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  • Ladele lack of judgement?


    The unanimous decision of an employment tribunal that a Christian registrar working in Islington was unfairly discriminated against because she refused to perform partnership ceremonies for gay people has stirred up a hornet's nest of controversy. That individuals have the right to freedom of belief and religion is rightly enshrined in law – but in this case the law is once again proving itself to be an ass.

    The full judgment upholds a complaint of 'direct discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief'. Miss Ladele (who was in post before same sex partnerships were introduced) affirms that 'a civil partnership is a marriage in all but name... I feel unable to directly facilitate a union that I sincerely believe is contrary to God's law' Two colleagues of Miss Ladele (one a Muslim) took demotion (with no loss of pay) to avoid performing the cermony and Miss Ladele was initially accommodated informally by the altering of rotas. But the working atmosphere (particularly with gay and lesbian colleagues) deteriorated and she was informed that she was required to stick to the terms of her contract and perform the ceremonies for people irrespective of their sexuality.

    One council diversity specialist told me he was in complete despair at the judgment. He sees it opening the door to any employee refusing duties on the grounds of religion or belief. "Imagine a BNP supporter refusing to serve immigrants on the grounds of 'belief'!"

    I'm not convinced that an employment tribunal establishes formal legal precedent in this way. But I am absolutely sure the tin marked 'registrar' now lists gay partnerships as one of its key ingredients. Anyone signing up to the job must take it - or leave it.


    A number of lawyers are conviced that the case deserves to be overturned on appeal. Headoflegal writes:

    "if as the Tribunal says, Ms. Ladele's stance is based on her belief that marriage is a life-long bond between a man and a woman, why didn't she kick up this fuss about marrying divorcees?"
  • The better part of valour?


    What chance of the Archbishop of Canterbury's support as pressure mounts on the Home Office to save 19-year-old gay Iranian Mehdi Kazemi from execution? At first the Home Office refused to re-consider his deportation, scheduled once the teenager is returned from hiding in Holland later this week.

    Like around 4,000 gay Iranians executed by the Ayotollahs since they came to power in 1979, Kazemi faces death by hanging if he is returned to his country. There is no logic to the Home Office line that gay Iranians are safe as long as they are 'discreet' and that having once refused to grant him asylum, his case cannot be re-heard unless new facts emerge.

    Kazemi claimed asylum in 2005 after his lover was executed in Tehran. After his asylum application was refused he fled to Holland where a court has decided he must be returned to Britain. He is currently on 'suicide watch'.

    An appeal has been launched through the European Court of Human rights and more than 60 leading peers, including the Bishop of Liverpool, have signed a letter to the Home Office in his support.

    In a moving statement to the Home Office he writes:

    "The Iranian authorities have found out that I am a homosexual and they are looking for me. I can not stop my attraction towards men. This is something that I will have to live with the rest of my life. I was born like with feeling and can not change this fact... If I return to Iran I will be arrested and executed like Parham."

    Will the Archbishop of Canterbury join them? Still bruised by his worthwhile contribution to the debate about Sharia, an urgent intervention by him would seem to be more than timely.

    After this post was written the Home Office announced that after campaigning by his MP, Mehdi Kazemi had been granted five year's 'leave to remain' in the UK.

  • Reni's St Sebastians at Dulwich

    5668a38b4891e71cabdcd55c0cb9c5a8.jpgSeven paintings, all of the same subject: a beautiful, almost naked youth, tied to a tree, in the throes of martyrdom. Five are almost identical versions of the same composition, from galleries as far away as Puerto Rico and New Zealand. All are uncompromising in their directness. The painting from Genoa inspired Wilde, Mishima and Pierre & Gilles. Stendahl claimed they so distracted the faithful that they had to be removed from churches.

    The St Sebastians of the 'divine Guido' Reni (1575-1642) feature in an exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery until May 11. It offers the public the chance to play an intriguing game of art historical 'spot the difference'. Which are 'real', which are copies? How much is the work of the master, and how much of his studio? Why are they such gay icons?

    0bdf791c743620928b081fe2b01b0fb6.jpgThe Rome painting lacks the impact of its Genoese neighbour. The paintwork is softer, the face and body less defined. A third arrow has pierced the martyr's side and the feathers of another don't now clash with the Roman soldier in the background.

    Standing in front of Reni's version from Genoa it is easy to see why it had such impact on Wilde: an athlete of classical build is indifferent to his wounds. Sacred: his boyish, asexual face, framed by his pinioned arms, gazes heavenward. Profane: his loincloth slips provocatively, emphasised by a partly turned hip.

    7cd7ffb875854fbdebbf336d03113218.jpgPierre & Gilles and Jarman also responded to this sultry mix of agony and ecstasy. Yukio Mishima had himself photographed as St Sebastian and in Confessions of a Mask the narrator discovers his sexuality because of a print of the painting.

    Of the six versions of the (earlier?) composition, that from New Zealand is the most obviously different. The brushwork is far looser, there is less light - yet in spite of these differences, the current view is that it is by Reni himself. Comparing the others on view, they all seem as one.

    e3ddbbe2034eca85ebdc03310a1b7080.jpg 711ae672ff87b3d9396011671f379c49.jpgThe Dulwich's own St Sebastian was long thought to be a copy of the painting in the Prado, Madrid. Now restoration has revealed signs of pentimenti (second thoughts) that have enabled its attribution as Reni's own work.

    For one critic Reni was self-consciously re-working notions of light, texture and atmosphere, the repeated composition a means to an end. Perhaps the explanation for so many versions is more prosaic: Reni wanted cash and welcomed requests for repeat business. He certainly went on to make other paintings of this middle-aged Roman soldier, the parton saint of sufferers of the plague, who met his final end only after his wounded body was dragged out of the cloaca maxima. Either way this Dulwich exhibition (which deserved much greater space) is fascinating.

    The exhibition is complemented by a catalogue which contains more art historical analysis than is usual. Also on show was 'The age of enlightenment: Beardsley, Dulac and their Contemporaries 1890-1930' - Beardsley's perfumed and obsessional exoticism providing another take on image making.

    Comprehensive Survey of images of St Sebastian

    Review in the Independent