The founder of Christian Concern says in the interest of a “level playing field”, gay rights charity Stonewall should be helping evangelical Christians place anti-gay bus adverts on London’s buses.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, the chief executive of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre, made the surprising remarks to PinkNews shortly after a debate at the Law Society on protecting religious freedom.
Last month Core Issues Trust – who are being supported by Ms Williams’ organisations – called for an injunction at the High Court to force Transport for London (TfL) to remove hundreds of new Stonewall posters on the capital’s buses.
In April 2012, Core Issues Trust tried unsuccessfully to advertise posters advocating gay-to-straight conversion therapy on 25 buses in a direct response to Stonewall’s pro-gay equality posters.
The Trust’s slogan read: “Not Gay. Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!”
The High Court ruled in favour of TfL in March this year, stating that running the Trust’s adverts could cause “great offence.” The Trust has now taken the case to the Court of Appeal.
Although the decision to ban the ads was lawful, Justice Lang ruled that TfL’s process in introducing the ban “was procedurally unfair, in breach of its own procedures and demonstrated a failure to consider the relevant issues.”
Justice Lang noted: “TfL has previously permitted controversial and potentially offensive advertisements on its transport system, notably an advertisement on the outside of London buses placed by the British Humanist Association which read ‘There’s probably no God’.”
She added: “An advertisement may raise an issue of legitimate public interest. But the location of these advertisements means that the message can only be a brief one, capable of being read as the bus passes by. The advertisements by the Trust, Stonewall and the British Humanist Association were all skilfully designed to deliver a short, sharp shock to the public. Their wording was confrontational.”
In a point seized upon by Andrea Minichiello Williams, Justice Lang stated: “The Stonewall advertisement was highly offensive to fundamentalist Christians and other religious groups whose religious belief is that homosexuality is contrary to God’s teachings.”
“I think it’s extraordinary isn’t it? I am surprised that Stonewall has not helped us here.” Ms Williams said in an interview with PinkNews.co.uk: “Because at the end of the day… we are appealing in order to say ‘our ads should run’. The Core Issue Trust’s ads should run on the side of buses. If Stonewall’s can run, ours can run. There has to be a level playing field.”
Referring to Justice Lang’s ruling, Ms Williams stressed: “It said that Stonewall’s [advert] was offensive and the British Humanist Association (too). That’s why [we need] a level playing field, please!” Ms Williams repeated: “If you go back to Mrs Justice Lang judgment she says quite clearly that Stonewall’s adverts were offensive – that seems to have been forgotten.”
Ms Williams continued to say of Justice Lang: “She said it was offensive; it was offensive to certain sections of the community, both ways round. It was both ways round. She played an even playing-field on that. Remember when we are to have discussions, what we need to accord with one another is: grace, kindness, and level playing-fields.” Ms Williams added: “And it is very important that people are not excluded from this space because that is actually coercion, that’s tyranny: it’s a liberal tyranny.”
The evangelical barrister also claimed that Christian teachers were still at risk of losing their jobs, for speaking out against equal marriage, despite numerous protections provided in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. She revealed that the Christian Legal Centre was currently working with a teaching assistant – who she claimed was facing potential disciplinary action for posting a YouTube video of themselves conducting street preaching against same-sex marriage.
“I think you need to spend a week at the Christian Legal Centre to see people who are left out in the cold for simply holding and expressing opinions like this,” Ms Williams said. “Are we outlawing that people lose their jobs for holding that opinion?”
When asked if she would ever go to a same-sex wedding – if invited – Ms Williams replied: “Erm, no I wouldn’t.”
Responding to Ms Williams’ comments, Richard Lane, media manager at Stonewall, told PinkNews.co.uk: “It seems more than a little absurd to compare Stonewall’s positive message supporting gay young people to the Core Issues Trust’s campaign to promote voodoo ‘gay cures’ on the streets of the nation’s capital.”