The Christian leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, has come under fire for appearing to dodge the question of whether he thinks same-sex acts are sinful. Several interviewers have asked him whether he believes gay sex is a sin; Farron has said he will not answer because it is a matter of private belief. He has also been asked about the matter in the House of Commons. Asked whether he though being gay was a sin, he replied: “No, I don’t,” and pointed to his record of voting for LGBT rights.
What the media are saying
On Twitter, many expressed their dismay at Tim Farron’s interviews. Guardian columnist Owen Jones called Farron’s response “an absolute disgrace”, adding: “But hey, I’m just some sinning gay, what would I know.”
There was also some support for Mr Farron. When comedian David Baddiel said Farron was “a fundamentalist Christian homophobe”, Liberal Democrat peer Brian Paddick, who is in a same-sex partnership, responded: “Dear David. Tim has beliefs I don’t agree with about what God thinks about sex outside of (straight) marriage, but he’s not a homophobe. No joke.”
Former Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone, who helped to lead the parliamentary campaign for redefining marriage, said the criticism of Farron was “persecution of a private belief”.
What Catholics are saying
On Good Morning Britain, presenter Piers Morgan announced that Tim Farron had pulled out of an interview. Morgan said: “He claimed he pulled out over ‘scheduling issues’ – I think he pulled out over questioning issues. Come on, Mr Farron, you’re a good guy, we like you, you’ve got to come clean about this.”
David Shariatmadari at the Guardian was one of several commentators who said the focus on Farron’s moral views was excessive. Shariatmadari said that, providing Farron’s beliefs did not inform his politics, they were irrelevant. “The advancement of LGBT rights doesn’t depend on us all celebrating gay sex with every fibre of our being,” he said. “It depends on a consensus in which the rights of minorities are protected.”
✣ Christian governor ousted after alleged blasphemy
The Christian governor of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta has conceded electoral defeat. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, is on trial for blasphemy, prompting hundreds of thousands to protest against him and call for his imprisonment or death. His Muslim rival, Anies Baswedan, won by 58 per cent to 42 per cent.
Why was it under-reported?
The significance of the defeat is not immediately obvious. The governorship of the city of Jakarta is high office – the last governor went on to become president. Ahok was the first Christian to hold the position. He held a double-digit lead in the polls until he was accused of blasphemy last autumn. The huge and occasionally violent protests against him marred Indonesia’s reputation as a moderate Muslim country. They also raised the question of whether a Christian could run for office in a country that is majority Muslim.
What will happen next?
As the Economist summed up: “The governor’s race has given unscrupulous politicians a simple blueprint for winning office: stir up religious fervour by decrying real or invented insults to Islam.” Indonesia’s current president, Joko Widodo, has supported Ahok throughout, but this may come back to haunt him in 2019, when he is due to run for office again. Future elections and the tactics employed will be an indicator of how moderate Indonesia truly is, especially when it comes to the rights of
✣The week ahead
The bishops of England and Wales will meet for their plenary assembly in Rome tomorrow. They will convene at the Villa Palazzola for the biannual gathering, where they are likely to finalise a number of resolutions on pressing issues of the day. The meeting will be combined with a five-day retreat at the villa from Monday to Friday next week.
The election of the Grand Master of the Order of Malta will take place in Rome tomorrow. The order’s governing body will gather at the Magistral Villa in Rome, where the last six Grand Masters have been elected.
Hundreds of young adults from across Europe will gather in Birmingham this weekend for a Taizé gathering attended by Brother Alois, the prior of Taizé, an ecumenical order in France. The theme of the gathering is “hidden treasure”. For further information please contact the Mission Office on 020 8525 3135. No booking is required.
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