At Large

Back With a Vengeance

The British government returns to the nation's bedrooms.

By 1.5.09

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England decriminalized homosexuality in 1967, a move hailed by libertarians of the day as getting the government out of bedrooms.

The Archbishop of Canterbury of the day had earlier supported decriminalization, saying that "There is a sacred realm of privacy…into which the law, generally speaking, must not intrude. This is a principle of the utmost importance for the preservation of human freedom, self-respect, and responsibility." It was very much in the tradition of English liberty, which had once led Queen Elizabeth I, in the context of religious belief, to say she would not make windows into men's souls.

Under the present regime of politically correct soft totalitarianism and social transformism the government is back in bedrooms with a vengeance, policing not only sexual acts but attitudes on a way increasingly reminiscent of Cromwell or Savonarola.

Most recently at Brighton Pilgrim Homes, a charity that operates a care-home for elderly Christians, has been accused of institutional discrimination and has lost its grant from the Brighton and Hove Council because the residents refused to answer questions about their sexuality. Nothing could indicate more clearly that the side presently prosecuting and winning Britain's culture war has no interest in supporting liberty or the individual's privacy or dignity, or show up its own sometimes barely disguised viciousness.

A few years ago Home Office Minister Michael O'Brien found the Fire Service had an overly tough and masculine culture and that firemen were failing to come to terms with homosexuality. He stated: "It is time the Fire Service began to understand that society is changing, and it is time it began changing too." The 6,750 London brigade firemen were then presented by a questionnaire from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, seeking to know whether they were homosexual or not.

Back in November 2003, it was reported that police were investigating the Bishop of Chester, The Rt. Rev. Peter Forster, co-author of a church report on sexuality issues, who, writing in the Chester Chronicle, had encouraged homosexuals to reorient themselves, to see if his advice amounted to a criminal offense.

The bishop compounded this by stating that children raised in families by "a man and woman who have committed themselves to long-term marriage" fared better than those in single-parent families (a view since endorsed by the government's own official reports). The Chief Constable of the area, Peter Fahy, actually said that the bishop needed to "justify himself." The Crown Prosecution Service finally decided that no charges would be laid. However, Chief Constable Fahy administered a moral lecture to the bishop, stating he thought members of minority communities were often targeted and that "I think in a civilised society that's totally unacceptable."

It was a defining moment showing how far political correctness had come, when stating such views ran a risk of criminal prosecution, and when it appeared acceptable that the police had become the official guardians and arbitrators not of law but of opinion.

In October 2007, a Christian couple, Vincent and Pauline Matherick, who over the years had taken in 28 foster children, were forced by local authorities from Somerset County Council to give up being foster parents after they refused to promote homosexuality to children in their care if the children expressed an interest in it.

A spokesman for Somerset County Council was quoted as saying  that the council was obliged to implement the government's sexual orientation regulations, and that "I am not suggesting that it is not very difficult for some people, but there is still an obligation under the law."

Snooping into ethnicity as well as sexual attitudes is a major industry. One soldier who quit the Royal Marines wrote: "The government's obsession with political correctness has been applied to the military with such relish that at times it seems almost insane. I have lost count of the number of forms I have had to fill in giving details of my ethnic origin. These forms used to be anonymous, but the last one I had to complete carried my name, rank and service number."

In the case of Pilgrim Homes the Daily Mail reported that the council circulated a questionnaire to the Pilgrim Home in Egremont Place, Brighton, which houses 39 single Christians aged over 80, including former missionaries and a minister.

The charity's chief executive said: "People in their 90s are very vulnerable and shouldn't be treated in this way."

Phil Wainwright, director of human resources for Pilgrim Homes, said the council told him the home had to ask residents if they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual or unsure. They were to answer even if they objected. Many of the elderly residents rebelled, however, and the home wrote to the council saying residents did not want to participate. Mr. Wainwright was quoted as saying: "There was a strong feeling among people in the home that the questions were inappropriate and intrusive. They felt they had come to Pilgrim Homes because of its Christian ethos and were upset they were not protected from such intrusions."

Brighton & Hove Council complained about the home's "negative response"  and argued that because the home had a Christian ethos, homosexual people might be deterred from applying.

Note that there was no evidence, or even suggestion, that the home had actually discriminated against homosexuals, or that there were not homosexuals among those who refused to participate, even allowing for the fact that the elderly residents might well have not been sexually active anyway. The mere fact they -- the residents -- had not wished to answer the question was apparently construed as evidence of guilt.

The council also claimed that the home had resisted using images of elderly homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people in its leaflets, and, with the greasily-gross Brezhnev-speak increasingly common among British local authorities, stated: "The Government specifically states the home must be open to the gay and lesbian community and that it must demonstrate this to qualify for funding. In the absence of any willingness to do this, funding has been withdrawn."   If other public authorities feel obliged to act in the same way, many residents of old people's homes may be forced to either disclose details of their sexuality to government snoopers or find themselves on the streets.

Even in the days of the Henry VIII, who first outlawed homosexuality, or of Cromwell and the Puritans, or of the prosecution and jailing of Oscar Wilde, people minding their own business and leading their own lives had not been forced to make such disclosures.

It has also been announced that from now on the Office for National Statistics will routinely ask people about their "sexual identity" in every household survey it conducts. It will be interesting to see if the present Archbishop of Canterbury has anything to say about a sacred realm of privacy into which the law must not intrude, or the preservation of freedom, self-respect and responsibility.

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About the Author
Hal G.P. Colebatch's "Immram," Counterstrike, is being published by Australian publisher Imaginites.