Members of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA), which has chosen Canterbury for its annual residential gathering next week, are bracing themselves for a protest from a Christian group calling itself Christian Family Youth Concern Fellowship.
In a letter to the hotel where the event is being held, the Christian group said that they had been tipped off that it was “hosting a rather unsavoury conference” and described GALHA as “promoting sexual deviancy and paganism.”
They added that the event was “highly inappropriate in a Cathedral City” and that they intended to organise a protest outside the hotel in which they would offer prayers for “those lost souls…with hymn singing and Bible readings.”
The letter concluded: “May the Lord restore them unto righteousness”.
Terry Sanderson, a GALHA spokesman, said: “These people have a real bee in their bonnet about gays – especially those who don’t believe in God.
“Far from promoting sexual deviancy our aim is to promote the rational gay-friendly Humanist approach to gay relationships, which is in sharp contrast to the bible-based one which the Christian Churches adopt.
“We also promote gay rights as human rights and we certainly do not subscribe to the pagan outlook which is totally incompatible with Humanism.”
Founded in 1979, GALHA is one of the longest-established national membership gay organisations in the country and this will be its 26th residential gathering which is held in a different town each year.
The organisation’s secretary George Broadhead said: “Our annual weekend gathering is always popular, and we are particularly pleased to be in the fascinating historic city of Canterbury.”
Among the events planned for the gathering is a guided walking tour of the city, an excursion to Dover Castle and a presentation at the hotel about Marlene Dietrich – the ultimate gay icon who was an atheist and had lesbian affairs.
GALHA recently criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury for his “spineless” abandonment of gay people in the Anglican Church after he came under pressure from right-wing evangelicals.
Mr Sanderson said: “We likened Rowan Williams to the Vicar of Bray as he seems to change his opinions to fit the mood of the day. We had hoped that the Archbishop – who we know to be personally friendly towards gays – would have the courage of his convictions and stand in defence of gay people.
“Instead he has yielded to the homophobes in his church and now says that if gays want to be part of it they must ‘change their ways.’
“We think this is spineless”, and because of the Church of England’s established status, it has implications for people outside the Church, too.”