Belfast Telegraph

Churches divided on whether BBC should be taking part in Pride

Choice: Mervyn Gibson
Choice: Mervyn Gibson
Alf McCreary

By Alf McCreary

Churches and Church-based figures gave a mixed and cautious response over the participation of BBC employees in the Belfast Pride parade.

The Reverend Mervyn Gibson of Westbourne Presbyterian Church in east Belfast asked: "Why would the BBC want to bar any member of staff from taking part in a legitimate parade?

"The real issue is the gay fascism being pursued by public bodies and certain supermarkets. Equality does not need special treatment, it means all people being treated equally.

"The proliferation of rainbow flags on public buildings and gay paraphernalia being forced on staff - in spite of the views of others - is wrong.

"May all those who want to take part in the parade be allowed to do so without hindrance from employers. May all employees be allowed to carry out their job free from supporting a lifestyle they disagree with.

"I believe that the branding of participants in a parade as representing bodies is fundamentally wrong - whether it be in BBC shirts or PSNI uniforms."

Spokespersons for the Presbyterian Church and the Church of Ireland declined to comment.

The newly-elected Methodist president, the Reverend Sam McGuffin, said he "respected the right of an individual to join or not to join in the Belfast Gay Pride Parade, as they wish".

He added: "If any organisation such as the BBC wishes to endorse their employees representing it in the parade, they have the right to do so or not to do so."

Canon Ian Ellis, a former editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, said: "I adhere to the Church of Ireland's traditional view of human sexuality and marriage. I understand that there are differing views on this very sensitive subject, even within the Church.

"I welcome the BBC's stated commitment to impartiality in its programming, and I also note the corporation's comment that 'BBC Pride is a UK-wide initiative run independently by staff'.

"Organisers of this year's Belfast Pride Festival have been quoted as saying that its aim is to highlight rights denied to their community.

"I don't see the same-sex marriage in particular as being primarily about rights, but rather in the first instance being about the definition of marriage."

Alan Meban, a well-known blogger and commentator, said: "There was no contrived political point-scoring when a group of UTV employees took part in last summer's Belfast Pride.

"The BBC's participation is no different. Publicly marking inclusive employment policies is not a political act by any organisation.

"With banks, supermarkets, trade unions, lawyers, council employees and political parties taking part in Belfast Pride, it's hard to think of a large employer or interest group in the City that does not participate.

"While some individuals and groups use the Belfast Pride Parade and Festival to campaign on specific issues, in no way does that mean that every organisation in the spectacle is in support or agreement."

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