Pride and Propaganda

20 May 2012, 15:18 | Andrew Sorokowski's column | 0 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Andrew SOROKOWSKI

On March 30, 2012 Party of Regions deputy Vadym Kolesnychenko introduced a bill in the Ukrainian parliament prohibiting homosexual “propaganda” aimed at minors. Propaganda would be understood as presenting homosexuality in a favorable light in the mass media. The law would impose administrative and criminal sanctions.Whether it would ban gay prideparades, such as the one planned for May 20,is unclear. According to a public opinion poll conducted by the Gorshenin Institute in October 2011, 78.1 percent of Ukrainians believe that homosexual relations are inadmissible under any conditions. (Gorshenin Weekly No. 13(82) April 9, 2012.)

Kolesnychenko’s draft law resembles a number of bills that have been introduced at different levels of government in Russia. The “Washington Post” reports that in relatively liberal and European-oriented St. Petersburg, local representative Vitalii Milonov, a member of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party, recently sponsored a municipal regulation forbidding “gay propaganda directed at minors.” The law imposes fines of up to $17,000 for spreading “propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality or transgenderism” among the underaged. This would include “information forming misrepresented conceptions of social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional marriage relations.”

Milonov cited his Orthodox faith as a source of his views. The Russian Orthodox Church supports a similar draft law which has been proposed at the national level.Russia has also balked at signing a Group of Eight declaration that would recognize the rights of homosexual, bisexual and transgendered persons.Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov has characterized such initiatives as“aggressive” gay propaganda carried on under the guise of defense of rights. But Maksim Reznik, leader of St. Petersburg’s opposition Yabloko Party, points out the difficulty of defining “propaganda.” A history teacher, Reznik asks whether teaching about homosexuality in ancient Greece would be considered “propaganda” under Milonov’s law. The “Washington Post” article reports that merely opposing violence against homosexuals has already been prosecuted as “propaganda.” Also unclear is whether gay pride parades would be permitted in the future. In Moscow, such events have been banned. (Michael Birnbaum, “Russian lawmakers target gay ‘propaganda’,” The Washington Post, April 17, 2012.)

These legislative initiatives raise several issues of concern to churches as well as to legislators and the general public. What is the proper scope of a ban on homosexual propaganda directed at minors? May the state justifiably restrict free expression in this manner? Must it take a position on questions of morality at all?

Each of these questions entails several sub-issues. With regard to the scope of the Kolesnychenko draft law (or the Milonov ordinance), how can one prohibit speech or other expression directed at minors without affecting free expression in general? In a recent interview with the “Ukrainian Week” (May 3, 2012) writer Yuri Vynnychuk, asked about the work of Ukraine’s Commission on Morals, said “I believe it would make sense if it monitored some TV programmes, because everybody, including children, can watch TV. In contrast, books are not so immediately accessible. A child will not go and buy a book by Jean Genet, who described homosexual acts…” In other words, it is more important – and more difficult -- to protect minors from homosexual “propaganda” on television than in printed form because of the nature of the medium and the manner in which it is disseminated. Print media can be more easily controlled than audio-visual media. And while films are shown publicly in cinemas, access to which can be controlled, television is at the disposal of children in the home. The most that the state can do to prevent the broadcasting of objectionable television programs to children without suppressing it altogether is to limit it to the late hours when children are not normally watching. Such limitations are generally not considered to violate the free expression rights of the media.

What about gay pride parades? These take place literally in the public square, traditionally the forum for free speech. To be sure, children can be affected. But such parades are not aimed specifically at them. Besides, parents have the right and the capability to remove their children from the scene. Moreover, a parade is a one-time event. The possibility of harm to children is thus far outweighed by the public interest in allowing free expression.

What if the propaganda takes place in a school? Surely there is no room in school for this or any other kind of propaganda. But what is propaganda? As the St. Petersburg history teacher points out, there can be a fine line between telling children that the ancient Greeks practiced homosexuality and pederasty on the one hand, and giving them the impression that this was normal or even praiseworthy on the other. Must every such mention be accompanied by a condemnation? Or is it better not to broach the subject at all? Of course, such considerations pertain to traditional subjects like history or literature, not to “sex education” as such. Once the state takes it upon itself to teach about sex, it may find itself in the position of advocating, or appearing to advocate, sexual activity among minors. It also opens itself up to accusations that it is favoring either a heterosexual or a homosexual orientation, or treating them as morally equivalent. This is a strong argument for keeping the state out of sex education altogether and returning this to the province of the family and the church or other religious group.

If there is a distinction between teaching and propaganda in the schools, is there a difference between information and advocacy in the public information sphere? Does informing the public that homosexuals are human beings deserving of dignity and respect constitute propaganda? That, incidentally, is simply the teaching of the Catholic Church. “Gay pride” parades, on the other hand, assign a positive ethical value to homosexuality. Milonov’s St. Petersburg statute forbids furthering the idea of the “social equivalency” of traditional and non-traditional forms of marriage. In the public school context, this would presumably require the state to teach that while heterosexual sex and marriage are normal, homosexual sex and “marriage” are not. In other words, it would require the state to take a stand on sexual morality. This is only likely to happen if the state has an explicit moral and ethical foundation.

Proponents of a liberal democratic state would argue that it should remain neutral onsexual morality, relegating itto the private sphere of the citizen. When pushed to take a position on the issue of whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, many state entities have refused to make a moral distinctionbetween homosexuality and heterosexuality. As U.S. vice-president Joseph Biden (a Catholic) has said, marriage is based simply on “love.”By that logic, of course, a man may legally marry his cat.

At the same time, governments have been pressed to accord equal rights to minorities, including the LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered). The principle of equality for gays, whether as individuals or as a group, does not, however, lead logically to the conclusion that “gay marriage” is equivalent to “traditional marriage.” Yeta number of U.S. states, Canada, and several European countries have reached just that conclusion. True, in 31 out of50 U.S. states (most recently North Carolina), the peoplehave voted against same-sex marriage. Arguments against according homosexual unions equal rights with heterosexual ones are typically based on Christian (or Jewish or Muslim) ethics, or natural law, or both. But in a secular state, and especially in a secular society, religious arguments have little influence, while philosophical ones can easily be ignored if they are not enshrined in constitution or statute.

It must be remembered that in Ukraine, the main challenge with regard to homosexuals and other sexual non-conformists is to protect them from violence as well as from discrimination in education, jobs, and civil rights. Parades orother forms of expression in their defense should be not only tolerated, but welcomed and supported. Unfortunately, the experience of the West shows that the “gay lobby” is not content to achieve justice. Nor do the most insistent proponents of “gay rights” accept civil unions as an acceptable equivalent to marriage. They believe that true equality for homosexuals will not be achieved until “marriage” is redefined to include same-sex unions, and until the state acknowledges that homosexuality is in no way inferior to heterosexuality. Recent statements by the president and vice-president of the U.S. show that there, the lobby has succeeded. Will it succeed in Ukraine?

Ironically, it would only have a chance of success if Ukraine were to take the path of a liberal democratic republic under the rule of law.Built upon a society that was already secularized by communism, such a state would permit the additional impact of contemporary Western secularism to overcome the religious revival that followed the Sovietcollapse. That would leave society with no moral or ethical basis for protecting heterosexual marriage and the traditional family. True, secular states have historically found an alternative, non-religious basis for favoring traditional marriage: its role in maintaining the population through procreation, and in bringing up good citizens in the family. More recently, however, it has been successfully argued in some forums that although homosexuals may be biologically incapable of procreation, they are equally capable of raising children and thus, of creating “families.” In other words, in the West both marriage and family are being redefined. Since the family is the basic unit of social life, the consequence there will be a newtype of society. Whether Ukrainians would desire such a transformation is difficult to say. Certainly her chief religions would not. And as T.S. Eliot once wrote, “To accept two ways of life in the same society, one for the Christian and another for the rest, would be for the Church to abandon its task of evangelizing the world.”

Thus, those Ukrainian Catholics and Orthodox who believe that the growth of religion and the Church go hand in hand with the development of the secular liberal state would be in for a rude surprise. But they may never have that opportunity. For today, the most outspoken defenders of Christian morality in Russia and Ukraine seem to come from “reactionary” political parties like United Russia or Ukraine’s Party of Regions. As the histories of Russia and Spain have shown, alliance with authoritarian movements or regimes can be disastrous for the Church. But it is unlikely that these political movements are much concerned with the Church’s fate. And while they make a show of defendingChristian ethics and morality through law, in the kind of “mafia state” that they support, with a corrupt police and judiciary, even the best laws become meaningless.

In the final analysis, then, the Church can count on neither liberals nor authoritarians. It will have to work on its own to build a Christian society – one that combines freedom and respect for all with the truth about men, women, and nature.

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Last comments

  • velovs@ukr.net | 22 October 2019, 18:29

    Р. S. От у Вікіпедії знайшов, зокрема, таку інфу. Тобто, що у с. Сартана (недалеко Маріуполя) була збудована нова ГРЕЦЬКА церква Святого Георгія (2005 р.) – за активної участі Маріупольської

  • velovs@ukr.net | 22 October 2019, 17:51

    А, може, в Маріуполі є? Як відомо, це місто було засновано і заселено, переважно, етнічними греками, яких царський уряд виселив з Криму...

  • ukrlem | 22 October 2019, 16:15

    Назовіть хоча одну грецькомовну громаду на сході України будь ласка. Хоч одну!

  • ukrlem | 22 October 2019, 16:11

    Ой так, так 12 листопада!!! Які ви професйонали.

  • Ігор Затятий | 22 October 2019, 14:07

    Розхотілося нелюбителеві дорогих годинників

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