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Comment: Lord Carey’s Nazi rhetoric is an insult to history

Nicolas Chinardet October 9, 2012
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Writing for, Nicolas Chinardet takes the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey to task for comparing the opponents of equal marriage to persecuted Jews in Nazi Germany.

Yesterday, during a fringe meeting of the Conservative Party Conference, 1,000 or so Tory supporters gathered to hear speakers vituperate against marriage equality, thus showing the world that, ten years on, Theresa May’s description of the Tories as the “nasty party” is still apposite.

Aside from David Burrowes, the Tory backbench MP for Enfield Southgate, and former MP Ann Widdecombe, Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, was on hand to share his views on the subject.

Earlier this year, another prelate, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said that David Cameron was acting like a dictator by “forcing” marriage equality on the UK. Yesterday Lord Carey, when asked about opponents of gay marriage being described as “bigots”, applied a similar theme to his thinking. He rejected claims that the supporters of marriage equality are the true “bigots” of the story but added: “Let’s have a sensible debate about this, not call people names,” he said. “Let’s remember that the Jews in Nazi Germany, what started it all against them was when they started being called names. That was the first stage towards that totalitarian state.”

We already knew that Carey had problems with keeping a sense of perspective or even possibly a grasp on reality. Someone as ensconced as he is in the establishment of the country thanks to his faith complaining that he and his fellow Christians are being persecuted is quite risible. The above statement is the heart of the current controversy but his interventions on the subject of marriage equality show him as not only hysterical with paranoia but also perniciously mendacious.

It seems a very strange choice of word to compare a debate in a democratic society with what happened in Nazi Germany. It seems just as strange for Carey not to comment on the apparent general misrepresentation of his words in the press.

Putting aside the fact that the good Lord doesn’t seem to be aware of Godwin’s Law, of how offensive his comments will be to families of deportation victims and their communities, or of the fact that someone invoking Hitler and the Nazis sounds very much like they have lost the argument that they are so badly trying to make, it seems that Carey is quite happy to have his words distorted to mean that anti-equality campaigners are like the victims of the Nazi regime. If that is the case and if that is what Carey thinks (he isn’t the first one to make a similar claim), it is worth pointing out a few things:

Making such a statement would mean brushing aside the fact that, unlike Christians, homosexuals were at the receiving end of Nazi attacks (a regime on whose activities the hierarchy of the Catholic Church turned a blind eye). It would mean brushing aside the fact that even after the war, homosexuals carried on being victimised; concentration camp survivors being sent directly to jail, since the law criminalising homosexuality in Germany (Paragraph 175) was still present (and remained so until 1988).

It would mean brushing aside the fact that to this day LGBT people are not only the brunt of name-calling much worse than what “bigot” can represent for him and his ilk but that all too often the verbal violence becomes physical. It would mean brushing aside the fact that such violence happens because the perpetrators feel empowered and justified by statements and stances like his. Lord Carey also told the meeting at Birmingham Town Hall that re-defining marriage would “strike at the very fabric of society” before asking the question: “Why does it feel to us that our cultural homeland and identity is being plundered?”

Perhaps Lord Carey didn’t compare himself and his supporters to the victims of the Nazis but he is treading on very thin ice. Were we to play the hideous little game of who is more like the Nazis, it seems that his rhetoric and that generally used by various Christian hierarchies when it comes to gay people is very much in danger of sounding like it would not have been repudiated by the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion.

In any case, something that the former Archbishop fails to understand in his various blinkered gesticulations against equality is that he and people like him are quite probably doing our work for us. The more extreme and ridiculous their statements become, and goodness knows that they are little else these days, the more people are likely to realise where the reasonable and reasoned arguments are.

We can only hope for our sakes and for that of Carey’s mental health that the government presses on with its plans. The sooner marriage equality happens, the sooner the mad barking will stop and the sooner everyone will realise that things are carrying on pretty much unchanged for most, except for a society more welcoming for all and that much further from that totalitarian state Carey fears so much.

The views expressed by Nicolas Chinardet in this article are his own and not that of

Related topics: Ann Widdecombe, archbishop of canterbury, bigots, Conservative Party, conservative party conference, david burrowes, David Cameron, England, equal marriage, gay marraige, John Sentamu, Lord Carey, marriage equality, Nazis, same sex marriage

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