The internet is absolutely aflame with claim and counter-claim regarding Philippa Stroud. What disturbs me about this affair, other than Mrs Stroud’s alleged prayer-sessions, is that the mainstream press appear to have been subject to a gagging order and party to veiled threats on behalf of her lawyers, who have apparently been contacting a number of media outlets and reminding them of their duties under Section 106 of the Representation of the Peoples Act. This makes it illegal to publish any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate’s personal character or conduct, unless the publication can show that they had reasonable grounds for believing the statement to be true.
Whilst I can recognise the agenda behind the whole story and still believe that it is being whipped into a frenzy by those who believe that the Conservative Party is full of homophobes and bigots as well as part of an ultra right-wing fundamentalist Christian conspiracy to grab power, I think nonetheless that there are elements of this story which do stand up to scrutiny and upon which the press should be entitled to report.
Mrs Stroud’s statement is perfectly frank:
“I make no apology for being a committed Christian. However it is categorically untrue that I believe homosexuality to be an illness and I am deeply offended that The Observer has suggested otherwise. I have spent more than 20 years working with disturbed people who society have turned their back on and who are often not helped by state agencies. Drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill and the homeless are just some of the people that I and my friends in the charitable sector have tried to help over the years…The idea that I am prejudiced against gay people is false and insulting”.
I tend to believe her and I stand by my assertion that she is decent, honest and sincere woman, someone full of compassion, motivated by her Christian ideals who wants to help the most needy in our society.
What is telling about her statement, however, is that no mention is made of these reported prayer sessions which have caused widespread revulsion. When it was pointed out that the allegations did not concern her views on whether or not homosexuality was an illness but whether or not it could be “cured” by prayer sessions and casting out demons, her spokesman refused to elaborate.
It seems that there is factual evidence that these sessions did take place as there are at least two separate witness accounts and she has written a book God’s Heart for the Poor in which she explains with how to deal with demonic activity.
Without going into too much depth, ascribing homosexual inclinations to demonic activity is not a view held by mainstream Christianity. Indeed demonic activity is an extremely rare occurrence, in approximately 98% of cases it is deemed that there is no actual possession or demonic presence.There is no harm in praying for and with someone who is troubled by aspects of their sexuality however this is an entirely different prospect to what has been reported.
The Conservatives and Mrs Stroud’s office are clearly now involved in a major damage limitation exercise hence the various letters that have been sent to the media. I don’t believe that CallmeDave is a homophobic, his swift actions in the case of Philip Larnder have certainly displayed the impression that there is no room for anyone perceived of homophobia in his Tory Party and many of the party’s leading lights seem to display enlightened views. My feeling is that someone in Tory HQ will have a few questions to answer with regards to the selection process and how someone who engages in questionable practices bound to alienate a vast proportion of the majority managed to slip through the net.
Whether or not Mrs Stroud is an honorable person is not in doubt. Whether or not she would be a worthy representative of the constituency of Sutton is up to the electorate who should be allowed to make an informed choice based on all of the facts. It is a sad day for democracy when the party traditionally associated with Libertarianism employs the tactics of the Soviet Union.