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‘Gay and atheist’ David Starkey is defending Christian conscience more clearly than our bishops

On Question Time last week he pointed to a ‘new tyranny’ of liberal morality

By on Thursday, 10 March 2011

Starkey says he is opposed to the fining of Christian B&B owners who refused two men a double bedroom (Photo: PA)

Starkey says he is opposed to the fining of Christian B&B owners who refused two men a double bedroom (Photo: PA)

Having blogged about the case of the Christian couple running a B&B in Cornwall, who were taken to court and fined for refusing to allow two men to share a double bedroom, I was startled to discover that they – and presumably other Christians in similar situations – now have an unlikely champion: Dr David Starkey. I have just come across a clip of Dr Starkey’s statement on BBC1’s Question Time last week. In it the historian, who describes himself as “atheist and gay”, speaks out against what he calls a “new tyranny”, a liberal morality which is “every bit as oppressive as the old”.

He makes it clear he is opposed to the fine imposed on the couple, saying: “The way to do that is not to ban them, not to fine them. It is for them simply to put up what seems to me to be a quite proper notice in a small privately-run hotel which says we are Christians and this is what we believe.” Otherwise, Starkey told the hushed TV audience, “We are producing a new tyranny.”

Should I be so surprised at Starkey’s stance? When he used to be on the Moral Maze he always demonstrated that he was his own man. When the morality of separating the conjoined twins, Rosie and Gracie Attard, was debated in 2001, and it became clear that the surgical intervention to separate them would mean the deliberate killing of one of the girls in order to save the life of the other, Starkey opposed the surgery.

As intriguing as his championing the right of Christians to follow their conscience was Dr Starkey’s final remark on Question Time: he said his mother had been a devout Christian and that it was “her hatred and opposition to homosexuality that made me what I am”. As he concluded that “being nice and sweet about gays isn’t wholly a good thing”, I don’t think he meant that his mother was the cause of his homosexuality; I interpret it as meaning that his mother’s strong views had shaped her son’s similar determination to speak out strongly on what he believed – especially in instances of bullying and oppression – and not to kow-tow to heavy-handed political correctness.

Others may have different interpretations. At any rate, it is salutary to note that the clearest objection to the legal judgment against the B&B couple has come not from our Catholic bishops (as far as I know) but from a self-confessed atheist and homosexual. Thank you, Dr Starkey.

  • Kikimarooni

    See my quote “The current scientific argument actually reads that a convergence of social, developmental AND hereditory factors are at play. Genetics hasn’t been ruled out entirely, its just not as simple as a gay on/off switch – more like a predisposition.” This is in answer to your scientific argument.

    If you need it explained further, there ARE certain genes that are predisposed to homosexuality. Not all those with these genes will be gay. Other factors, including social and developmental ones do have influence. But this does NOT mean that gay people just came from bad home lives and made wrong choices. Some people are born with a predisposition to diabetes – their lifestyle choices can enhance this chance. But that does not mean that everyone who has diabetes could have avoided getting it. Some people will be diabetic no matter what they do.

    With regards to the religious side of my response, you posted your interpretation of the science on a christian site discussing homosexuality and included in your statement a link to catholic booklet ‘helping families deal with homosexual attraction’ – as if its a disease they hope to cure.

    The latter paragraph of my post related to the subject of this page, the two B&B owners. As I previously stated, a christian couple refusing service to homosexuals is the same as a mosilm coupld refusing to serve women with uncovered heads, and could be compared to a far right couple refusing to serve blacks. It was not that long ago that ‘No Blacks Allowed’ signs dotted our communities – times change, we need to change with them.

    Calling my credibility into question seems like an attempt to divert attention from the fact that you have no answer to my arguments. Surely subjects can be debated here without resentment and name calling?

    I look forward to your reasoned response to my arguments.

  • Kikimarooni

    Is that fair? Would we be happy with a B&B for hindu only? or moslim only? Or shock horror ‘whites-only’? Or would we say it was exclusive and discouraged integration? We’ve spend a lot of the last 40 years trying to open up the male-only institutions and clubs to avoid the exclusion and ‘old-boys-club’ atmosphere’s they encourage. Where would be the difference in these establishments?

    Its certainly a more reasoned and sensible approach to the subject. However, in accordance with that we would need to also allow a full spectrum of religious and idealogical selectivism in the service industries. I don’t need to detail the problems that could cause.

    Surely an easier and fairer solution would be to say if you offer a service, you offer it to everyone – regardless of creed, race, gender or sexuality? If you feel you cannot do this, for personal reasons which are totally just and your own, then the service industry is not right for you – in the same way a moslem would not work in lending, or a devout jew would not work in the pork industry. Your beliefs are totally your own – but so are everyone elses.

  • Kikimarooni

    Define practising christian? In your view it seems to be anyone who agrees with you. At the time, they were very much practicing christians following the advice of their church. Just because we see and recognise it as wrong now just shows that we DO move forward and we DO accept change, albeit slowly at times.

    As for homosexuality being equal to hetrosexuality – are they aware that its a competition? I sure wasn’t

    Islam – yup – when u can’t win an argument throw in a comment about islam taking over the world – that’ll get a few right-wing nut jobs to agree with you.

    You sure are angry. If you stopped hating for long enough to actually look around you, u might find the view’s rather better thank u think – lol

  • Kikimarooni

    why?

  • Kikimarooni

    and btw we are all ‘of sexual orientation’, its just you don’t like some of the orientations

  • Kikimarooni

    Why? There are many who’s belief systems show preference or disdain to xyz race, xyz gender or xyz faith. Surely they are as entitled to their beliefs as the the christian who disagrees with homosexual union? Therefore including alternative examples of the way in which a belief system affects a sub-group of people is beneficial to the debate. Nothing random about it.

    To do otherwise would be to infer christian beliefs are superior to all others and I am sure you did not mean that.

  • Anonymous

    When Christians, or any other groups, talk about their right to follow their consciences, we should remind ourselves that a society in which everyone is allowed to follow his or her individual conscience is an anarchy. There still exist people who literally believe that one race is superior to another and whose consciences would easily permit them to refuse publically advertised accomodation to people on racial grounds. I’m sure that most people visiting this site are glad that, in the accomodation industry, such believers have been forced to retire either their vocations or their ideological integrity. Why is there such controversy when the issue is sexuality? To answer that you don’t want gays in your B&B because you’re a Christian seems to me no more satisfactory than saying that you don’t want black people staying because you’re a racist. Some will argue that this analogy is false, because being black is not an activity, whereas gay sex is. To this I answer that when Christian B&B owners refuse a double-bedded room to a homosexual couple, or grant it to a heterosexual couple, they can have no knowledge of what sexual activity will or will not take place. They make that decision solely according to who the customers ARE. A homosexual couple in the room might lie in bed all night and only sleep. (It does happen. I have first-hand evidence.) A heterosexual couple in the room might enjoy anal sex. (It does happen. I have second-hand evidence.) Do Catholic B&B owners frisk their customers for condoms?
    I admire Dr Starkey’s intellect without always seconding his views. If his homosexuality-hating mother made him what he is, that would explain a lot, and I do not mean that as an insult, but I suspect he would have been academically successful anyway.

  • Anonymous

    The size of a B&B or any other commercially advertised accomodation is irrelevant. If people are renting rooms in their homes, equality laws apply to the rooms being rented. Christian B&B owners are NOT being forced to allow gays into their own private bedrooms.

  • Anonymous

    In the UK, what rights of Christians are being trodden on, except the imagined right to discriminate against gay people in the commercial and professional realm? That is not a Christian right. Non-Christians don’t possess that right either.

  • Anonymous

    Since 2004 your god has done nothing to oppose same-sex partnerships in the UK. Your god either disagrees with you, or is slow to act, or is less powerful than British gay activists.

  • Anonymous

    What beautiful and enlightened compassion from your heart!
    What sad and silly rubbish from your brain!

  • Anonymous

    Stick it in a nutshell!

  • Anonymous

    If you want to know where homosexuality comes from, ask homosexuals. They are the experts.
    Original sin is a myth. The mythological world is interesting, but the real world is the greater teacher.

  • Anonymous

    Everyone has colour. Everyone has sexual orientation. Some people have tolerance.

  • Anonymous

    Libertarian is NOT randomly comparing sexuality with ethnicity or faith. He is comparing reasons for which people have faced, or might face, unjustified discrimination in the provision of services. That is the sole point of comparison. No-one is claiming that being gay is generally similar to being black or being Catholic. Gays ARE claiming that all unjustified discrimination is equally hurtful, whatever the grounds.

  • Anonymous

    It’s an odd kind of sin when no-one is sinned against, but then the Catholic Church has always been good at seeing sins which to the rational mind are totally invisible.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, they are totally different, except in one aspect: they have both in the past served as permitted grounds for the refusal of accomodation, but now they legally can’t.

  • Cliff Olga Hanger

    Catholic State, you are a totally reactionary, imbecilic right-wing, woman-hating cunt deserving of your own abortion (why did your mother so foolishly carry you to term???) with your fascist ignorance about the lack of male culpability in abortion or the state of genocide among  Africa’s nations. What a shame Elizabeth I isn’t around to have you exterminated, but I’d enforce a termnation if you were seeded inside a female body. You are no doubt too inbred to understand male culpability in abortion as a concept, particularly where abuse has taken place, or the complexities of African politics, but you must be a bloke to have the confidence to put such half-witted bigotry into cyberspaceand expect to get away with it.    

  • David Parkes

    I wonder how Catholic readers would feel about this if the story were about a Christian couple running a B&B in Cornwall, who were taken to court and fined for refusing to give a room to a Muslim because his lifestyle went against the teachings of their Christian faith. It would be strangely different story, especially if a Catholic apologist who happened to be a Muslim also got up on his soap box and defended their ‘right’ to discriminate against Islam.

    I mean after all Christian homophobes like to declare homosexuality a choice… well although that’s arguably nonsense. Faith is certainly a choice, (no one forces you to accept god) that means by their standards, Christians should be free to discriminate against Muslims, Atheists should be free to discriminate against Christians and bigotry should be allowed to thrive. Is that the world view you want to endorse? Think carefully!