Gay and lesbian Christians have criticised secularists planning to protest during the pope’s visit to Britain for their “unhelpful and counterproductive” tactics.
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) said that it wanted papal critics – who are voicing their opposition to this month’s state visit for a number of reasons, including the Vatican’s rejection of equal rights for homosexuals – to “disagree with respect”.
It said that it would hold a prayer vigil, not a protest, so the pope could see the faces of those he spoke against, and become aware that his “homophobic comments affect real people”.
It said: “The Protest the Pope coalition of secularist groups has opposed the trip and promised noisy protests, but progressive Christians believe that this is unhelpful and counterproductive.”
But its call for restraint went unheeded, with Protest the Pope refusing to change its strategy.
Andrew Copson, from the British Humanist Association, said that the LGCM statement failed to recognise that Protest the Pope objected to the state aspect of the visit, not the pastoral or religious one. “As a religious leader and a citizen of Europe, we have said he is obviously entitled to visit.
“As a head of a state which many see as enormously destructive of human rights and equality on the international stage it is legitimate and morally right to question him, and the idea that heads of states should receive automatic ‘respect’ because they also happen to be religious leaders we see as entirely mistaken.”
At its first public meeting last month there was support for an attempt to stop Benedict XVI reaching an event. The audience, in Richmond library, heard that Benedict XVI would have to travel down a narrow suburban road to reach the campus of St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, where he would meet thousands of schoolchildren and students. The forum said that it would not support such a blockade, having decided against direct protest, but it was a matter for individuals if they wished to pursue this option.
Organisers behind its flagship event, a march through central London on 17 September, say they are co-operating with local authorities and law-enforcement agencies.
Today the group is staging a debate about whether the papal visit should be a state one.
Proposing that it should not be are human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and the philosopher AC Grayling. Their opposition comprises Christopher Jamison and the Catholic commentator Austen Ivereigh.
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