Author: Margaret

9/11, abortion, cryonics, faith in politics, Hypatia and mobile phones

Here’s some stuff I’ve found on the Internet recently.

Stephen Howe wrote about the “reinvention of Islam” since 9/11 in New Humanist magazine. People have become defined by their religion, rather than their ethnicity, he says. He ends:

The caveat that all collective identities are potentially oppressive and dangerous, not just religious, and not least national, ones, surely requires little reiteration. Even so, personally, I’d quite like to see the past decade’s wave of ethnic cleansing reversed. That is, I have no objection at all to Muslim neighbours, friends, fellow citizens – but given the choice, on the whole I’d prefer to get rid of them, and bring back the Sylhetis and Somalis, Turks and Tunisians I used to live with.

Phones 4U has been banned from using an advertisement by the Advertising Standards Authority because an illustration of Jesus winking and giving a thumbs up was considered “disrespectful” to the Christian faith. The BBC quoted Andrew Copson of the BHA in its report, saying that the ban was “completely ridiculous”.

Click, the BBC’s programme about “the world of technology” (mostly computing, the Internet, and smart phones) had a report on the popularity of religious phone apps in Singapore, where app developers are creating software “to make the most out of religion”. Here next?

The BBC’s Radio 5 Live had an item on a report that almost two thirds of schools in England are ignoring their legal duty to provide a daily act of worship. This isn’t news, as many teachers will tell you. The law on collective worship in schools has been widely flouted for years. One of the speakers was from Accord.

Charity event in aid of the DEC East Africa Appeal at the Brewery Tap

DEC fundraiserWe’ve had an email from Sophie Wainwright, who’s organising a charity event on September 16th at The Brewery Tap, Ipswich, in aid of the East Africa Crisis Appeal. Sophie wrote,

Money being raised will go to the DEC to help those affected by the famine in East Africa. I was interested to read your blog posts on your site about the DEC appeal and more recently about the situation with LGBT Africans, and thought you might be interested in this event.

I’d like to invite yourself and your colleagues/members to the event, which aside from being for a very worthwhile cause promises to be a fantastic evening of fun and enjoyment for everyone. I have attached a copy of the event poster, if you could pass this onto your contacts and members it would be very much appreciated, as it would be great to get as many people there as possible to raise as much as we can for the appeal.

The Brewery Tap, Ipswich

The Brewery Tap is a pub and restaurant right next to the old Tolly Cobbold brewery in the heart of Ipswich docks.

The Christian National Registry of Atheists

“Pastor” Michael Stahl from Florida, who doesn’t actually have a church and probably assumed the title himself, is clearly a very ignorant and prejudiced man. A year ago he wrote in his blog that he was going to start a grassroots organization to keep a database of atheists called “The Christian National Registry of Atheists.” He wrote,

I mean, think about it. There are already National Registrys [sic] for convicted sex offenders, ex-convicts, terrorist cells, hate groups like the KKK, skinheads, radical Islamists, etc… This type of ‘National Registry’ would merely be for information purposes.

When Mr Stahl’s great idea came to light a few days ago, it naturally annoyed a lot of people, mainly atheists like us, who’d never considered any similarity with sex offenders or terrorists. Mr Stahl seems to have neglected to make a list of all the Catholic sex offenders, but perhaps he thinks that the Pope’s right, and we should just ignore them.

Anyhow, the Thinking Atheist thought that this was a good opportunity to point out what a great list this might be.

Ipswich Science in the Pub

John Benton says, “Bring an experiment. Also, news on a confirmed speaker for our upcoming season of talks.” What sort of experiment? You’ll have to be there to find out.

Debunking Lord Monckton

In our last newsletter, we reported on a meeting where our guest speaker, Prof. John Midwinter, had spoken about climate change. The report mentioned the arch-sceptic, Christopher Monckton, who travels around the world, rubbishing the science behind climate change. Thanks to American science blogger, P Z Myers, we’ve found a lecture online by Prof. John Abraham that exposes all the fallacies in Monckton’s arguments. Please refer anyone who doubts that climate change is our responsibility to it.

Click here for the lecture as a series of You Tube videos.

The TES on Steiner “free” schools

The Times Education Supplement has an article about the applications for free school status by Steiner schools. It says:

The Steiner approach emphasises the importance of practical crafts such as woodwork, book-binding and knitting, while students spend less time learning ICT skills.

Such free-school proposals appear to undermine the Government’s stance that schools should be teaching a more traditional “knowledge-based” curriculum.

Steiner schools are based on the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who founded “anthroposophy”, which promotes the belief that all humans possess an innate spirit or soul, through which a person can connect to a spirit world via “inner development”.

The British Humanist Association said it had “serious concerns” over what would be taught in the Steiner schools, given that free schools have considerable freedoms over their curriculum.

For more on this, see our previous posts. We’ll be discussing a proposed Steiner school in Suffolk at our next meeting.

The persecution of LGBT people in Africa going “from bad to worse”

Ugandan gays aren’t the only ones facing persecution (see last posts). There’s a climate of fear for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across Africa. The Pink Triangle Trust released this news briefing in January:


Following the latest example of virulent homophobia in Ghana, the UK gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) says that the situation for LGBT people in Africa is going from bad to worse.

A government minister in Ghana has called on the country’s intelligence services to track down and arrest all gays and lesbians. The call has come from Paul Evans Aidoo, the minister for the Western Region of Ghana. Mr Aidoo, a staunch Roman Catholic, said: “All efforts are being made to get rid of these people in society.” He called for the Bureau of National Investigations to round up gays and called on landlords and tenants to inform on people they suspect of being homosexual. “Once they have been arrested, they will be brought before the law.”

The move by Mr Aidoo has drawn support from other politicians, including the general secretary of the People’s National Convention (PNC) who declared “Homosexuality is abhorrent. Media discourse across the world is being dictated by the vulgar opinions of homosexuals. Ghana and probably Africa cannot sustain the menace of homosexuals.”

This development follows months of campaigning by the Christian Council of Ghana which last week called on Ghanaians not to vote for any politician who believes in the rights of homosexuals. Both Christians and Muslims in the region have been protesting since a local media report claimed there were around 8,000 gay men and lesbians in the district. It is the latest in a series of expressions of officially condoned homophobia across the continent, notably in Malawi and Uganda.

Homosexual acts are criminalised in 38 African countries.

Gay Ugandan asylum seeker Robert Segwani spared deportation, for now

Robert SegwaniGay Ugandan Robert Segwani has been spared deportation at the last minute and returned to detention. Thank you if you signed the petition we told you about the other day, but Robert isn’t out of danger yet. Joe Mirabella reports:

Robert was spared from deportation at the very last minute according to his friend and fellow gay Urandan refugee John Bosco, “[Robert] is back in the detention centre waiting to hear what’s next.  He had 5 escorts up to the plane, and as he was about to board the plane the Home Office stopped his deportation.  He is very tired and stressed since he has not been sleeping well.  He is in pain.”

John Bosco told me on the phone that Robert has not been eating well and that he was considering suicide, “Since last Friday, when he was given the deportation notice he stopped eating. He threatened to kill himself, because he has had enough,” said Bosco.

More than 3,500 people signed Paul Canning’s petition asking the Home Office to grant Robert Segwanyi asylum in the UK.

Update, 8/9/2011: Have received an email from LGBT Asylum News saying, “Last night Robert was released from detention. Although we (and Robert) don’t yet know why he was released, those of us who work with LGBT asylum seekers know that this is a good sign, that it is extremely likely that his case will eventually be accepted.”

URGENT! Gay Ugandan asylum seeker faces removal tomorrow – please sign a petition

Gay Ugandan Robert faces being forced to leave the UK tomorrow (Thursday 18 August). Please sign this petition to try to prevent this.

LGBT Asylum News reports:

Robert was imprisoned and tortured for homosexuality. On escaping prison in June 2010 he fled to the UK and applied for asylum a fortnight later. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) does not accept he is gay and a judge rejected his appeal claiming that there is no risk to gay people in Uganda.