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article imageValentine’s Day demo against Pope’s visit to UK

By Andrew John     Feb 13, 2010 in Lifestyle
London - Secularists and gay activists will demonstrate in London tomorrow in a St Valentine’s Day protest against the visit in September of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK.
The demonstrators are protesting at what they see as the pope’s bigotry on questions of gays and women. They are also concerned about how much the British taxpayer will have to shell out for the visit, although, in response to a parliamentary question about the visit, the government has said: “The forthcoming visit of the Pope to the UK will be a Papal visit. As a Papal visit it will have status equivalent to a State Visit. The costs of the visit have not yet been determined; as with State Visits, certain elements will be borne by public funds.”
The National Secular Society has organised a petition against the visit, which, as at lunchtime Saturday, had amassed more than 21,000 signatures.
One of those signing the petition is George Broadhead, secretary of the only gay humanist charity in the UK, the Pink Triangle Trust, who said: “The Pope’s stance on many moral issues is completely contrary to that of humanists. It is also contrary to modern liberal values.
“He opposes women’s rights, gay equality, embryonic stem cell research, death with dignity and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. He has recently denounced our equality laws, causing the government to back down [in a House of Lords vote on amendments to employment provisions in the Equality Bill]. He is quite likely to abuse his presence in Britain to further attack our democratically agreed legislation that gives equal rights to women and gay people. This is why the Pink Triangle Trust is supporting the demonstration against his visit to the UK.”
The trust’s blog, Pink Triangle, has been just as hard-hitting about the government’s climbdown and the September visit, which will also see the Pope visiting Scotland.
Campaigners have also been angered by the Pope’s speaking out against provisions in the Equality Bill – which a series of amendments have now removed – that would extend employment rights to all, irrespective of whether the employer is a religious organisation.
The gay human-rights activist Peter Tatchell of the campaigning group OutRage! – who will be speaking at the rally tomorrow – is quoted in the Pink Paper as saying: “We want a secular Europe, where the Vatican and the Catholic Church cease attempting to impose their harsh, intolerant morality on everyone else.”
Tomorrow’s event is being led by the Central London Humanist Group, in partnership with the National Secular Society, the British Humanist Association, the Rationalist Association, OutRage!, the One Law for All campaign, the Protest the Pope campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.
Organiser Marco Tranchino said: “The tiny Vatican State is inhabited mainly by priests. It is extremely powerful and its ‘moral’ crusades adversely affect the lives of millions of people in Europe and across the world.”
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