Christian groups and leaders have added their voices to the criticism of Alan Craig, the leader of the Christian People’s Alliance (CPA), who has compared gay equality campaigners to Nazis.
Writing in the Church of England Newspaper, Craig argued that “the gay-rights stormtroopers take no prisoners as they annex our wider culture”. He referred to the “gay Wehrmacht” whose “Nazi expansionist ambitions are far from sated”.
He added, “the Gaystapo have been exposed recently by their plans to annex and redefine ‘marriage’”.
His comments were condemned by several Christian groups and leaders. Alan Wilson, the Anglican Bishop of Buckingham yesterday (9 November) accused Craig of “bigotry”.
Writing in the Guardian, Wilson insisted that “Prep-school wartime imagery is particularly offensive to people like me from a central European background”.
He added that he strongly supported the right to free speech while believing that Craig’s “schoolboy imagery impedes the perfectly serious conversation there is to be had about the role of gender difference in the concept of marriage”.
Symon Hill, associate director of the Christian thinktank Ekklesia, said “I have campaigned alongside Alan Craig against the arms trade. He is genuinely concerned about poverty and violence and it therefore disturbs me that he should employ such violent language. What he has written is offensive on so many levels, as well as being deeply inaccurate."
Hill, who is a bisexual Christian, added, “There is a danger that the media will report this controversy as another case of ‘gays v. Christians’. These are not mutually exclusive groups. There are many Christians who campaign in favour of equality.”
The gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, co-ordinator of the Equal Love campaign, accused Craig of “turning the facts on their head”. He insisted that gay campaigners are not promoting discrimination against Christians.
Tatchell has recently spoken out in favour of Adrian Smith, a Christian housing manager demoted for making allegedly homophobic comments on Facebook.
He explained, “I defend gay people against discrimination and I defend Christians who are victims of over-zealous interpretations of the law, such as Adrian Smith, Harry Hammond, and Shawn Holes - and persecuted Christians in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia”.
Craig received backing from some socially conservative groups. Anglican Mainstream posted the article on their website, while Christian Concern included a link to it in their weekly email bulletin.
In response to criticism, Craig insisted that he is not prejudiced against gay and bisexual people and does not attribute fascist-type behaviour to all of them. In his article, he argued that “it is perfectly reasonable to warmly engage with your gay neighbours while at the same time forcefully confronting the vaulting ambitions of gay leaders”.
Craig repeated some of the accusations on his blog yesterday, attacking Stonewall in particular. Stonewall is often regarded by more radical equality activists as too close to the establishment, while Stonewall’s leaders have been accused of dragging their feet in terms of commitment to same-sex marriage.
But Craig accused Stonewall of “fascist-type intolerance” for satirically awarding the title of “Bigot of the Year” to the right-wing columnist Melanie Phillips. He insisted, “Whatever you think of her views, she argues rationally, reasonably, includes factual evidence and incites no-one to violence”.
Colin Blakely, editor of the Church of England Newspaper, said that he was on holiday when the article went to press. He explained that he would “have asked him [Craig] to tone the language down somewhat” if he had seen the article.
But he declined to apologise, insisting that Craig “has got views that are pertinent on this issue”. He added, “We're getting a lot of correspondence on this column".
The Church of England Newspaper is an independent publication that is not owned by the Church of England. It is smaller in circulation and influence than the more prominent Church Times, an Anglican publication that is also independent.
Peter Tatchell said he was “astonished that the Church of England Newspaper has seen fit to publish such insensitive, inflammatory and absurd allegations.”
Symon Hill added, "Much of the alarm about so-called 'anti-Christian discrimination' comes from a place of fear, as certain forms of Christianity lose their status in a multifaith society. It is common for people who lose their privileged position to mistake this for unfair treatment."