“Tim Farron is a homophobe”. At least, that’s what has been blowing up Twitter the past few days.
This is due, more recently, to him again dodging a question about homosexuality from Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News and whether or not Mr Farron believed it was a sin. His response was about as reassuring as your one night stand telling you it’s “probably not chlamydia”. He paused, grimaced and managed simply to say that he wouldn’t make theological pronouncements. Cathy Newman was asking him because, after asking the same question in 2015, he responded: “in Christianity, we’re all sinners”. Bravo. This doubling-down on avoiding the question led to a big debate about the importance of one’s religion when you’re running for office.
But what’s the precedent on this? Well, Prime Ministers have always discussed their faith. Britain, by tradition, is a Christian country so it was always a political point to be scored. Tony Blair was famously religious and even admitted, during an interview with Michael Parkinson, that he prayed to God over the Iraq War. Yet, Blair is considered a Gay Icon and even won an award from Gay Times. Blair, as Prime Minister, ushered in a raft of LGBT-positive legislation such as civil partnerships, the right to adopt, the equal age of consent, the repeal of section 28, ending the LGBT Armed Forces ban as well as stringent hate crime laws and the Gender Recognition Act. Never once did the public consider his religious beliefs to be in the way of his progressive ideals.
So let’s look at Tim Farron again. What is different between his awkward response to the gay question to that of Corbyn’s homosexuality-as-a-choice gaffe? Farron did an interview with GQ in 2015 where he asserted his viewpoint, despite his religion “I’m not a religious leader; I’m a political leader. I think that everybody is utterly equal. People should be free to love who they want and marry who they want. But I don’t go making theological pronouncements.”
These days, we are all so quick to judge but it’s understandable. Heinous crimes have been committed throughout history against LGBT people on the basis of religion. We’ve seen in America the debate about same-sex marriage and how it’s not ‘what God intended’. Homosexuality as a sin is something that seems to be the only thing most religions agree on. Therefore, I feel like LGBT people almost have a Pavlovian reaction to religion – where we hear the word God, we assume hate will follow. But that isn’t fair. We have to accept that, sometimes, our politicians are allowed to change their minds.
Look at Hillary Clinton who in 2000 commented that “marriage has got historic, religious and moral content that goes back to the beginning of time, and I think a marriage is as a marriage has always been, between a man and a woman.” Sure, she continued by saying that same-sex partnerships should enjoy the same rights but it still wasn’t out-and-out support that we saw from her during her 2008 Democratic nomination campaign and subsequent 2016 Presidential campaign. Tim Farron’s record is admittedly sketchy. He voted in favour of same-sex marriage but in 2007 voted against the Equality Act and in 2013 abstained from a third reading of the same-sex marriage bill. Also in 2007, he gave an interview to the Salvation Army’s War Cry magazine about abortion stating he felt, “abortion is wrong. Society has to climb down from the position that says there is nothing morally objectionable about abortion before a certain time. If abortion is wrong, it is wrong at any time.” However, he then said that, “the standards that define my personal morality as a Christian are not the standards of public morality”.
This again raises an interesting question of how genuine someone’s belief in something needs to be. Tim Farron might be anti-abortion or even anti-LGBT rights but his party supports choice and supports LGBT equality. Should we trust somebody who only believes in something politically and not personally? Does it matter? Essentially, it all comes down to trust. Tim Farron’s personal beliefs right now have not dictated his political beliefs but, if he were Prime Minister, would that change? He would have to make big decisions where he would likely turn to his religion and to God, as Tony Blair did, for the right answer. Tony Blair always made it clear that he believed in equality. Tim Farron seemingly believes it’s the right thing to believe politically. There’s a difference.
Well, it’s always going to be tough for LGBT people to believe a religious candidate is a candidate that would represent them. Yet, at the same time, it would be equally discriminatory for us to judge people solely on their religion.
But what about religious politicians in general? Well, it’s always going to be tough for LGBT people to believe a religious candidate is a candidate that would represent them. Yet, at the same time, it would be equally discriminatory for us to judge people solely on their religion. Religion in the modern day is becoming flexible. The Pope himself has stated that ‘God is not afraid of new things’ and continues to try to modernise the Church’s views on homosexuality and divorce (despite hesitation of the Synod). We cannot put all religious people in a box but at the same time, we’re right to be vigilant. Decades of persecution on religious grounds has taught us to be hesitant when it comes to politics and religion.
Tim Farron’s gaffe is no worse than Corbyn’s, personally, but the difference is that Corbyn has a strong track record of voting for equal rights. I strongly believe we must judge our politicians on how they vote more than what they say. I understand, it’s not nice to hear a politician to even hint that homosexuality is a sin, especially when you think about the effect it has on younger LGBT people. But the lip service politicians give for votes (where being ambiguous means they can play both sides) is different completely to how they ultimately vote in Parliament. When it comes to politics, actions always speak louder than words and it is vital that everybody research candidates and their voting stances because, ultimately, the biggest God any MP prays to is their electorate.
If you want to see how your MP has voted on a wide range of issues, check out www.theyworkforyou.com.
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.