Putin’s anti-gay propaganda law finds support among America’s social conservatives

In a recent attack on the White House, conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan paraphrased Ronald Reagan by suggesting “Barack Obama’s America” had taken the place of the Soviet Union as the world’s “evil empire”. It was an appraisal that echoed a speech given by Vladimir Putin in mid-December, in which the Russian leader said that over the past twenty years the US and the erstwhile communist state had switched roles.

For many on America’s Christian right, the Cold War represented more than a bi-polar nuclear stand-off between two superpowers but the bleeding edge of a cosmic battle between the faithful (America) and the Godless (the Soviets). Yet more than two decades after the end of the Soviet experiment, American social conservatives are now looking to Moscow as the guardian of the Christian moral compass.

Since the introduction of Russia’s now-infamous anti-gay propaganda law in June, the country has witnessed a sharp upturn in the number of attacks on members of its LGBT community, while those protesting the legislation have found themselves often targeted by police for mistreatment and arrest.

The bill, which bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations“, was introduced by Putin as a means of buttressing his dwindling support among Russia’s youth by appealing to members of the very conservative Russian Orthodox Church. In July, Putin declared, “The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland, made it an inseparable part of the Christian civilization and helped turn it into one of the largest world powers”. This mixture of religion and nationalism was not only a nod to the faithful, but a populist sop to a citizenry of which 90% support legislation that stigmatises the gay community.

Unsurprisingly, the move was decried around the globe, with Europe and the US particularly vocal in their condemnation. Just last week, more than 50 current and former Olympians criticised the anti-gay law, and called on the International Olympic Community (IOC) and the event’s multinational sponsors to do more to change the situation in Russia ahead of this week’s games in Sochi.

Since the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court last June, American gay rights advocates have stepped up their efforts to end bans on gay marriage in at least 20 states, a move that enjoys considerable public support with a 2013 Gallup poll suggesting that around 50% of American adults favour allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.

Momentum has gathered so quickly that the established wing of a highly divided Republican Party seems to have lost its appetite for a fight over the issue, with House GOP lawyers withdrawing from a defence of DOMA in July. More recently, when asked if the Party should support two openly gay Republican candidates running for office, House Speaker John Boehner stated publically that he did.

Yet equal marriage remains a controversial phenomenon in the US, particularly for the Republican Party’s right flank. So, with the GOP establishment either preoccupied with a futile attempt to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act or an unwillingness to push against the populist tide, Putin’s draconian legislation has become a clarion call for social conservatives across America’s religious heartland.

Just days after Russia’s anti-gay legislation became law, the Daily Caller, a conservative news and opinion website, published a swooning editorial by Austin Ruse, the President of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, entitled ‘Putin is not the gay bogeyman’. In the article the author praises Russian resistance to the “political movement to regularise and even celebrate homosexuality,” while criticising the law’s American opponents, stating that there is no “human right to parade your sexual preferences and practices down public streets”.

A week later, Larry Jacobs of the World Congress of Families (WCF) gave a radio interview in which he called the Russians the “Christian saviours to the world,” before heralding the anti-propaganda law as “a great idea”.

In August, Rush Limbaugh, a right-wing mouthpiece who hosts a daily syndicated radio show, explained that Russia’s anti-gay laws were a reaction to the country’s need for population growth, reasoning that more people are required for economic security, while offering praise for the Russian leader for “putting his foot down” against a “full-frontal assault on what has always been considered normalcy”.

The same month, Kris Mineau, head of the Massachusetts Family Institute, struck a more nuanced tone during a recorded Tea Party conference call, attacking President Obama for his opposition to Russia’s anti-gay legislation while noting that by cancelling the planned summit with Putin one day after criticising the Russian law,Obama had turned the advancement of LGBT rights into American foreign policy.

Similarly, Buchanan has on several occasions stated his admiration of the Kremlin, most notably stating that “Putin was trying to re-establish the Orthodox Church as the moral compass of the nation it had been for 1,000 years before Russia fell captive to the atheistic and pagan ideology of Marxism”. Writing in the World Net Daily, the 75-year-old former senior advisor to Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, continued his moral rebuke by lamenting, “Only yesterday, homosexual sodomy, which Thomas Jefferson said should be treated like rape, was outlawed in many states and same-sex marriage was regarded as an absurdity.

Yet American support for Russia’s state-backed persecution goes further back than 2013, with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) highlighting 14 leaders of American conservatism that have visited Russia in recent years to specifically lobby for anti-gay legislation. Indeed, the Illinois-based WCF, just one of six US groups to have signed a controversial global petition backing Russia’s anti-gay law, is scheduled to hold its next global meeting in Moscow this September, with the Russian organisers trumpeting their credentials on the event’s website:

[The] choice of Moscow as the place to organize the next Congress is connected to serious steps in our country [Russia] at the national and international levels aimed at protection of the natural family, family and moral values. Efforts of representatives of Russian society, Russian pro-family organizations defending the priority of marriage and family, parental rights and the sovereignty of the family, the right of children to live with their family, with father and mother, spiritual and moral foundations of human society were highly praised by WCF organizing committee.

In a December speech, Putin struck a similarly conservative chord, arguing that, “Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values. Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.”

Throughout the Cold War, America’s tough stance towards the Soviets was buttressed by a religious right ready to decry communism as the embodiment of Satan on earth. Viewing the Soviets and communist system as literally evil (and conversely America and capitalism as good) proved a comfortable fit with the premillennial worldview of the evangelical masses.

Yet the spiritual battle ground appears to have shifted with American social conservatives now viewing homosexuality rather than communism as the centre-piece of the good-versus-evil paradigm. So with equality being pushed at home, while Putin fashions himself as a 21st century protector of the Godly abroad, it’s perhaps unsurprising that those on America’s religious right are now looking east and seeing another piece of Reaganite imagery – that “shining city upon a hill”.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.

American politicians finally come together – but can the truce last?

In the five years since Barack Obama became the American president, the government has virtually come to a standstill. The daily business of Congress has reached a stalemate with the Republican Party blocking nearly every proposal or policy put forward by the Democrats. Gridlock has become the norm in Washington.

But that appeared to change this week, when a rare moment of compromise allowed the two parties to come together to pass a budget for the country. The new deal loosens some of the painful cuts that were imposed due to the parties’ failure to reach a budget agreement in 2011. It also means the wheels of government can continue to turn for the next two years, with federal agencies assured enough funding to pay their employees.

Agreeing on a budget sounds like one of the most basic jobs of any government, yet the two parties in Washington have become so polarized that the deal has appeared to push Republicans into an all-out civil war.

For several years, the Republican Party has been divided between establishment Republicans, those who have long occupied positions in Washington, and the party’s very vocal, conservative right wing, often known as the tea party. The far-right faction has had great success at raising money, and as a result has increasingly influenced decisions made by establishment Republicans. This has led to some disastrous strategy agreements for the Republican Party, including taking the country to the brink of financial calamity because Democrats wouldn’t agree to scrapping Obama’s health care law.

However, it seems the establishment Republicans have finally had enough. After conservative groups attacked the budget agreement, John Boehner, one of the most high-profile members of the Republican Party, accused them of “using the American people for their own goals.”

Tea party groups shot back, saying those who had voted in favor of compromise — the majority of Republicans in Congress — were not being “true conservatives.”

So the battle lines have now been drawn, with the heavily funded tea party faction once again threatening to challenge members of its own party in upcoming midterm elections, while the establishment Republicans look to distance themselves from the far-right groups that have been responsible for much of the national deadlock in recent years.

The notion of a divided Republican Party is certainly nothing new, with tensions between centrist members and its more ideological wing evident as far back as the early ’60s. Yet the tensions have now been laid bare for the public, with Republicans focusing their attacks not on the president or the Democrats, but on each other. Whoever comes out on top in this civil war will not only have a defining role in the next general election in 2016, but will determine whether the citizens of the United States have a fully functioning government anytime in the foreseeable future.

The long-term implications are more profound. Should establishment Republicans hold sway, the tea party will likely splinter and fade, becoming just another footnote in the history of American politics. Should the far-right come to dominate, the party of Lincoln, Reagan and Bush could well find itself a party of opposition for more than a generation.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.

JFK’s assassination was not ‘The Moment That Changed America’

This week’s cover of Time Magazine commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK with a cover story entitled “The Moment That Changed America”. The article, like so many before it, makes the persuasive case that the country which emerged from that “uniquely deranged event” was different, more suspicious, more paranoid – a nation now blighted by doubt.

That scarring moment in the national psyche, so the argument goes, gave rise to a conspiracy industry, one that continues to thrive and evolve, with the disbelief surrounding official accounts of the Kennedy assassination echoed in contemporary national traumas, whether that’s 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombings or the Sandy Hook shooting.

Even today, around 60% of Americans (according to an Associated Press poll) believe that the 35th President was the victim of a conspiracy, despite the weight of evidence to the contrary, while a case could be made that more recent surveys indicating that “over half the American population consistently endorses some kind of conspiratorial narrative about a current political event or phenomena” is a direct legacy of that single Texas killing.

Yet it seems bizarre that the country could change so dramatically with the death of one man, albeit the President and in extraordinarily obscene circumstances. Many academics have argued that conspiracy theory is not a reaction to a single event, but the societal response to ever-increasing governmental secrecy – what Peter Knight, an expert on conspiracy theory at the University of Manchester, calls a “crisis of trust”.

Speaking to the HuffPost, Knight said the Kennedy assassination wasn’t the origin of this crisis – “it was retrospectively posited as the moment that led to the unravelling of America”, with Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories beginning much later in the decade. Knight suggested that after the publication of the Warren Commission report, the majority of Americans accepted the official lone gunman version.

For Knight, who authored the book: The Kennedy Assassination, “it was really only in the wake of the other Sixties assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate and the revelations about the misdeeds of the CIA that conspiracy theories that imagined a vast conspiracy within the government – the government in effect constituted a conspiracy against the people – that conspiracy theories became more mainstream.”

As such, it was not the Kennedy assassination that caused the change – “three quarters of Americans trusted their govt in 1963; three quarters of Americans distrusted their government by 1993” – but as the mistrust grew, the murder of the President came to be seen as “the beginning of a larger plot”.

In her book Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11, author Kathy Olmsted offers an historical perspective as to how conspiracy became soaked into the American national character, suggesting the phenomenon is far older than the assassination – a product of public distrust towards officialdom that stretches back to the nation’s birth. Yet for Olmsted, the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination do mark a watershed in the history of American conspiracy culture as these particular speculations “were initially spread by a grassroots network of amateurs”.

Witness the raft of online “investigations” by members of the public in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings as seemingly everyone with a broadband connection looked to piece together the events of the day at their keyboard, filling the vacuum left by a lack of official explanation.

For Olmsted, that phenomenon started in 1963. “It was housewives and graduate students and ordinary workers who raised the first doubts about the official narrative,” she told HuffPost.

She continued: “Unlike the anticommunist conspiracy theorists of the 1950s, the Kennedy theorists had no alliances with wealthy businessmen or government agencies. They not only believed that government officials had conspired, lied, and covered up aspects of the murder; they also believed that they could expose this conspiracy on their own.”

“They developed a nationwide, grassroots network to pool their knowledge and prove that ordinary citizens could penetrate the national security state’s culture of secrecy.” From that moment on, she argued, “many Americans came to believe that they had the ability and the duty to expose the government’s lies on their own”.

Yet this trend of seeking out alternative explanations seems to have mutated to such an extent that discounting official versions of events has become almost a reflex, with an increasingly polarised American citizenry more inclined to grasp for whatever conspiracy most chimes with their existing political leanings rather than countenance more likely explanations.

The abhorrent use of the Sandy Hook massacre by gun rights activists, who used conspiracy theories to thinly veil a political message, is an obvious case in point.

There is also an obvious threat that this type of conspiratorial expression does to genuine, fact-based dissent, while the “anything goes regardless of veracity” ethos can easily be co-opted and used against minority groups.

It’s a danger Olmsted recognises, but she believes the trend could be reversed if government adopted a more transparent posture. “Excessive secrecy breeds distrust, and excessive distrust makes it difficult for democracy to function,” she said. “If government officials release more information, there will be fewer conspiracy theories about the government.”

Knight too is wary but said it is important not to “just dismiss conspiracy theorists as wackos”. Serious thought should be given to the idea that many Americans have come to understand their recent history through the lens of conspiracy theory, he argued, adding: “Some conspiracy theories are indeed dangerous, but not always – it depends on what political projects they are used to support (and it is the political projects that are dangerous).”

Knight conceded that some conspiracy theories “do indeed lead to a polarisation of beliefs, and to extremism, such as Timothy McVeigh, but they are also a source of sceptical entertainment.”

“We need to be careful not to be excessively paranoid about the possible dangers of popular paranoia,” he adds. “We need to ask ourselves why so many people are attracted to this way of explaining historical causality.”

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.

US government shutdown over Obamacare has serious implications for global economic recovery

Once again Europeans may be forgiven for looking on baffled at the bizarre maneuverings of Washington’s political class this week as the US government careers towards a shutdown. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, remains the President’s signature legislative achievement, having made its torturous journey through Congress in 2010, emerging with the promise of finally providing coverage for an additional 30 million people that had been cast adrift by the country’s failing health care system.

Yet despite being signed into law more than three years ago, the legislation, a major part of which is due to be finally implemented this week, threatens to derail not only the US government but provides an ominous portent for the US debt ceiling debate, with severe implications for Britain, the eurozone and beyond.

Unlike the single-payer systems of Europe and Canada, the ACA offers a mechanism for those without insurance to pool together for lower health insurance premiums through state-run exchanges, scheduled to open on Tuesday. This follows several provision that have already been implemented, most notably a ban on insurance companies hiking up premiums based on pre-existing medical conditions.

Even before it became law, Obamacare had been the target of vehement hostility, representing for some an unwelcome federal intrusion into medicine, for others a step towards a European socialised system, and to a vocal few confirmation that the President was indeed the anti-Christ. Still, the law was passed and was subsequently upheld during a Supreme Court challenge, followed by the 2012 election in which the GOP candidate, Mitt Romney, ran on a platform of repeal, effectively turning the vote into a referendum on Obamacare. It was a campaign that Romney and the Republicans lost, despite myriad shortcomings of the Obama administration over the previous four years.

Even after being signed, upheld and then ratified by the electorate, the law remains almost pathologically unpopular with members of the GOP, so much so that the Republican-led House Of Representatives has fielded more than 40 (mostly symbolic) challenges to the ACA since 2012. As Alex Waddan, a US specialist in Leicester University’s department of politics, points out, all major social welfare policy change is controversial, “but comprehensive health care reform is especially so,” he tells the HuffPost UK. That’s not to dismiss Obamacare as just another difficult piece of legislation, amounting to “the biggest health care shift since at least the mid-1960s and the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid.”

Both the Clinton and Bush (43) administrations failed to pass welfare reforms, while the last comprehensive social policy that was successfully introduced was the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, a Republican-backed welfare reform bill signed by Clinton despite opposition from the left.

Yet what is distinct about the current fight is its longevity. As Waddan makes clear: “What is unusual about Obamacare is three years after it became law and a year after the Supreme Court upheld most of its provisions, the battle to repeal it still rages.”

Such is the dogmatism within a minority of Republican members that the ACA has become a proxy war between a Tea Party faction bent on repeal and the establishment GOP. And with the implementation of Obamacare drawing near, the so-called “extreme wing” has spent the past week attempting one last assault, dragging a seemingly rudderless party with it, by threatening to close down the government unless the Democrats agree to delay the individual mandate for a year(thus giving the GOP an opportunity to take both houses of Congress in the 2014 mid-term elections, effectively killing the law for the reminder of Obama’s second term).

On Tuesday, Tea Party-backed Senator Ted Cruz, aided by a pair of “comfortable tennis shoes”, spent the best part of 21 hours speaking in favour of defunding the law. It proved a bizarre oratory with little practical purpose beyond raising the Texas senator’s profile and solidifying his position as head of the extreme faction which make up about 18% of the elected GOP.

With the Democrats holding a majority in the Senate and Obama wielding the power of veto, Republican ambitions of passing a measure that tied government funding to a one-year delay of Obamacare had no chance of success, leading to this week’s likely shutdown and the temporary closure of some federal agencies and welfare provisions. A similar shutdown in 1995 led to a decrease in Q4 growth in the US, which, if it happens again, could have a knock-on effect for growth in the UK. More worrying, however, the fight over Obamacare could be a prelude to a more critical battle ahead – the increase of the US debt ceiling.

Last week, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew implored Congress for a speedy resolution on an agreement to raise the $16.7 trillion statutory limit on government borrowing, which is likely to expire on the 17 October. The Republicans have already agreed to raise the limit, but only if it’s tied to a raft of conservative causes, concessions the President has flatly refused to countenance. Should the parties reach a similar impasse as they have over tying Obamacare to the budget, the effects would have far graver repercussions for the US and beyond, leaving British officials looking on with nervousness.

The Bank of England is already holding off printing more money as Ben Bernanke is expected to start winding down the Federal Reserve quantitative easing programme. However, the US being unable to service its debts could force the Federal Reserve to inject another dose to for stabilisation, which would likely force the Bank of England’s hand as they rush to keep the shaky economic recovery on track in Britain.

Their efforts to steady the British economy could see interest rates increase, investors take fright and the FTSE 1000 tumble. Businesses would inevitably suffer should US debt ceiling paralysis take hold due to its trading relationship with the UK, receiving 16% of British exports. “The US is the UK’s individually biggest export market so it matters hugely what happens there,” Martin Beck, UK economist at Capital Economics, tells the HuffPost UK. Beck anticipates that the economic shock would not be as severe as the full brunt of the Eurozone crisis in 2012, partly because the share of UK exports going to the EU is 45%, many times more than go to America.

Yet the European economy would be in line for a similar shock should the US default. Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at Capital Economics, tells HuffPost: “If the US recovery comes to a grinding halt and there’s serious market volatility then that’ll have quite serious knock on effects on Europe.” However, Loynes adds a caveat. Congress could just be engaged in another bout of political brinksmanship. Even if it is an act, Loynes warns that the political instability could show how weak America’s finances are.

“It is worrying that these sorts of episodes seem to be occurring at such a regular basis and it’s indicative that the US fiscal position is not in such a good shape and at some point they’ll have to implement more fiscal tightening,” he said.

Yet for Waddan, the current wrangling over Obamacare could in fact help negotiations over raising the debt ceiling. “If the House Republicans need a chance to let off steam and that happens over the continuing resolution bill to keep government open then perhaps the debt ceiling negotiations might be easier.” he said.

“The administration has insisted that it will not negotiate over the debt ceiling, but the House republicans might simply see that as giving them more leverage. On the other hand, the potential consequences of default – and no-one really knows what the consequences would be – should make everyone think twice before going down that route.”

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post and was written with Asa Bennett. The original article can be found here.

The twin threats of the EDL and ‘individualised jihad’

The brutal murder of Lee Rigby, a 25-year-old serving soldier in Woolwich on Wednesday, and the subsequent rally of 50 hooded men under the banner of the English Defence League (EDL) have highlighted the twin threats now facing the UK.

If Wednesday’s murder, as seems increasingly likely, transpires to be the first terror attack to scar the capital since 7/7, it marks a different type of horror than that which devastated the Tube and a bus eight years ago.

In the intervening years between 7/7 and the Woolwich attack the world has moved on; western operations in Iraq and Afghanistan – open wounds in the global conflict – have been scaled back, while western violence against extremism has spread outwards to North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, where militants and civilians alike suffer under Obama’s expanded drone programme.

“Individualised Jihad” has become the fear for security services, highlighted by a number of thwarted attacks on the UK, and, more recently, a successful attack on the Boston Marathon.

According to Dr Christina Hellmich, a terrorism expert from the University of Reading, this notion of “individualised Jihad” is a product of the demise of al-Qaeda.

“As an organised international movement, it is a spent force,” she told the Huffington Post UK. “A seemingly random murder is truly horrific – but it is hardly the activity of an institution which wields genuine international power.”

Hellmich said this variation on tactics has its origins in the Arabian Peninsula, developed, she argued, as “a distraction against the fact that al-Qaeda was no longer an effective institution”.

Rather than calling for groups to unite and carry out attacks, the call is for individuals, wherever they are to take up arms against Western targets,” she said. This call for indiscriminate violence, Hellmich argued, is a new phenomenon, adopted around 2010 by Anwar Al-Awlaki (before his death) and his followers. As such, Hellmich placed Wednesday’s murder in a “similar family” to that of the Boston bombings rather than 7/7.

“The Woolwich attack most reminded me of the 2010 attack on Stephen Timms MP by Roshonara Choudhry,” Hellmich said.

Choudhry, it transpired, had been radicalised by online sermons and had no connections to existing radical groups. When asked about her motivation at her trial, the 21-year-old said that Timms had voted in favour of the Iraq War.

The targeting of soldiers rather than civilians marks a further evolution in extremist methodology, though as Raffaelle Pantucci points out in an article for the Royal United Services Institute, this is not the first time soldiers have been targeted. The academic cites Parviz Khan, who plotted to kidnap and behead a British soldier in Birmingham and Mohammed Merah, the French-Algerian who killed three soldiers before turning his gun on a Jewish school in Toulouse, as similar acts of terror, adding that there was no evidence that either Merah or Khan had been “tasked to do what they did” by an organisation or group.

The inevitability of a successful attack on the military is not lost on Joe Glenton, a former British soldier who served in Afghanistan and Africa, and a HuffPost UK blogger. “This type of attack has been planned at least twice and foiled before,” he told the HuffPost UK. “Targeting a soldier is a spectacular in one sense,” he said. “British troops will be very worried.”

The world has also altered politically and economically since 2007; Labour was in Downing Street, Bush was in the White House and the European Union was a bastion of economic and political solidarity. A year later and the world lay racked in turmoil as the worst financial crash since the Twenties blighted both Europe and America.

Since then, parties of the far right have enjoyed a surge in support as history’s all too familiar narrative – economic decline leading to an increase in political extremism – played out across countries and continents. Like the Tea Party in the US and Golden Dawn in Greece, Britain too suffered a resurgence in the political fringes, with the EDL gaining support on the streets and the UK Independence Party (Ukip) gaining traction at the ballot box.

Speaking to the HuffPost UK in March, MP Dianne Abbott said: “Whenever you have austerity and recession you have a rise in racism and fascism… you saw it in Germany in the 1930s and you’re seeing it across Europe now.”

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone offered a similar assessment: “If you look across Europe you will see an increase in parties of the right and of anti-immigrant sentiment.”

It is this increase in far-right activity, as highlighted by Wednesday’s EDL gathering in Woolwich, as well as an increase in passive support, that “must be nipped in the bud” said Glenton. “There is space in this country, because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where you can comfortably be anti-Muslim, and the EDL… have marched right in.

“There cannot be a blanket punishment for people who haven’t done anything just because these two guys [the alleged attackers] just happen to be Muslim.”

It’s a sentiment Hellmich echoes: “I see sporadic attacks ahead of us, rather than a wave… but these attacks have and will lead to an increase in anti-Islamic sentiment. It just adds fuel on the flame of those looking for a scapegoat.”

Another worry for Hellmich is seeing a similar response to Woolwich as in Boston, what she calls the “heavy militarisation of an entire city”.

In the wake of the Boston bombings, the city was placed in virtual lockdown as security services scoured the beleaguered city for the suspects.

“This was more threatening that the actual incident itself,” she said. “Thankfully we didn’t see that in the UK, but the incident was very different.”

Wednesday’s rally by the EDL was condemned by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) as the work of “fascist thugs trying to use the murder to whip up racism and direct hatred against all Muslims” and an attempt to start a “race riot”. Still, anecdotal evidence suggests that support for the group, particularly on social networks, swelled following the murder.

But herein is the problem facing the UK should more horrors unfold; individualised attacks, which are the work of lone men or unconnected groups, are difficult to stop and when they do succeed they play into the hands of the far-right, spoiling for a fight with an al-Qaeda nemesis that barely exists.

Countering these twin threats is the task facing not only the UK government but every citizen repulsed by the brutal murder of a 25-year-old serving soldier on a south London street.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.

The failed vote on ordination exposes the Church of England for exactly what it is…

Just when you thought the beleaguered Church of England couldn’t possibly decrease its stock any further, a miracle happens.

Just 10 days after the new Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of his aversion “to the language of exclusion”, members of the General Synod, the governing body over which Justin Welby now presides, failed to carry a motion on as simple premise as: Let’s treat everyone the same.

Instead, having failed to gain a two-thirds majority in favour of ordaining female bishops, the CofE remains officially an organisation that sanctions discrimination against half the population.

Yes – the verdict was close, with the bishops and a clergy voting overwhelmingly in favour of the motion and only the house of Laity voting against.

But that is no mitigation against the fact that legislation was not passed on a principle as basic as equal rights for women – the unwillingness of provincial Anglicans to compromise exposing a huge division between the Bishops and the Clergy, and the Church’s representatives from the diocese.

Opponents of female ordination will no doubt see this as a victory for Christian traditionalism. That’s no doubt true, but it’s also a victory for bigotry, intolerance and small-mindedness, casting aside a much-needed opportunity to drag the 500-year-old monolith a little closer to the modern world.

Instead, the verdict exposes the CofE for exactly what it is – a lumbering, divided, grotesque whose lay members would prefer to see it wither away rather than make any accommodation with progress.

Perhaps nothing could have stopped the decline of the Church; there was no future salvation for the CofE. However, by retaining its adherence to barbaric Bronze Age doctrines that demote women to second-class citizens, the emasculation is nearly complete.

Yes – the Church of Henry has been expiring slowly and in agony for many years, but by voting against female ordination, Tuesday’s ballot may well have killed it off, pushing the spear into the side of the half dead institution as it hung limply from its cross.

This article first appeared in The Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.