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article imageAnger over BBC’s move to put Pope on air

By Andrew John     Feb 17, 2010 in World
Secularists in Britain are furious that the BBC wants to invite Pope Benedict to deliver a radio homily during his visit in September.
The National Secular Society has for years challenged the BBC’s insistence that only religious contributors are allowed to speak in a short programme called Thought for the Day, which is nestled within the hard-news Today Programme on Radio 4.
So it is particularly annoying to the society that the BBC has confirmed today that talks are already taking place with the Vatican to secure Pope Benedict’s participation in the three-minute slot.
News that the corporation would like to have the pope as a dream presenter has angered the society’s president, Terry Sanderson, who says: “I think this is an indication of what we can expect. I think the BBC under [director general] Mark Thompson is going to go into overdrive and we are going to have Pope, Pope, Pope, driven down our throats for the whole three days of the visit.
“We cannot help but suspect that Mark Thompson’s recent visit to the Vatican for what were called ‘high-level talks’ with Vatican officials might well have been to plan this kind of propaganda exercise.”
The society has been organising an online petition as part of its campaign to stop the visit by the Pope, who is seen by many, especially secularists, humanists and the LGBT community, as bigoted and reactionary.
They are angered by his pronouncements on homosexuality, believed by the Vatican to be an intrinsic moral evil. They are also chagrined by the pope’s recent pronouncements on the UK’s Equalities Bill, currently going through Parliament.
While it was in the upper chamber, the House of Lords, several amendments were accepted that would weaken the Bill in favour of religious employers, who seek to be able to discriminate against gays, women and people of other religions even in nonreligious posts within their organisations, such as janitor and office worker.
The government wanted the equalities, but backed down and decided not fight the Lords amendments after the pope had criticised the Bill, and the Equalities Minister, Harriet Harman, was criticised by secularists.
Among those critical of her decision to back down was George Broadhead, secretary of the country’s only gay humanist charity, the Pink Triangle Trust.
“This abject climbdown has obviously been prompted by the pope’s recent criticism of the pro-gay clause in the bill and is a clear indication, if any were needed, of the continuing malign political influence exerted by the Catholic Church,” he said.
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