Victoria Brown, Arts and Entertainments Co-Editor.
Queen’s Film Theatre, whose mission is “to provide a unique cinema experience and widen access to the best of film from around the world through a programme that actively encourages appreciation, enjoyment, debate and understanding,” has refused to screen ‘Voices of the Silenced,’ an Evangelical Christian film about men who identify as ‘ex-gay.’ The controversial film claims that there is a ‘cure’ for being homosexual, and documents the stories of 15 people “emerging out of homosexual lifestyles.” The documentary was filmed in 8 countries, has contributions in Norwegian, German and Hungarian. It is being translated into 12 languages: German, French, Spanish, Slovakian, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Mandarin, Korean, Ukrainian, Russian and Arabic. According to the film’s producers, these people have “come out of homosexual practices” thanks to therapy or religion, despite scientific evidence from the global medical community that ‘gay cure therapy’ does not exist.
In a country where the LGBT+ community have to fight for basic human rights every day, the QFT’s decision to reject ‘Voices of the Silenced’ is a positive step forward for equality. The organisation pushing to screen this film are a Christian group called Core Issues Trust (CIT), and they are challenging the QFT’s rejection of this homophobic documentary. CIT’s CEO Mike Davidson said: “Clearly in Northern Ireland, in line with the rest of the UK, Christian freedom is restricted to freedom of worship alone. It is an illusion to believe that Christians have freedom of religion or even freedom of conscience.”
When we contacted the QFT, we received this response: “The mission of the Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT) is to widen access to film through the delivery of a varied programme that actively encourages appreciation, enjoyment, debate and understanding. In addition, the QFT is committed, through its approved programme, to continue to promote and respect equality, diversity and inclusion.” The blatant homophobia of this film does not promote or respect the QFT’s core values. The controversy has sparked debates surrounding freedom of speech and worship in Northern Ireland.
Although rejected by the QFT, Ballynahinch Baptist Church allowed a private screening of ‘Voices of the Silenced.’ According to CIT’s website, Rodney Stout, Senior Pastor of the Ballynahinch Baptist Church described the documentary as “well made” and said:
“I would encourage others to view the film so they too can reach a personally informed opinion regarding its place in a tolerant open society that allows for free speech and support for anyone who feels marginalised however small their minority group may be. Core Issues Trust have a website where people can find links to watch trailers or hire the film for private viewing.”
The CIT also held a protest outside Queen’s University last week. According to their website, CIT will “now complain to Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission which recently pursued Asher’s Bakery, a Christian ethos, family-owned business which had refused to provide a cake for a gay activist wishing to promote gay marriage. Found guilty of discrimination, the case will receive further attention in April when High Court judges will come to Northern Ireland to hear an appeal against the ruling.”
These events lead one to ask: in a country already so stuck in the past, where is this taking us?