Some may remember that, in February last year, the then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, banned the egregious Fred Phelps and his equally repugnant daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, from entering the United Kingdom. (For those that don’t already know, Fred is the “pastor” of Westboro Baptist Church, about 90 strong and largely members of his own family. He preaches that all the world’s ills stem directly from toleration of homosexuality. He is a man with deeply unsavoury views and a very murky and violent history.) As far as I am aware that ban remains in place.
On 16 September this year the United Kingdom will host a full state visit to another religious leader. This one heads an organisation that:
- opposes the distribution of condoms, thereby increasing large families in poor countries and the spread of AIDS
- promotes segregated education
- denies abortion rights to even the most vulnerable women
- opposes equal rights for lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people
- fails to address the many cases of abuse of children within its own organisation.
- rehabilitated the holocaust denier bishop Richard Williamson and the appeaser of Hitler, the war-time Pope, Pius XII.
That organisation has an even murkier and more violent history. (Fred might have beaten seven bells out of his wife and kids, but I’m not aware that he has yet launched a tide of torture, inquisition, crusade and “holy” war onto the world.)
Fred’s nasty views can stay at home, but Joe’s can come to the (taxpayer-funded) party.