Raëlian banner 'not respectful', says Mardi Gras
Sydney Mardi Gras has rejected claims of “censorship” by followers of the Raëlian movement after the Parade Committee objected to a proposed banner containing religious and spiritual symbols which the organisation said was “not respectful” towards other community groups.
The banner read "Homophobia is criminal bible bullshit" and featured several symbols of major Abrahamic faiths including a cross, the Star of David and a crescent, representing Christianity, Judaism and Islam respectively.
Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) chair Peter Urmson told SX the organisation was concerned over the “expression of their message, not their message”, in particular the placement of mainstream religious symbols within the banner.
“This year’s application included religious, cultural and spiritual symbols, which are important to other LGBTQI community groups, represented in a way that SGLMG determined was not respectful to these community groups,” Urmson said.
“Mardi Gras welcomes multiple viewpoints, even challenging ones, however all entrants must adhere to the principle of respect of others in the parade, just as we fight for the broader community to respect us and our views.”
The spat has resulted in ARAMIS (the Raëlian Association of Sexual Minorities) pulling out of this year’s Parade, having taken part in the event for 12 years.
The decision has also led artist and gay activist Luke Roberts to question whether he will ever take part in a Mardi Gras Parade again in the guise of his iconic character Pope Alice, created in the late 1970s as a critique of the Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality.
Roberts, who is also a spokesperson for ARAMIS, told SX the reluctance of SGLMG to accept the banner without it being “watered down” was tantamount to censorship when considering how the parade came into being as a political event in 1978.
“It’s an absurd request considering that mainstream religions created homophobia in the first place.
“And use of the word 'bullshit' is really pretty mild when there isn’t a word despicable enough to describe the religious killings of millions of LGBTIQ people for centuries, or for the ongoing bullying, gay bashing and murders inspired by religious leaders and texts,” Roberts said.
“If we don’t speak out against the homophobic crimes of mainstream religions, we are also complicit in those crimes, and thereby doomed to live truncated lives dominated by religious bigotry.”
The Raëlian movement teaches that life on Earth was scientifically created by a species of extraterrestrials, called the Elohim, who in ancient religious texts have been mistaken for angels or gods.
The group believe in sexual self-determination, encourage adult homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual relationships and believe that society should recognise them legally.
The movement was started by French motor sports journalist Claude Vorilhon, who changed his name to Raël ( meaning ‘messenger of the Elohim’), after he experienced what he has said was an extraterrestrial encounter in December 1973.
Roberts told SX that he believed ARAMIS was targeted after an apparent complaint over its accepted banner for last year’s Parade which read, “Help stop homophobia. Leave your religion with gay abandon”.
The concerns of ARAMIS come on the back of worries from other groups such as Polyamory Australia, who, before an eventual back down from organisers, were initially only granted entry to participate as a ‘supporter’ group as they were not considered part of the queer community
A statement from Polyamory Australia said that while the local poly community was in a continuing debate over how polyamory fits into queer theory, most of last year’s participants in its Parade float identified as LGBTIQ.
“It wasn’t up to Mardi Gras to decide who is queer,” the statement read.
“For many polyamorists, it was particularly offensive because the parade's slogan is ‘Infinite Love For All’, and the logo is a pair of hearts arranged to form an infinity symbol — polyamorous groups worldwide have used similar symbology for decades.”
Asked if Pope Alice would be making an appearance at future parades after over two decades of taking part, Roberts said he was unsure.
“Last year’s motto for the parade was, ‘Say Something’. Pope Alice thinks this year’s seems to be ‘Shut Up’,” he said.