Monday, 8 October 2012

Willful ignorance makes me really angry

Let's talk a little bit about Anne Widdecombe. Ann Widdecombe is a former MP and studied at Birmingham University, and later Oxford. She has served as a minister. The point is that she's well educated  and intelligent.

She also opposes gay marriage and is campaigning against its legalization.

This is not, in and of itself, a problem. As much as I absolutely believe gay marriage should be legalized I also believe that people have the right to peacefully campaign and try to influence public policy in whatever way they choose. But the debate should be based on facts and we turn to our MPs to present arguments in a coherent way in order to decide on the best public policy.*

Earlier today, Ann Widdecombe said:
tell me how a party devoted to freedom, that’s always opposed oppression and the power of the state over the individual, can even contemplate creating such a Britain [where gay marriage is legal.] [Source]
 She argues that people's rights to disagree are being trampled by the Prime Minister's support of gay marriage, as Christian teachers could be sacked for doing so.

Willful ignorance makes me really angry. For someone with an Oxford education the argument is profoundly stupid. Teachers preaching bigotry should of course be sacked. If gay marriage is legalized than we should treat a teacher who tells their pupils it's wrong the same as we'd treat a teacher making equivalent arguments about, say, inter-racial marriage.

The right to disagree would still exist: people are free to thing interracial marriage as wrong as long as they don't start sabotaging weddings or preaching hate.

Marriage (gay or otherwise) isn't even on curricula in the UK, except perhaps in the study of civil rights, and if it were a teacher could be expected to toe the line, just like everyone else with a job doesn't openly criticize their employers when dealing with clients. I even had a creationist biology teacher do a perfectly good job of teaching evolution even though she didn't think it ever happened.** A Christian teacher opposed to gay marriage could easily avoid tackling it if they felt strongly about it. Ms Widdecombe's argument about the right to disagree does not hold water.

But why, Ann, why the total non sequitur and rhetorical sophistry of saying that a party "devoted to freedom" would oppose gay marriage? Who's freedom does she care about here? A party "opposed to oppression" would want to stop oppressing gay people by telling them they can't marry. A party "opposed to the power the state over the individual" would absolutely support gay marriage by legislating less stuff.

The only way Ann Widdecombe could make an argument so obviously wrong with a straight face is someone wasting their intelligence. If she truly opposes gay marriage can't she give us argument worth listening to rather than bilge designed to sway those who don't listen too closely to what they are told.

* In theory, at least.
** I should talk more about that, but not in this post.

1 comment:

  1. Religious homophobia is one of the last acceptable forms of hatred in our society. If Widdecombe made the same argument against interracial marriage she would be vilified as the hateful zealot she is; as it is she's just standing up for "family values".

    She couches her homophobia in terms of "freedom" because she'll draw fire if she's actually honest about it: the bible says gays are icky. She can't offer us anything more substantial because it doesn't exist.

    (She also wants to reintroduce the death penalty. Maybe you can call her intelligent knowing that, but to me it removes all doubt that she is a moron.)