“Nigel Farage defends Ann Widdecombe over gay therapy comments”

Brexit party leader criticises ‘hounding’ of MEP by media and politicians

I read lots of news. It is kind of a hobby, you could say. I read because it is stimulating but also because it is challenging. Mostly what I read I rant a little bit about (my views are usually questioned), but generally pass on by, “Nothing to see here!”

This is different. The recent Guardian article reporting how “Nigel Farage defends Ann Widdecombe over gay therapy comments” describes a situation which is so appalling I can’t let it go by. It is so appalling that I might just rant off into the distance. Instead, to keep me focused, I am going to quote passages from it and comment on it “in-line”. Otherwise, I simply don’t know where to begin.

Dear Mr Farage,

You’ve been quoted as saying some challenging things recently. I hope I can question you further, and raise some points with you in response to your own.

The Brexit party leader also claimed that “many many” Muslims had more extreme views on homosexuality than Widdecombe.

Yes. Many do. It doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t make it better or worse. But it is irrelevant to the argument and a classic piece of distraction, what is often called ‘whataboutism’. Plenty of Christians think the same as Ann Widdecombe as well. They are free to have their opinion, but doesn’t make them right either. A good many people think the world is flat. Their faith is irrelevant, but their stupidity is not. And, while we’re at it, who even mentioned Islam? It strikes me as an odd thing to bring up, wouldn’t you say?

“These things are matters of conscience, I don’t think they are matters for party leaders to support or condemn,… Ann Widdecombe is a devout Christian and there is nothing wrong with that, in my opinion.”

It isn’t a matter of conscience. It is a matter of science (which is conscience without the con). No amount of conscience will cure tonsillitis. Likewise, no amount of therapy will cure a person’s sexuality. Conflating conscience with the wrong-headed opinion that sexuality can be changed through ’science’ is nothing to do with morals or opinion. It is everything to do with stupidity in the face of evidence. Gay conversion therapy is well and truly put to bed. It is not just ineffective, but abusive. When Ms Widdecombe speaks of science, she doesn’t go on to explain what she means by that claim, and so, she might wriggle around saying that the psychiatric and behavioural therapies don’t work, but ’science’ might still come up with a ‘cure’.

Don’t try to wriggle, Ms Widdecombe. If that is what you mean, then what next? Eugenics? There are all kinds of behavioural modifications that can be imposed upon someone through chemical and physical interventions, but that is considered unethical by any civilised state. The UK included, even after Brexit, I hope.

Farage criticised the way she had been “hounded” by the media and politicians, and said they failed to show the same vitriol to people of other faiths.

Well, they do. Simple as that. People are hounded for their faiths across the country and across the planet. Such attitudes as Ms Widdecombe’s are as distasteful as any islamicist or white-supermacist terrorist. She deserves to be held to account for them. If she utters such ideas, knowing they are controversial, why should she not be asked to explain? She is the public eye and she has a duty to behave accordingly.

He said: “If we start to attack and condemn people because of religious conscience we are going to cause all sorts of problems, not just with Roman Catholics but with many many others of Muslim faith who have even stronger feelings on this subject than Ann Widdecombe.

Her faith was not being challenged, but her interpretation of the use of science to ‘cure’ homosexuality’ was. That it stems from her Christianity is deeply concerning. Christianity is sadly comprised of people who do hold prejudiced and bigoted views against LGBTI people. They found their opinions on highly literal and selective interpretations of the Holy Scriptures that many others read in entirely different ways. Ms Widdecombe’s perverted scriptural analysis needs to be questioned. As a Christian myself, I hope I can share my faith with everyone. And I mean, everyone. It doesn’t mean I should step back from questioning wrong-headed Christian values. Aggressive condemnation is wrong whenever it happens, and I abhor it. Christianity is, ironically, the very epitome of gracious questioning. I wish Ms Widdecombe no ill whatsoever, but only seek to question her distaste for other human beings. Mr Farage, you strike me as someone who has not thought very deeply about this matter. I would be very keen to support your journey to appreciating the fine nuances of the Christian faith.

“What’s intolerant is when the pack mentality decides that a certain group of people have a view that is not acceptable in the mainstream and they should be hounded out of public office for having a different point of view. … Let’s have more people in public life who’ve got their own views on things rather than being told what they should think by mainstream media or their party leaders … People’s views on it are a matter of conscience.”

She wasn’t expressing a view, but was asserting a desire that science be used to cure in eugenic terms. Is eugenics acceptable to anyone, Mr Farage? Is this your view? Nobody in the mainstream media is telling her or you what to think. They are holding up a mirror to your views and asking you to explain yourself more clearly. That is what the media do. As a public person, why do you squeal at the first sign of criticism? You are happy to use the media to share your opinions when it suits you, but as soon as one of your acolytes says something a little controversial, you start complaining about the challenges. That strikes me as a little contradictory.

This ‘fact v. conscience rubbish’, are you suggesting that it is OK to hope that people’s own humanity is called into question (i.e. that it can be ‘cured through science’) without anyone finding that rather outrageous. For sure, not liking homosexuality is an opinion—it is a matter of a person’s conscience that they are so conflicted as to want to cure people of being who they are—but even that is not what Ms Widdecombe. said. She was advocating a time when science would find a way to treat homosexuality. That is not a conscience. It is a hope. And a hope that implies the abuse of many millions of other people.

Farage said he was hoping to meet Donald Trump at some point during his state visit to the UK. “I’ll be waiting for the call this afternoon,” he said.

He also praised the way the US president had conducted himself on the trip, despite Trump’s insults to the London mayor, Sadiq Khan.

Farage said Trump “behaved with great dignity yesterday. He gave a speech that said all the right things.”

He claimed Trump was more popular in the UK than Labour and Conservative leaders.

He said: “People in this country are seeing an American president who got elected making a series of promises and actually carrying them out. And the contrast between that and the two parties here who write things in manifestoes that they never intend to deliver, is also one of the reasons why Trump’s popularity is much higher now than it was back at the time he was elected.”

Since you seem to be so upset at the mainstream media, what do you think of these quotes? Are they negative about you? They strike me as fair and truthful. But what really happened? Please do let me know, since I assume from your earlier comments that all that is ever reported is somehow unfair. Perhaps you’ll answer me on Question Time (I assume you’ll be on it again?).

Yours sincerely,

A concerned priest