the eating of locusts and crickets.
The church’s lawyers argued that the word "abomination" was meant to apply only sex acts, and not to people, saying, "This is the classic evangelical position between loving the sinner and hating the sin."
The idea that consensual intimate contact between adults of the same gender is sinful or abominable was also defended, with the lawyer claiming that the ad had been taken out by a "biblically-based church, bound to proclaim what it believed to be the truth," the BBC reported.
Legal representation for the Advertising Standards Authority countered that the ad’s tone was "forceful, confrontational and threatening to a section of the community," the BBC noted.
The ASA’s attorney also said that it was not the Biblical or religious content that the Authority found offensive, but the text itself, which referred to a "perverted form of sexuality," the BBC article said.
As in the rest of the UK, the law in Northern Ireland bars discriminatory treatment of GLBT people in the arenas of housing, employment, and services, and gays are allowed to serve openly in the military.
However, social prejudices continue to surface.
Despite a law called the Protection from Harassment Act, a male couple in the Northern Ireland town of Londonderry say that they have been targeted for abuse by local children, with the parents refusing to intervene.
One of the men, who was not named in media accounts, was quoted as saying that the homophobic youths responsible for the harassment were sometimes drunk.
The combination of alcohol and anti-gay sentiment has led to dangerous encounters. "As I was on the doorstep, one of them tried to throw a glass at me but someone grabbed her hand just in time and it smashed to the floor," the man recounted.
Added the man, "At other times they drive round in circles outside the house trying to intimidate us."
The couple had faced such treatment before, moving away from their previous residence due to the level of abuse they faced.
"This is why we had to leave Galliagh," the man disclosed, "because we were getting the same treatment."
But the men don’t wish to be driven from their home yet again. "I own this house and have made it a home for me and my boyfriend."
Nor is such open bias confined to local neighborhoods. Last year, a Northern Irish Minister of Parliament, Iris Robinson, generated controversy when she compared gays to child molesters.
Robinson, who is also the wife of the Northern Irish First Minister, was at a meeting of a committee dealing with sex offenders when she declared, "There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children."
When asked about the comment later, Robinson reiterated her view, saying, "I cannot think of anything more sickening than a child being abused. It is comparable to the act of homosexuality."
Calls for her resignation were made, but Robinson had not violated any ethical guidelines with her remarks.
Nonetheless, her comments distressed at least one colleague, committee chairman Willie Clark, who expressed distaste for offensive public pronouncements swaddled in claims of "free expression" and religious freedom.
Said Clark, "[A]t every opportunity people can abuse the code of conduct and get around it by saying it is a personal view or a religious belief."