Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A rare backdown from bigoted Britain

Wow! Christian values can be tolerated after all! They might even get as much respect as Islamic values eventually. Publicity works: Christian Couple no Longer Required to Promote Homosexuality in Fostering Children

Vincent and Pauline Matherick are the Christian couple in Somerset who chose to retire from fostering needy children rather than bow to the Somerset county council's demand that they promote the homosexual lifestyle. After a media generated international uproar over their situation, they have been invited back by the council and have had their religious objections recognised. The couple met with council officials on Wednesday and today were told they could continue fostering and would not have to "promote homosexuality". "It's good news and we're very pleased," Mr Matherick said. "This is a blessing and I must thank the media, and particularly the Daily Mail, for their help in highlighting the issue."

Somerset council officials said in a statement that the couple "have no problem in signing Somerset's Equalities Promise, which includes an expectation not to discriminate unfairly for reasons of sex, marital status, caring responsibilities or sexual orientation." "We all agree that the welfare of children is paramount. It is absolutely vital that people come forward as foster carers." The council's statement admitted that the incident "may have damaged the image of fostering at a time when vulnerable children need caring homes."

A spokesman for the couple said the council had agreed to recognise their convictions and conscientious objections. "The Mathericks hope now to continue to foster children as before."

Andrea Williams of Christian Concern For Our Nation said: "This is a significant step forward for Christian freedoms in that the Council has agreed not to force Mr. and Mrs. Matherick to act against their Christian beliefs. This should be of enormous encouragement to all Christians who want to take up the important role of caring for vulnerable children."

The Mathericks are ministers in the non-conformist South Chard Christian Church and when their 11 year-old foster son David was removed from their home, he had asked to be allowed to continue attending their Sunday school. The Mathericks had insisted that they had never "discriminated" against anyone for any reason, but that they could not agree to the council's "equality statement" because it amounted to promotion of homosexuality, which would be a violation of their Christian beliefs and conscience. Mr Matherick said, "I cannot preach the benefits of homosexuality when I believe it is against the word of God."

As a result of their decision, the council removed their 11 year-old foster son David and placed him in a council-owned facility. The Mathericks had cared for 28 children in their home since 2001 and were described as ideal foster carers. The "equality" agreement had required them to tell their foster children that homosexuality was the equivalent to natural sexuality and to discuss "gay dating" practices with them. They had been told that they would be required to take children to homosexual support groups if the child "expressed an interest" in homosexuality.

The Somerset council refused to discuss the matter until the case became public in the national papers and internationally on LifeSiteNews.com.


Naughty Dalai Lama

While it is little known and seldom heard, Buddhism, like Catholicism opposes homosexual acts as "sexual misconduct". With all the North American media giving attention to the Dalai Lama during his current visit and his upcoming visit with Pope Benedict XVI, it is a good time to draw attention to his views on homosexual relations. The media harp on the Pope's views on homosexuality, yet have remained relatively silent on a very similar position held by the leader of the world's Buddhists.

In an interview with the Vancouver Sun in 2004, the Buddhist leader was questioned about homosexuality to which he replied, "For a Buddhist, the same sex, that is sexual misconduct."

The Dalai Lama elaborated, "they use the mouth and the anus, this is sexual misconduct in Buddhism." He also noted that the restrictions on sexual activity applied even outside the homosexual context to heterosexual and even married couples. "Even as (sic) a heterosexual context. Even if one uses one's own hand this is sexual misconduct. So if you are a genuine believer, then you must avoid this," he said.

The stance is very similar to that of the Catholic Church which similarly forbids homosexual sex, and even within heterosexual marriage insists that sexual acts remain open to life thus forbidding anal and oral sex and masturbation where ejaculation occurs outside the vagina.

There is a key difference however in the approach of the two religions regarding sexuality. Buddhism, according to the Dalai Lama, has one set of beliefs for its members and a totally different set of beliefs for non-members. "I have two letters, one letter is as a religious believer, I think that we should follow according to one's holy teachings," explained the Buddhist leader. "If you are a non-believer," he continued, "then two persons male or female, they get maximum joy through this technique, they do not create violence, (laughs). One thing I would like to express, sometimes due to that kind of behaviour there is discrimination in jobs, or within the family this creates some problem purely based on that sexual reason, - if people discriminate based on sexual orientation, that is extreme and it is wrong. Whether same sex marriage is OK or not is dependent upon each country's law."

Questioned by Sun reporter Douglas Todd on whether same sex 'marriage' was a big deal, the Dalai Lama replied, "Even the whole concept of marriage is particular to a particular society and their unity, so whether or not homosexual couples should be accorded a marriage status, should really be dealt within that particular community and country."

Therein lies a stark difference with Catholicism as successive Popes (and other Christian leaders who teach traditional Christian moral principles) have not spoken of sexual teachings as restricted to Catholics or other Christians, but for the good of all humanity. The Popes thus propose God's plan for human sexuality as a reality stamped in the human heart, the human psyche and the human soul regardless of religious belief or non-belief.


Gertrude Himmelfarb and Victorian values

Deep in the hinterland of Gordon Brown's intellect is a protected zone dedicated to a woman who has been dubbed the queen bee of American neoconservatives. It is Gertrude Himmelfarb's books that he packs for his holiday reading, her quotations that embellish his speeches. The prime minister has now taken the final step of recording his adoration in print. Himmelfarb is an 85-year-old historian and former Trotskyite who acts as the mother superior of America's moral majority. Her advocacy of Victorian values to remedy the western world's "grievous moral disorder" has struck a chord on both sides of the Atlantic ever since the era of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

These days, George W Bush pays court to Himmelfarb with invitations to impart the lessons of history at White House soir,es, while Brown has agreed to pen the introduction to her next book. This reprints her 2004 work The Roads to Modernity, which argues for the rehabilitation of British enlightenment and informed the prime minister's recent speech on liberty at the University of Westminster.

Himmelfarb, known to friends as Bea, is the matriarch of a family that has been making the political weather in America for four decades. Her husband, Irving Kristol, is a journalist and essayist known as the godfather of neoconservatism. Their son, William, who earned the nickname "Dan Quayle's brain" when chief of staff to George Bush Sr's hapless vice-president, edits the Weekly Standard and is chairman of the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century. "No family has had a greater impact on today's conservatism than the Kristols," said The New Yorker magazine.

The woman with whom Brown is intellectually smitten is small, fine-featured and soft-spoken, her mind undimmed by age. "She has a very wry sense of humour," said a friend. "She'll poke a statement you make to find what's in it, but in a funny way. Part of her power is the contrast between her slight physical appearance and gentle voice on the one hand, and the extraordinary intellect she brings to bear."

Brown received the book that became his crib from Irwin Stelzer, the economist and Sunday Times columnist, who is a close friend of Himmelfarb. "My wife and I have been exchanging books with Gordon for some time," he recalled. "He gave me half a dozen books on what he liked to call the Scottish enlightenment, so I thought he ought to see Bea's book, which she had sent me. He was very taken with it." Stelzer believes that the Victorian value of individual responsibility strongly appeals to Brown: "But the parts that don't appeal to him are to do with private action rather than state action." In fact, Stelzer admits, Brown's embrace of Himmelfarb's work exposes "a massive contradiction". This did not stop him inviting her to Downing Street when he was chancellor, nor offering to throw the launch party for her new volume at No 10.

Himmelfarb and Kristol enjoy a busy social life at the Watergate complex overlooking the Potomac River in Washington, dining with friends three or four times a week. The walls of their spacious apartment are lined with books and prints, including portraits of the English poets Chaucer and Pope. After 65 years of marriage, the couple retain the aura of a bride and groom. Charles Krauthammer, the conservative commentator, has described their marriage as "one of the great intellectual partnerships and one of the great love stories of our time". According to Stelzer's wife Cita: "When we drop them off after dinner, they automatically hold hands. It's very touching."

Himmelfarb's scholarship on the Victorian era provides the intellectual ballast for conservative writers, among whose ranks she represents a daunting presence. "When we're writing something, it's as if she's perched on your shoulder because her research standards are so high," said Stelzer. "You think, what will she think when she sees this sentence?" However, her emphasis on the virtues of individual responsibility and religion drive American liberals up the wall. Praise for the verve and clarity of her writing is balanced by a desire among some critics to savage her ideas. One wrote of her 1999 book One Nation, Two Cultures that she manifested the intellect of "the village biddy who sticks her blue nose into everyone else's business, offering opinions nobody asked for about how everybody else should live".

Simon Jenkins confessed in his review for The Sunday Times of Himmelfarb's last work, The Moral Imagination, that he "frequently hurled this book across the room in frustration". He said yesterday: "She's a most accomplished writer, but I thought the book was absurd and partisan. The Victorians were ruthless, cynical and dishonest, whereas she has this idea that it was a golden age. Gordon Brown's adoption of her is ludicrous, although you can see that her rose-tinted version of the past could be quite useful to the son of a manse."

Himmelfarb's own past was not so rosy. She grew up in what she described as a respectable but poor Jewish family living in Brooklyn, New York; her parents had emigrated from Russia just before the first world war. She was not an observant Jew, although she later took night courses in Hebrew literature and described Jews as exemplars of Victorian values in late 19th-century London. She was a teenage Trotskyite when she met Kristol. The group they joined "had a very exalted title like the Fourth International", she recalled. "It could have been comfortably contained in a telephone booth." It was antiStalinist and passionately intellectual: "We really read Marx. We didn't just bandy around slogans. We argued vigorously."

After graduating from Brooklyn College, she moved to the University of Chicago, attracted by its "very hothousy kind of intellectual atmosphere". Married as an undergraduate in 1942, she had no career plans when her husband left to serve with the US infantry in Europe. At Chicago she studied under Louis Gottschalk, a distinguished scholar of the French revolution, but it was her dissertation on Lord Acton, the English historian, that launched her literary career in 1952. Acton hooked her on Victorian England. She was able to delve deeper in London, where her husband founded the literary magazine Encounter with the poet Stephen Spender in 1953 and remained its editor for five years. She took up a fellowship at Girton College, Cambridge. When they returned to New York she settled in for a long stint teaching at City University.

She and Kristol were typical of many neoconservatives, a term coined to describe a group of largely New York intellectuals who turned from left-wing causes towards the right during the late 1960s and 1970s. The catalyst was the insurgency of 1960s counter-culture. The liberal left had surrendered to an unholy alliance of Marx, anti-intellectualism, drugs and violence. The new culture, she believed, spread rapidly because it was easy to adopt: "Virtues are hard. Vices are easy to come by." The target of the counter-culture was the Establishment, which capitulated and jettisoned its self-discipline.

In the final stage of their conversion, the neocons became celebrants of American capitalism and traditional values. For many, that meant attacking affirmative action and feminism. Himmelfarb has deplored mothers of young children who go to work. Instead, she contended, society should aspire to a moral climate where motherhood and domesticity are "as respectable a calling as the profession of law or the practice of business".

She has certainly never held back her strong views. She has voiced fears that "the frenzy of intermarriage" would produce "a point of diminishing returns, where you no longer have a critical mass of Jews - that's to say, enough people to reinforce your own convictions". She described as "spousal abuse" John Bayley's book detailing the dementia of his wife Iris Murdoch. Yet Himmelfarb has a huge following among the young.

"She provokes the liberal left a great deal," said Stelzer. "The left is collectivist and secular, whereas all her writing is geared towards the virtues of individual responsibility and a role for religion in public life." For Brown watchers, it will be fascinating to observe how his moral compass registers the conflict between his heroine's Victorian precepts and the pressing demands of government



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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