Tackling homophobia in print in North Cork (Updated) #MarRef

“There is no equivalency between marriage and sodomy and those who seek to make them equal are only codding themselves and others.”

So begins regular correspondent Mairead Scannell’s March 12th missive to The Avondhu. It’s a hateful, hate-filled letter, a litany of homophobia, intolerance and what seems to be an obsession with “sodomy”. I was immediately struck that I could not imagine many other newspapers printing it. I reproduce it in full below because it is a frightening and unvarnished insight into the mindset of some of those opposed to marriage equality but be warned that it’s horrible.

Dear Editor,

There is no equivalency between marriage and sodomy and those who seek to make them equal are only codding themselves and others.

‘Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.’ There are any today who wish to live as though God does not exist and work actively to kick God out of every aspect of our lives. God is not mocked. We need only to see the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to know that God will not tolerate homosexual behaviour.

Since it is a grave sin, we cannot support sodomy under any circumstance. While we are duty bound to condemn the action (the sin) we cannot condemn the sinner, but speak the truth in the hope that each will live the chaste life that God calls them to do. In Ireland for the past twenty years, in particular, we have been drip fed the homosexual lifestyle.

All the TV soaps, both home-produced and imported, have been softening up the nation with their carefully crafted  scripts so that our acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle, that which is so opposed to God’s laws, has taken a ‘soft grip’ on the minds of the people. Along with that, we are warned that any opposition to the ‘gay lifestyle’ will earn us the term homophobic, intolerant, ignorant and old fashioned. While many may be bullied into silence, Christians are called to witness to Christ and to speak the truth, uncomfortable though it may be.

We could never have envisioned that in 2015, Ireland would be asked to vote sodomy into the Irish Constitution and be deluded into calling it marriage. Clearly, those pushing this agenda, believe that after twenty years of gay propaganda, Ireland is now ‘ripe for the picking’. It shows how far down the decadent slope we have slipped.

Catholics and Christians of all churches, have a clear choice to make come referendum day to decide whose side they are on. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters,” says the Lord. Christ does not tolerate hypocrites. He calls us to ‘Be my witness’ and tells us that ‘My sheep know my voice and follow me’. When the sheep wander away from the True Shepherd, they become slaves of a new master.

‘What happened in Massachusetts’ will happen here. A documentary of the same name is available on the internet for anyone who wishes to educate themselves in this regard. Persecution of Christians will follow here, as it has done in every jurisdiction where same sex marriage has been legalised. It won’t be persecution by one such as ‘Cromwell’ but by the entire establishment.

The new ‘Human Rights’ will give Government and its officials ‘the right to do wrong’ and to penalise mothers, fathers, teachers, priests, photographers, bakers and any other person or service providers who do not step into line.


Mairead Scannell.

These replies  were published the following week (March 19th) by the Avondhu. …

Dear Editor,

As a teacher of English, I often lament that fewer and fewer young people read language in print. However, it was with relief that I thought of this fact when I read Mairead Scannell’s opinion piece on same sex marriage, published by your newspaper on 12th March. This is a publication that is in most homes across a huge area in Cork, and I dread to think how reading her article would affect a young person (or any person) thinking about, or coming to terms with, their sexuality.

Because of her views against the “gay lifestyle,” Ms Scannell notes that she may be labelled “homophobic,” “ignorant,” and “intolerant.” In that case, maybe her energy would be better spent worrying less about the gay lifestyle. There are worse things out there for Christians to worry about than couples who love each other and want the legal right to spend their lives together. Perhaps she could instead consider the nationwide issue of mental health, or the homelessness crisis?

The article is filled with thinly-veiled fear, loathing, and disgust, under the guise of Christianity; and surely in 2015, we have had enough of the terrible damage done under the guise of Christianity? Ms Scannell does make one valid point, though. She says that “Catholics and Christians of all churches, have a clear choice to make come referendum day to decide whose side they are on.” Certainly the choice is clear, for the non-religious as well as the religious.

Human rights are for all, not just for some, and should never be written in inverted commas.

Yours etc,

Maeve Keane.

Dear Editor,

I write today in response to Mairead Scannells most recent article published by your newspaper, where she lays judgment on LGBT people of the area. As a gay woman born and raised in Fermoy, I’m disappointed to see another hate filled rant, and really that’s all it is, again fill the pages of your newspaper. I have written to the Avondu before on another of her letters which was not published as it was apparently too personal. However there doesn’t seem to be an understanding that when you publish an article like this, I, and other gay people in your towns and villages are personally targeted when you refer to things like a “homosexual agenda” and “gay propaganda’. I’m not quite sure what these are but most of us are simply trying to live our lives like anyone else.

Ms Scannell uses selective quotes from the bible to suit her own argument and she doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a gang rape in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and a loving consensual relationship between people of the same sex and for me that is a really sad place to have to live your life from. Given that she also seems to be working on the misunderstanding that “sodomy is being voted into the law” she also doesn’t seem to understand that homosexuality was already legalized twenty years ago and the sky didn’t fall in and as far as I’m aware we haven’t had the mass Christian persecutions that  Ms Scannell seems to be fearful of. In fact the most damaging force to Christianity in Ireland over the last twenty years has been the behavior of the Catholic church itself.

If we are to look a bit closer at the bible, homosexuality is only briefly mentioned in about six of the Bible’s almost 32,000 verses. The fact that it is so rarely mentioned should be an indication to believers of the lack of importance attributed it and the sections in which it is mentioned bear no resemblance to a modern loving relationship. If Ms Scannell is such an adherent to the bible she should be writing letters about the sins of eating shellfish, getting a divorce, tattoos, working on Sundays, eating fruit from a tree within four years of planting it and men trimming their beards. But she doesn’t, as she is willing to cite Leviticus for what she personally thinks is sinful, while ignoring the things she doesn’t. While the Bible is nearly silent on homosexuality, a great deal of its content is devoted to how a Christian should behave. The New Testament asks believers to embrace fairness, equity, love, and compassion. As Matthew 23: 23-24 says “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.” Love not fear is the most valuable Christian virtue and its a value I’ve experienced growing up in Fermoy.

If you are someone who puts their trust and faith in God, I would ask you to trust that God is loving and that no harm will come to a society in which love and family are prioritized. I hope that Ms Scannell finds some peace in her life and that she finds it in her heart someday to love rather than hate. If you value love and commitment I would ask you to vote yes in the upcoming referendum. Some people will tell you that you should be afraid, but there is nothing to fear from allowing a couple in love to marry and devote their lives to each other.

Yours etc,

Sonya Donnelly

Dear Editor,

I read with interest Ms. Mairead Scannell’s letter of 16th March. I note her concern with the “homosexual lifestyle” and its conflict with her Catholic principles. Ms. Scannell is entirely within her rights to hold these opinions, and to live her life by whatever principles she so chooses.

May I suggest, therefore, that if and when the marriage referendum passes in our diverse Republic of many religions, and when loving same-sex couples are entitled to full equality before the law, that Ms. Scannell simply gets on with her life and doesn’t enter into a same-sex relationship herself. After all, it’s the right to marry someone of the same gender we’re voting on, not the obligation.

Yours etc,

Rebecca Murphy

Dear Sir,

Mairead Scannell’s latest letter is, even by her standards, a spectacular. Her talk of Christ and Christianity does nothing to lend moral weight to what is, in fact, a vile homophobic rant.

If the Devil may cite Scripture, it is worth noting that of the 41,071 words attributed to Jesus Christ in the New Testament, nary a one of them did he speak on the subject of homosexuality. If being born gay is the abomination Mairead Scannell believes it is, would the Son of God not have made sure to address it?

There are gay kids growing up in the Avondhu region and it is deplorable that they could read such hatred directed against them in your publication. You would not dare print such bile aimed at any other minority and you should not have published Mrs Scannell’s vicious screed.

I believe in a Republic which cherishes all its children equally and I’ll be voting Yes in the upcoming Marriage Equality referendum. A Yes vote will send a powerful message of tolerance and equality to all our citizens, not least to those who would drag us all back to the dark days when Ireland was run by the clergy.

As Collins said, “Give us the future… We’ve had enough of your past… Give us back our country… to live in, to grow in, to love”.

Yours sincerely,

Donal O’Keeffe

… Mrs Scannell responded the following week (March 26th) with even more sodomy and she was joined by her political ally, Nora Bennis, who generously threw in a dose of sexually-transmitted diseases. Again, be warned that it’s awful stuff. …

Dear Editor,

I wish to respond to my critics who disagree with my religious views on sodomy and the forthcoming referendum (Avondhu Letters, 19th March, 2015).

I will come straight to the point. There is no difference in the value and worth of every human being, rich or poor, gay or straight. We are all created in the image and likeness of God and our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. All our souls are precious to God. There is however, a huge difference between sodomy and the marital act. Sodomy is a grave sin. It is immoral to support it in any shape or form. The Government should not be legislating for immorality and hoodwinking people into supporting it by calling it ‘marriage’.

Sodomy is a grave sin contrary to God’s law. Scripture tells us in the New Testament that Sodomites (among others) ‘will never inherit the Kingdom of God’ (New Testament (1. Cor. verse 9). We are told as Christians that God will hold us responsible if we fail to alert our brothers or sisters to the fact that they are living in sin. I do not want to be held responsible by God for not speaking out against immorality. Is it any wonder that we are warned: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it” (Matthew 7:13 New Testament).

I know that sodomy is wrong, that’s why I’m speaking out. It was wrong in the Old Testament, in the New Testament and remains wrong today, no matter what the celebrities, the politicians or misguided others preach.

There has been a great interest in a documentary that I mentioned in my recent letter about Gay Marriage and Massachusetts.. Some people experienced difficulty accessing it, possibly because I did not give the full address. I wish to clarify that the correct title is “What Gay Marriage did for Massachesetts”.

Those who asked us to “give us the future” can get a well documented and accurate view of the future by looking at the social and legal fallout of redefining marriage to include sodomy, as experienced first-hand by Christians living in America.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Mairead Scannell.

Dear Editor,

While Donal O’Keeffe’s (and others’) response to Mairead Scannell smacked of extraordinary intolerance, he was correct when he said “Give us the future, we’ve had enough of the past”. (Avondhu Letters, 19/3/15).

Certainly, give us the future, but what kind of future? Anyone who heard the Ray D’Arcy interview with a sexual health specialist on 19th March, would undoubtedly be seriously concerned about the explosion in sexually transmitted infection (STIs) in this country. She said there were a myriad of them and those most at risk are young people and MSMs (men having sex with men). The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) agrees. They advised health professionals to tell MSMs that they are at increased risk of cancers, of contracting and spreading deadly STIs, of liver disease and many other serious health problems.

It is because of this that people like Ms Scannell are urging a No vote in the upcoming same-sex referendum. Surely, we all have a duty to protect the future. Putting the homosexual lifestyle on a par with marriage between a man and a woman, sends a very wrong message to  our children – who are our  future.

We certainly have had enough of the past. Give us the future – one that is free of STDs, of cancers, of hepatitis and the rest. If this is the future Mr O’Keeffe wants, then he will reconsider his decision to support the re-definition of marriage, which is what the referendum is really about.

Yours sincerely,

Nora Bennis.

My reply was published on the 2nd of April.

Dear Sir,

Mairead Scannell repeatedly uses the word “sodomy” to condemn what she calls “the homosexual lifestyle”, while Nora Bennis bemoans the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.

Some people seem to think about sex all the time, don’t they? Now, thinking about sex all the time might not be to everyone’s taste but I suppose we have to be tolerant. After all, respecting the right to think about sex all the time doesn’t mean the rest of us have to think about sex all the time too.

As for “the homosexual lifestyle”, Jesus was never slow to anger when offended, declaring it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter heaven. No fan of bankers, either, he drove the money-changers from the Temple.

Christ saved the worst of his rage, though, for those who would abuse children, advocating they be drowned in the depths of the ocean with a millstone tied to their necks.  What would Jesus make of the obscenities carried out by some of those claiming to work for him, sins denied and excused by some of those closest to the altar?

Not a peep out of Jesus, though, about “the homosexual lifestyle”. (I asked human rights campaigner and abuse survivor Colm O’Gorman – a national hero – if “the homosexual lifestyle” mainly involves, as I’ve long suspected, liking Abba. “Pretty much,” he replied. “That and really, really nice shoes”.)

For some people, the sky is always falling. For some people, it’s always the Apocalypse. We legalised homosexuality in 1993. Divorce in 1996. Civil Partnership in 2010. The world didn’t end. The same with contraception, sex education, the Children’s Rights Referendum and the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill.

For some people, the sky is always falling. For some people, it’s always the Apocalypse.

I’m delighted Nora Bennis is so concerned about sexually-transmitted diseases. Anyone with an ounce of cop-on would know sex education and contraception are the best ways to combat STDs. Ironic, then, that Nora Bennis (and Mairead Scannell) campaigned so vigorously against both sex education and contraception.

Nora also worries about the message a Yes vote will send to our children. Given that approximately 10% of our children are gay, a Yes vote will send a powerful message of tolerance, respect and love. A Yes vote will tell our gay kids that they are as normal – and as extraordinary – as every other child of this Republic.

It’s probably pointless telling Mairead Scannell and Nora Bennis that homophobic language is offensive, not just to those of us who are gay, not just to those of us who have gay family members and friends but to those of us not consumed by hatred, sex obsession or warped religiosity.

The Marriage Equality referendum simply proposes to extend to gay couples the same rights and guarantees straight couples now enjoy. That’s all. Your marriage – if you’re lucky enough to be married – stays exactly as it is and it’s no more affected by homosexual people getting married than it is by heterosexual people getting married. You won’t have to marry a gay person if you don’t want to, any more than you have to think about sex all the time just because holier people than thou seem to think about sex all the time.

This vote is us, as a society, behaving with decency and generosity.  This is a vote for a more inclusive and kinder Ireland. This is a vote for love.

Vote Yes.

Donal O’Keeffe.

I have no doubt this will not be the last of our correspondence…

(Should you wish to reply to Mrs Scannell, editor@avondhupress.ie)  

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