Sir Elton John, former rock wild man and now establishment (and grannies’) favourite, has brushed aside alleged calls by church figures in Tobago to ban him from performing a concert on the island – because he is openly gay.
The musical star, aged 59, will play at Plymouth Jazz Festival in April, along with other performers like Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige and Earth, Wind & Fire. But according to The Times, conservatives on the island, where homosexuality is widely condemned, don’t want him in Tobago.
Prophetically, Sir Elton caused a furore in November 2006 when he said that organised religion was a source of bigotry and discrimination, turning people into “hateful lemmings”. He suggested that it should be banned.
Now, in what is being interpreted as a tit-for-tat return of the compliment, the Archdeacon for Trinidad and Tobago, the Venerable Philip Isaac, has expressed fears that the star’s gay lifestyle “can open the country to be tempted”.
Sir Elton’s friends include similarly beknighted evangelical Christian pop icon Sir Cliff Richard – who said last year that the churches should stop being obsessed with gays and show a bit more love.
However Mr Isaac was unimpressed. He said: “[Elton John] needs to be ministered unto.” It is not clear whether that was a call for a ban or an invitation to attend church.
Promoters of the festival have confirmed that Sir Elton, who is headlining the music Festival, will perform as scheduled, despite the calls to ban his appearance.
The storm in an egg cup is the latest in a line of religious mini-rows about public performers. In Holland and elsewhere, Madonna (the singer, not the mother of Jesus) faced calls for a ban after an onstage stunt involving her appearance on a cross.
She said that this was an act of respect not contempt, intended to highlight suffering in the world.
In his 2006 interview with Observer Music Magazine, Sir Elton John declared: “[T]here are so many people I know who are gay and love their religion. From my point of view, I would ban religion completely. Organized religion doesn’t seem to work.”
It is not thought that the ban-fest on either side is likely to catch on. “Maybe everyone could just calm down and have a cup of tea?” a cultural commentator suggested to Ekklesia.