Let’s face it, the NUI Galway Legion of Mary Society ‘pray away the gay’ campaign, is an indication that not all our young people have shaken off the shackles of Catholic repression, says Rob ‘The Loose Cannon’ Buchanan.
We might imagine our universities, particularly those in cosmopolitan Irish cities like Galway, to be havens for diversity and acceptance. In the light of the sexual sins of the Catholic Church against our children, we might imagine our young people to have cast off the shackles of Catholic repression that royally fucked up many generations of Irish people. But it seems not everyone has moved on, and not every young person wants us to move on, either.
It’s come to light that for a brief period the Legion of Mary Society in NUI Galway were campaigning on campus with a so-called ‘Purity Matters Initiative’, featuring the slogan: ‘I’m a child of God. Don’t call me gay’.
This evangelical strain of homophobia took a foothold in the guise of assistance being offered by the society to students in NUIG. The name ‘Purity Matters Initiative’ has a fairly sinister undertone, which should have set off alarm bells from the outset with authorities at the university. It reeks of the vague terminology of all things unscientific and religiously repressive.
For those unsure of their own sexuality, or coming to terms with life as a student, it’s just the kind of ambiguously helpful and fear-inducing crap likely to trap a mind. Decades after western psychiatric medicine has ceased to pathologise homosexuality, we can trust the good old Catholic Church, or at least a strong, cult-like evangelical wing of it, to attempt to demonise and stigmatise a demographic of young Irish people that is already four times more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and depression.
The stigmatisation and harassment of gay people in this manner may be in breach of Irish and EU law. Not only was the Legion of Mary Society attempting to evangelise and recruit gay people as young as 17 to its cause, it was simultaneously creating an atmosphere of hostility.
It’s not just the insinuation that homosexuality is ‘impure’ and therefore queers are corrupted, and liable to corrupt the morals of others, that creates this atmosphere. It’s the lie of helpfulness it offers to young people who identify as gay, while at the same time demonising them. This group’s posters and leaflets say they are trying to encourage young people to: “move beyond the confines of the homosexual label”. Yeah, right.
I would defend the rights of people to believe any old crap they like about queers, moving statues or magical men turning in to bread and wine. However, the place for these beliefs is in a person’s own home, or his or her church, or the voting booth.
When we allow religious dogma and unscientific cults to peddle the currencies of shame and sin on our university campuses, straight to the ears of our young people, then we poison the well of the future of this country. Not only is targeting vulnerable people and advising them to seek an “interior life of chastity” morally repugnant, it might actually lead to physical and long-term psychological harm.
Thankfully this ‘Christian’ propaganda did not go unchecked and the University Societies Co-ordination Group in NUIG met on Tuesday, with the Students’ Union subsequently confirming that the NUIG Legion of Mary Society has been suspended. In a statement the university said: “NUI Galway is committed to protecting the liberty and equality of all students and does not condone such behaviour.”
I’m not sure sin exists in any form, but if it does then surely encouraging young people to suppress the truth of what and who they are, is likely to be a grave one. Hopefully the authorities in all universities will learn from this, and keep an eye out for other such heinous campaigns.
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