Part One: Across the world, a new religious militancy is emerging.
Each day there is one more funeral for an old lady who made jam for church fêtes, or someone who faithfully upheld a quaint nostalgic notion of ancient feet walking upon England’s mountain green to build Jerusalem on our clouded hills. One by one, as the pews are laid bare, something cancerous is spreading from the pulpits; across the chancels to the front rows: A new, smaller, hard-core, socially conservative progeny of the zealous, immigrants, individuals with mental health problems, children indoctrinated in religious schools and teens saved by pastors from drugs, alcoholism or emotional breakdowns. The musty smell of prayer books are being replaced by eye-catching leaflets for evangelical Alpha Courses and the tired drone of an elderly minister concerned for the sick in Africa by the siren call of an evangelist opposed to homosexuality.
Imported snake-oil salesmen are peddling salvation and moral certainty to a congregation otherwise drowning in a sea of sexual degradation and permissiveness. All too often they are just lonely individuals not getting any sex at all.
It’s May, 2013. A mob of 5,000 Christians have gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia chanting, “trample them to death!” Led by priests of the Russian Orthodox Church, their target is a group marking the International Day Against Homophobia. Police managed to evacuate most of those on the march onto municipal buses assembled in the centre of Tbilisi while protesters threw stones and beat on the windows of the buses. The old women carried bouquets of stinging nettles while men waved Georgian flags and crosses. “Drag them out and stomp on them to death,” they screamed.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Pavel Samburov was arrested, fined £10 and given 30 hours of detention for kissing his boyfriend in public. Together, the Kremlin and Russian Orthodox Church were pushing for new laws and bigger fines of £10,000 for ‘homosexual propaganda’, including kissing in public. With two-thirds of Russians finding homosexuality ‘morally unacceptable and worth condemning’ in recent polls, President Putin and his crony, Kirill, Patriarch of all Moscow and Russia don’t just have God on their side. They also had Turkey, walking away with nul points after pulling out of the Eurovision Song Contest at the last minute because Finland’s song featured two girls kissing. After the homosexuals, mixed-sex couples were next. In a country fast converting back to Islam, subway officials in Ankara asked metro passengers to “act in accordance with moral rules” after a heterosexual couple were caught kissing on security cameras. A few hundred amorous protesters storming the station for a kiss-in were faced with riot police and pro-Islamists.
Only weeks after the brutal murder of a 23-year-old gay man, at a demonstration in Moscow to celebrate 20 years since homosexuality was decriminalised and protest at the introduction of new homophobic laws, 30 were arrested after unfurling their rainbow flags. Several were attacked by Orthodox Christian thugs who sang hymns and crossed themselves to ward off evil. Alexander Winning quoted Konstantin Kostin, a member of the Holy Rus movement in The Guardian: “Gay people need medical treatment. It’s simply disgusting to look at them. Russia used to be a great superpower. Now look what’s become of us. Marriage is a sacred union between man and woman, and this lot want to defile the sanctitude of our country.”
In Greece, having gained 18 seats in the Greek parliament, fascist Party, Golden Dawn had their offices blessed by priests of the Greek Orthodox Church. Terence McNally’s play, ‘Corpus Christi’ depicting Jesus and his disciples as gay and living in Texas, evoked the ire of both Orthodox bishops and Golden Dawn members who, before seeing the play, staged an angry protest outside the theatre. The director and production cast of ‘Corpus Christi’ were prosecuted, facing charges of ‘blasphemy’. The director’s parents were disturbed by calls telling them that their son’s body would be delivered to them in pieces. One of the bishops advised Golden Dawn if it changes its style to become more “mature”, they could become a “sweet hope” for desperate Greeks.
In Bucharest in 2012, seven young people were assaulted after attending an academic debate about the history of homosexuality. In February of this year, 50 fascists halted the screening of American film, ‘The Kids Are Alright’, assaulting and filming filmgoers chanting ‘death to homosexuals’ before singing the Romanian national anthem as they waved religious icons.
Closer to our shores, in France, the shouts and screams of thousands of mostly religious protesters coached in from the countryside shook the tables of Parisian cafés from Montparnass to Montpellier. Starting out as grass-roots organisations organised by the Catholic Church, they marched with right-wing politicians including a candidate for the far-right Front National to protest against President Hollande’s bill to let gays marry. Skinheads attacked a gay bar in Lille and masked armed men smashed another bar in Bordeaux. Raphaël Leclerc, a gay cabaret dancer was beaten unconscious in Nice, Muslims were filmed kicking and punching women protesters in Paris and Wilfred de Bruijn, a young librarian who was caught holding his boyfriend’s hand sustained injuries so severe they went viral on the internet. Despite protestations from campaigners that their campaign wasn’t religiously motivated; Le Monde examined the 37 associations behind Manif pour tous (Demo for all). 22 were described as ‘empty vessels’; the rest were all religious.
Frigide Barjot, (Frigid Bonkers), self-styled “press officer for Jesus” and comedienne leader of the anti-gay marriage group, Manif Pour Tous, (Marriage for all) warned: “Hollande wants blood, and he will get it.”
Two members of France’s socialist party Sylviane Bulteau and Hugues Fourage received letters threatening to kidnap their loved ones. Claude Bartolone, the head of France’s National Assembly, was sent an envelope filled with gun powder and a letter, signed by a radical right-wing group, saying: “Allowing marriage for all would be the same as destroying all marriage. Our methods are more radical and direct than demonstrations. You wanted war, you’ve got it … If you were to carry on regardless; your political family will have to suffer physically.”
Christine Boutin, president of the Christian-Democrat party and former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy hinted that violence would be justified if François Hollande did not ditch same sex marriage. Despite one Green MP having her tyres slashed in front of her house, President Hollande stuck to his election promise and brought in the legislation. Days after he signed the bill into law, a member of extreme far-right group, Printemps Français, (French Spring), 78-year-old Dominique Venner, walked into the cathedral of Notre Dame and shot himself through the mouth. He left a note warning: “New spectacular and symbolic actions are needed to wake up the sleep walkers… We are entering a time when acts must follow words.”
Soon, it was Frigide Barjot that would be asking for police protection after receiving a handkerchief soaked in what looked like blood. She suspected, not gay militants, but Printemps Français, which had gained notoriety in her demos and threatened to target “the government and all its appendices, the collaborating political parties and lobbies where the ideological programmes are developed and the organs which spread it.” Barjot insists she is not anti-gay and thinks the group had turned on her after she called Venner “deranged” and “un-Catholic”. John Lichfield in The Independent reported her saying: “I entered this fight because I knew that, otherwise, the protests would be dominated by people like them: the far right and the Catholic extremists.”
Before May was out, the first couple, Vincent Aubin and Bruno Boileau was married. The ceremony was performed by Socialist mayor, Hélène Mandroux despite numerous threats, including a telephone call from a man telling her to “get bodyguards.” But within weeks, 18-year-old gay student, Clément Méric was pronounced brain-dead after an attack by a group of far-right skinheads from the group JNR Jeune Nationaliste Revolutionnaire.
In Spain, with the support of the Catholic Church, the former fascist Popular Party was now in charge, whilst in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel, an evangelical church member, told young members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Party how attached she felt to the Christian concept of mankind. “That is what defines us”, she said. “Anyone who doesn’t accept that is in the wrong place”.
Also read: “First They Came for the Homosexuals” Part 2: ‘Jesus in Jackboots: God’s Army takes Scotland.’