John Prescott in 'anti-gay' walk-out
Politicians, however, frequently consider themselves above such social norms. Former deputy prime minister John Prescott walked out on an address to the Council of Europe by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II. His theme had been the need for Europe to rediscover its Christian values and to abandon moral relativism. But he dared to refer to homosexuality. He said: ‘No-one should force me or my brothers and sisters in faith to keep quiet when we call something a sin’, adding: ‘Homosexuality is an illness’ and a ‘distortion of the human personality’.
Whether one believes this to be true or not, the Patriarch was simply exercising his human right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion (Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights). The fact is that sexual-orientation rights are resulting in instances of interference to an extent which is significant in practice with the freedom to manifest religious belief.
The decision by Mr Prescott to walk out of his first appearance in the parliamentary assembly was a statement of teenage immaturity. It also transpires that he has put his name to a statement which urges the Patriarch to ‘avoid the use of language inciting intolerance and to respect, rather than seek to deny, the fundamental rights of sexual minorities’.
Inciting intolerance? Enforcing respect? Mr Prescott is lucky the Patriarch did not take adultery as his theme. If politicians are serious about the importance of the family as the crucial building block of a stable society, they would do well to sit politely through a few orthodox sermons, instead of pompously walking out to assuage their deficient consciences.
One wonders if Mr Prescott would have displayed the same rudeness to a Muslim cleric…