■ Latvian politician
Janis Smits, who chairs the Parliament's
Social Affairs and Human Rights Committee, pictured at
the anti-gay rally to protest Riga Pride 2006.
Juris Lavrikovs, ILGA-Europe
UK Gay News Commentary
Never let it be said that the
movers and shakers in the Council of Europe (CoE) lack guts.
This week, Andreas Gross,
rapporteur of the Judicial and Human Rights Committee of the Council of
Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), was in Latvia and invited the
Latvian Parliamentary Social Affairs and Human Rights Committee to lunch.
Well, not quite all of the
committee. Excluded was chairperson Janis Smits, whose homophobic outbursts
Parliamentarian Smits closely
allies himself with Alexey Ledyaev who heads the worldwide New Generation
Church, a particularly homophobic so-called “Christian” church with its
world headquarters in Riga.
And “pastor” Ledyaev is best
buddies with the likes of Scott Lively of The Pink Swastika infamy,
former NFL “hitman” turned preacher Ken Hutcherson, and the international
Watchmen on the Walls, which
specialises in violent gay-bashing thuggery – and there are allegations in
the USA that suggest Watchmen on the Walls had something to do with the
vicious murder of a young Fijian man of
Indian descent, Satender Singh, near Sacramento, California, last July.
IMPORTANT NOTE: the Watchman on the Walls
group in this article has NO CONNECTION with the
Back in Latvia this week, Janis
Smits took exception at not getting an invitation to the lunch. The Latvian
media was full of the snub of the homophobic chairperson.
Juris Lavrikovs of ILGA-Europe
provided a resumé of what the media reports:
When speaking to journalists,
Janis Smits described [the lack of an invitation] as ‘personal
discrimination’. However later, following personal request, he was included
in the list of the lunch invitees.
During a meeting with Mr Gross,
Janis Smits insisted that Latvia is “Nordic nation” and he is convinced,
therefore, that Latvians do not “exhibit their feelings” about sexuality.
PACE’s Judicial and Human Rights
Committee received a proposal for a recommendation signed by 12 members of
the Parliamentary Assembly for legal recognition of same-sex unions in all
CoE countries. Boriss Cilevic, Latvian member of the Parliamentary
Assembly, also signed this proposal.
The proposal points out that in
recent years the authorities in some member states of the Council of Europe
have banned or attempt to ban peaceful demonstrations by lesbians and gay
men. The proposed recommendation points out that sexual minorities have the
same right to assemble and protect their rights, while the authorities have
to restrain from such expressions which can insinuate legitimisation of
Janis Smits said that proposed
recommendation is an initiative of 12 socialists and liberals and he
believes will not get support from other PACE members.
After the lunch meeting with Mr
Gross, Janis Smits told the media that sexual minorities’ events are being
sponsored by foreign countries and “this is sort of revolution-making inside
other countries which has nothing to do with human rights”.
While speaking to Mr Gross,
Janis Smits stressed that if we want to live in harmonious society, then
both sides need to respect each other’s view.
However when speaking to the
media, Janis Smits said that so-called Gay Pride events should be called
This is a very enlightening resumé
of media reportage – and it backs up Mr. Gross’ initial feeling of not to
invite Janis Smits.
While there is nothing new in Janis
Smits equating homosexuality to pædophilia, his views on the aspect of CoE’s
Parliamentary Assembly looking for all member countries introducing
recognition of same-sex partnerships (not NOT marriage) and how it would
affect Latvia are new.
And, of course, they slot in nicely
with the preachings of the New Generation Church.
Janis Smits is no stranger to
“anti-gay” demonstrations in Latvia. While he is not known to have been
seen wearing one of the “No Pederasts” t-shirts, he has been seen – even
photographed – with placards containing the “No Pederasts” symbol at
anti-gay pride rallies.
As for Alexey Ledyaev, he will be
in the Pacific northwest of America next week as guest of honour at a
Watchmen on the Walls
three-day rally being staged at the publicly-owned
Lynnwood Convention Center, just north of Seattle, and
close to Ken Hutcherson’s Antioch Bible “mega church” which spews anti-gay
hate under the guise of “protecting the family”.
Up to 700 participants are expected
at the event, including Eastern European émigrés from across the USA, such
as representatives from New Generation churches in Massachusetts,
Pennsylvania, California and Seattle itself.
Watchmen on the Walls, one
remembers, were heavily involved in a “coalition” that included the New
Generation Church and No Pride in the violence, which included the throwing
of animal excrement at gays during the 2006 Riga Pride.
According to respected blogs in the
Seattle area, officials at the Lynnwood Convention Center were, up to two
days ago, totally unaware of the nature of the
booked Watchmen on the Walls conference.
This was due to the
fact that there are two organisations with the same name.
But there can be no
question of the links between the New Generation Church and the Watchmen on
the Walls group that is staging the conference in Lynnwood next week.
The domain of the
website, watchmenonthewalls.com, is registered to
Sergey Prikhodko who
is the pastor at the New Generation Church in Seattle. And his
telephone number listed on the New Generation Church USA website is the same
as that on the event’s
David Schmader, associate editor
and columnist at The Stranger, a Seattle weekly newspaper, wrote
yesterday on his
publication’s blog that “Calls made [Wednesday] to the
Convention Center revealed administrators’ ignorance of what they were
getting themselves into”.
And he also quotes Scott Lively
speaking to the Washington Times, owned by the Unification Church:
The Watchmen portray the battle
against gay rights as nothing less than a biblical clash of civilizations.
“The homosexual sexual ethic” and “family-based society” are at war,
[anti-gay activist and leading Watchman Scott] Lively proclaimed in his
“One must prevail at the expense of the other.”
As freelance journalist and
assistant editor of Crosscut David
Neiwert blogged on
Well, the facade is finally
starting to crumble. The latest permutation in the religious right's
anti-gay crusade appears ripe to take a decidedly violent turn.
Casey Sanchez at the SPLC
has disturbing report about the coalition building
between West Coast fundamentalist churches -- particularly here in the
Northwest -- and a Latvian-based group of far-right fundamentalists who
explicitly encourage, and in fact help manifest, violent gay-bashing
One of the leaders in this growing coalition is a Seattle-area pastor, Rev.
Ken Hutcherson, who has been
involved in opposing civil rights for gays
for some time. No doubt thanks to him, we in fact will
be hosting a gathering of these thugs in Christian clothing next week just
up the road from my home.
"We church leaders need to stop
being such, for lack of a better word, sissies when it comes to social and
political issues," [Scott] Lively argues in a widely-circulated tract called
Masculine Christianity. "For every motherly, feminine ministry of the church
such as a Crisis Pregnancy Center or ex-gay support group we need a
battle-hardened, take-it-to-the-enemy masculine ministry like [the
anti-abortion group] Operation Rescue."
Lively identifies "the enemy" as
not only homosexuals, but also what he terms "homosexualists," a category
that includes anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, who "actively
promotes homosexuality as morally and socially equivalent to heterosexuality
as a basis for social policy."
David Neiwert concludes by saying
that he has “an unpleasant feeling that we’ll all be learning a lot more
about these goons in the not-too-distant future”.
Over at the Seattle Times, columnist
observed that Watchmen on the Walls was mainly an overseas group. Then,
quoting The Slooger, said: “As featured
Watchmen speaker Pastor Alexey Ledyaev put it, the Watchmen’s mission is “to
bring the laws of our nations in[to] full compliance with the law of God”.
This Taliban-esque mission is made more alarming by the anti-gay violence
that tends to swarm around Watchmen events.”
Back to David Schmader who wrote, not unreasonably in
view of the overseas – especially Latvian – aspect of Watchmen: “Correct me
if I’m wrong, but foreigners coming to America with the purpose of doing
harm to Americans are traditionally called
terrorists, and the
Watchmen conference seems like the last thing the City of Lynnwood would
want to align itself with.”
Latvian preacher Ledyaev, who is
renowned for sending his congregation into trances while he indoctrinates
with ant-gay hate – and there are videos available on the Internet to
support this, might not consider himself to be a terrorist. And the same
goes for the White House.
was invited – and attended – the
2006 National Prayer Breakfast hosted by President George Bush.
And at the beginning of this year, on February 7,
– along with Hutcherson – paid
another visit to the White House and met with Jan Hain, the director of the
White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
In was at this meeting that Hutcherson insists he was
appointed a “special White House envoy” – and he used
this title went on a visit to Riga in March.
“I come to
you representing the White House,” Hutcherson told a conference in Riga..
are here to make sure the United States is not being used to push gay
rights. That’s the view of the right. And I have the power
and the commission to ask these questions,” he also said at the New
Generation Church meeting.
■ Hutcherson speaking in Riga in March
The White House press office vehemently denied such an
And senior Latvian politician Janis
Smits talks about Latvian gay events being “sponsored by foreign countries
and this is sort of revolution-making inside other countries which has
nothing to do with human rights” might bring a smile or two in Strasbourg at
the Council of Europe.
Obviously, with Mr. Gross’ stance
on the initial lack of a lunch invitation for Janis Smits, the Council of
Europe are all too well aware of the homophobic “mind games” being played in
certain parts of Riga.
And with the United States of
America being observer members of the Council of Europe, perhaps a little
diplomatic contact with the US Government might be in order to warn of next
week’s “invasion of Watchmen”.
■ Riot police keep an eye on "No Pride"
protesters at this year's Gay Pride in Riga.
© UK Gay News
Anti-Gay US-Latvian Axis: Homophobes of All Nations, Come Together!
By Kārlis Streips. Once again we can
prove to ourselves that religious extremists do not live in our world, they
live in some parallel world which they alone are aware of. It has been
reported that the noisy structure known as “New Generation” invited an
American called Kenneth Hutcherson to visit. (UK Gay News, March 30, 2007)
This Is War, Anti-Gay American
Preacher Hutcherson Tells Europe.
As news emerged that a new “anti-gay” group had been registered in Latvia,
the plot thickened as to the involvement of an American preacher with
religious groups in the country who told an American newspaper: “this is a
war”, referring to his anti-gay campaign in Europe.
(UK Gay News, March 30, 2007)
Latvian Group Charges Blair With Interfering In Domestic Politics.
A letter of protest has been sent to British Prime Minister Tony Blair by
the Latvian “No Pride” group, which organised the protest against Riga Gay
Pride last year when demonstrators threw excrement at Pride participants.
(UK Gay News, March 12, 2007)
Welcomes Gay Pride Accord Between London and Riga. The
‘Statement of Unity’ between Pride London as Rigas Praidas, due to be
formally signed this evening in Riga, was another important ‘first’ for
Anglo-Latvian friendship, the British Ambassador, Ian Bond, said last night
at an Embassy reception for members of Mozaika and the visiting officials
Pride London to mark the signing.
(UK Gay News, March 8, 2007)
London Urges New Mayor of Riga to Press on With Latvian Gay Pride March.
The Mayor of London, Ken
Livingstone, today welcomed the statement of the new Mayor of Riga saying he
was “ashamed” of the attack on the Gay Pride march in that city last year
and urged him to ensure that the peaceful Gay Pride march in the city this
year could proceed.
(UK Gay News, March 5, 2007)
Mayor Ashamed of Events at Last Year’s Gay Pride. Jānis
Birks, the newly elected Mayor of Riga, appears to have no issues with the
Gay Pride parade in the Latvian capital. He was interviewed by the
internet-based news portal Vdiena.lv which is run by the biggest Latvian
daily newspaper “Diena”.
(UK Gay News, March 3, 2007)
Smits: Gay Issue Is Not Urgent. Janis Smits
has said that “the gay issue” is not an urgent matter for the Latvian
Parliamentary Human Rights Committee. The outspoken and homophobic MP
was chosen on Monday by committee members to be its chairperson. (UK
Gay News, November 22, 2006)
Fiercely Anti-Gay Politician Selected at Chair of Latvian
Parliament Human Rights and Social Affairs Committee.
The Lativan Saeima (Parliament) has confirmed this afternoon the
nomination of Jānis Šmits as the chairperson of the Saeima’s Human
Rights and Social Affairs Committee. And Europe is outraged.
(UK Gay News, November 20, 2006)
GAY PRIDE COVERAGE (all pages contain
links to other Riga Pride coverage that year)
Riga Gay Pride 2007 Coverage:
Peaceful Gay Pride Staged in Riga
Amid Tight Security
Riga Gay Pride 2006 Coverage: “The Story That Needs To Be
Riga Gay Pride 2005 Coverage:
Riga Gay Pride: “A Sad, Sad Day. Society Is Sick” –
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Licence.
Posted: 12 October 2007 at
15:00 (UK time)
updated 12 October at 22:00