Tuesday, August 31, 2010

London debate on Pope's visit to Britain

Wednesday 1st September at 7pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Nearest tube: Holborn
All welcome, free admission

Chaired by Polly Toynbee

Motion for debate: "The Papal Visit should not be a State Visit"

Speaking for the motion
Philosopher AC Grayling and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell

Speaking against the motion
Catholic journalist Austen Ivereigh and Father Christopher Jamison of the BBC TV series, The Monastery

Speaking in advance of the debate, Peter Tatchell said:

"As democrats, we believe the Pope has every right to visit Britain and express his opinions. But we also have a right to protest against his often harsh, extreme views. We have a right to say that he is not welcome.

"The Protest the Pope campaign is calling on the British government to disassociate itself from the Pope's intolerant teachings on issues such as women's rights, contraception, gay equality and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. On these and many other issues, Benedict is out of step with the majority of British people, including most Catholics.

"It is hypocritical for him to attack Britain's equality laws, while happily accepting hospitality and funding from the British people and government.

"We also object that a large part of his visit is being funded by the taxpayer. Much of his itinerary involves religious events. It is not appropriate that these are paid for by the public. We don't fund visits by the Grand Mufti of Mecca or the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, so why should the Pope get privileged financial support?" queried Mr Tatchell.

Wednesday's debate is being organised by the Central London Humanist Group in partnership with the British Humanist Association and the South Place Ethical Society, as part of the Protest the Pope Campaign.

Alan Palmer, chair of the Central London Humanists said:

"Our criticism of this State visit is not an attack on Catholics or on the rights of people to follow their religion. We want to give people the opportunity to debate the issue. Clearly many of our supporters are very unhappy with some of the statements made by the Pope in the name of the Catholic Church. This adds to the dismay many feel at our government honouring a Pope whose pronouncements fly in the face of the human rights that we support. Of course there is also considerable disquiet about the way the Church and this Pope have handled the question of child abuse.

"Central London Humanists champion the idea of an open society and freedom of speech. We genuinely want also to hear the arguments in favour of the State visit. We welcome everyone whatever their political conviction or their religion or belief to explore the issues and participate in the debate," said Mr Palmer.

The debate will take place at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL on Wednesday 1 September 2010 starting at 7pm. This is a free event and is open to the public and media.

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