It has been quite entertaining watching the Stonewall ‘Bigot Award’ controversy develop today.
It all began with a Christian Concern article entitled: Stop the bullying: Stonewall’s ‘bigot award’ this week, which noted the Stonewall Awards 2012 were being sponsored by some big names:
Sadly, Stonewall’s aggressive and mocking tactics don’t come as a surprise. But are household names – high-street bank Barclays, professional services company PwC and the Queen’s bank, Coutts (part of Royal Bank of Scotland) – really ready to join in?
Do these big British businesses really want to associate with such behaviour? Do their customers, employees, shareholders, Directors or the general public know what these companies are supporting? Let’s make sure that they do. The bullying needs to stop!
Christian Concern called for action in response to this.
It’s worth noting at this point that the bone of contention surrounded Christian Concern tying PwC, Barclays and Coutts sponsorship directly with the ‘Bigot award’. The awards feature ten categories and on the Stonewall Events page we read:
Hero of the Year – supported by PwC
Sports Award of the Year – supported by Barclays
Writer of the Year – Supported by Coutts
Bigot of the Year mentions no specific sponsor.
The Church Mouse Tweeted:
@godandpolitics pretty sure they are not involved. Suspect Christian Concern giving a highly spun version of events.
— The Church Mouse (@thechurchmouse) October 30, 2012
And Cranmer responded:
6. This award is by far the most high-profile and attracts significant media attention every year.
It is for that precise reason that Stonewall consistently go for high-profile journalists, celebrities or church leaders (how many Muslims have been nominated? Perhaps because it would frighten off the sponsors?..). Some Christian Bloggers and Tweeters might consider how one may sponsor the Academy Awards but claim to disassociate oneself specifically from the Oscar awarded to Best Actor.
7. One cannot.
8. Ergo, those companies who are sponsoring the Stonewall awards are sponsoring the ‘Bigot of the Year’ award.
Their logos are featured prominently on the Stonewall website, beneath the award page heading. The fact that their names are identified with specific awards in the typed information below is of no consequence. Visually, visitors to that page get the Stonewall Awards banner juxtaposed by the sponsors’ logos. The association is evident.
In a statement emailed to concerned members of the public, Coutts & Co said: “Coutts are sponsors only of Stonewall’s Writer of the Year Award and have in no way been involved in the judging or support of the Bigot of the Year category. We have advised Stonewall that we will be withdrawing our support of the awards unless they remove this category.”
Meanwhile, Mark McLane, Managing Director and Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion at Barclays said: “I have recently been made aware of the inclusion of a ‘Bigot of the Year’ category in the awards. Let me be absolutely clear that Barclays does not support that award category either financially, or in principle and have informed Stonewall that should they decide to continue with this category we will not support this event in the future. To label any individual so subjectively and pejoratively runs contrary to our view on fair treatment, and detracts from what should be a wholly positively focused event.”
I’d wager that most folk reading Cranmer’s article will miss the final paragraph, but it’s well worth highlighting:
And please also keep this in perspective, because some of those named companies are guilty of far worse crimes and more serious misdemeanours than throwing a few thousand quid at a self-congratulatory, bigoted gay-fest.
Cranmer is dead right, and it’s on this very issue that Symon Hill has blogged:
Christian Concern have this week criticised Barclay’s and a number of other banks. Now why would a Christian organisation criticise banks? I hope they would do so because of the banks’ role in the economic crisis, because of their tax avoidance, because of their exploitation of the poor in the interests of the rich and – most of all – because they are based on usury, a practice denounced throughout the Bible. The Bible condemns the exploitation of the poor and the practice of usury – lending money at interest or, more broadly, making money out of money – more than almost any other sins. Now we have an economic system built on usury.
But Christian Concern don’t seem to have a problem with any of this. They have not mentioned it.
I have to say, Symon is making a compelling and vital point here.
All said and done, my favourite response to the ‘Bigot Award’ was made by Alan Craig; himself a nominee:
“Nonetheless if I win the Award over the other candidates and if Stonewall invite me, and permit me without harassment to offer a proper acceptance speech, I plan to attend their Awards dinner and ceremony at the Raphael Gallery on 1st November.”