VIDEO: Two decades since that famous protest at Canterbury Cathedral

Free speech: Peter Tatchell protesting at Cantebury Cathedral in 1998

It is two decades since gay rights activists stormed the pulpit at Canterbury Cathedral during the Easter sermon.

In 1998 protesters from campaign group OutRage! targeted then Archbishop of Canterbury Dr, now Lord, George Carey over the Church of England’s opposition to LGBT rights reform proposed by New Labour.

They were led by veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell who told the congregation: “Dr Carey supports discrimination against lesbian and gay people. He opposes lesbian and gay human rights. This is not a Christian teaching.”

The seven activists had been seated in the Cathedral before they clambered on to the pulpit.

Video footage of the sermon shows them being bundled away. Tatchell, who once tried to perform a citizen’s arrest on former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, is seen being hauled away by two security officials.

At the time, he said: “The Archbishop backs a discriminatory age of consent of 18 for sex between men, effectively supporting the criminalisation of 16 and 17-year-old gay and bisexual partners.

“He opposes the right of same-sex couples to foster and adopt children and endorses the ban on lesbian and gay foster parents by the Church of England Children’s Society.”

Police later arrested Mr Tatchel and charged him with “indecent” behaviour in a church.

At court he was ordered to pay £18.60. It is the only conviction Mr Tatchell has on his record.

Looking back at the protest 20 years ago, he said: “It caused a sensation and prompted George Carey to finally meet with the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement, which he had previously refused to do.

“It also resulted in some bishops speaking out in support of LGBT legal equality.”

At the start of the month, it emerged that police and prosecutors were considering an investigation into allegations that Lord Carey was involved in covering up sexual abuse within the church.


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