Who doesn't like Prague Pride?
The five-day Prague Pride Festival of Tolerance, which is offering its program not only to gays, lesbians and transgender people, but also to their families, friends and co-workers, has prompted verbal exchanges recently between those who oppose the festival and those who support it. Opponents of the festival are being recruited from among the extreme right or members of the Young Christian Democrats, while harsh criticism of the event has also been heard from the Czech Education Ministry and Prague Castle.
Some of the first people to speak out against the festival were monarchists from the Bohemian Crown (Koruna česká) organization, who called Prague Pride "a parade of depravity and poor taste". "We do not suffer from political correctness and we are not afraid to call this event by its real name. This is not a positive display of the diversity that is adored by postmodern intellectuals, but a public display of depravity. Events of this type only promote the already significant moral and spiritual breakdown of the nation. Together with the effective use of politically correct labels such as 'homophobia', 'transphobia' and others, it is being more and more aggressively banged into our heads that every sexual deviation or illness is just a morally neutral part of diversity. Anyone who doesn't believe this is considered behind the times, ill themselves, and unenlightened," the organization's protest reads.
Tomáš Vandas, chair of the ultra-right DSSS (Workers' Social Justice Party), published the following on the party's website about Prague Pride: "This is nothing but a celebration of homosexuality, an admiration of a difference that should remain private, behind closed doors. It's everyone's personal affair whom they live with, but it is not acceptable to publicly celebrate something that is not natural and never has been." The party is planning a protest on Jungmannovo náměstí in Prague against Saturday's parade.
Strong efforts to discredit the festival have come from the highest places. According to the Czech President's Vice-Chancellor, Petr Hájek, the upcoming parade is a lobbying event and political demonstration. "This is a serious political demonstration of how the world is viewed through certain values. This is a world in which the classic family plays no role, a world in which deep cultural roots are devoured by the monster that is multiculturalism, a world in which sexual or any other deviation is elevated to a virtue, abnormality is elevated to a norm, and the destruction of society is elevated in the name of Progress to religious levels. This is a world where civil freedoms have been replaced by the lie of so-called human rights and the first of those rights, freedom of speech, has been replaced by the censorship of political correctness, which is the politically correct term for ordinary hypocrisy today," Hájek said.
Czech President Václav Klaus backed his Vice-Chancellor, saying he considered the term "deviation to be value-neutral". "'Prague Pride' is not a manifestation of homosexuality, but of homosexualism, about which – just like many other fashionable '-isms' – I am greatly concerned," Klaus declared. He has rejected the statement by the opposition's Shadow Human Rights Minister, Michaela Marksová-Tominová (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD), that Hájek was consciously "inciting hatred against a minority of the population in our country". "Petr Hájek...is not protesting against this event, but against the fact that this demonstration is receiving such high auspices from the mayor and other political actors in our country. It is one thing to tolerate something, but it is quite another to give it public support in the name of an important institution," Klaus said in his statement. Hájek had protested that the chair of the Prague cell of the ODS party (Civic Democrats), Boris Šťastný, had agreed with the mayor granting auspices to the event and supported it himself.
The embassies of 13 countries have also expressed support for the event, which prompted a response from Ladislav Bátora, the head of human resources at the Czech Education Ministry who is also chair of the D.O.S.T. initiative. In a letter to US Ambassador Norman Eisen, Bátora expressed disagreement with Eisen's support for the parade. "We cannot agree with the fact that the Embassy of the USA, which you are heading, has expressed its public support for the organizers of the August Prague Pride and we emphatically protest against it. This event is organized by groups of homosexuals and lesbians whose demands against the Czech public significantly exceed the framework of mere tolerance," Bátora's letter reads. In his view, the fact that Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda has given his auspices to the event means he is preferring and privileging only one group to the detriment of the "normal" majority.
Klaus has also commented on the joint letter from the embassies, calling it an "unprecedented step" and an intervention into a domestic political discussion. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg also criticized the ambassadors' step, saying he considered it counter-productive and unnecessary.
Defenders of the festival include members of the Green Party (SZ), Social Democrats (ČSSD), Public Affairs (VV), TOP 09 and Civic Democrats (ODS) parties. Yesterday Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas (ODS) said: "We are a free, democratic country where everyone can proclaim their opinions as long as they obey the law. I will reject any efforts to artificially divide society, wherever they come from."
Nečas responded to Bátora's move as follows: "No one can consider that the opinions of Ladislav Bátora, head of human resources at the Education Ministry, about the upcoming march by sexual minorities through Prague represents the official position of the Czech Republic." He also said it was unacceptable for any official without a political mandate to behave like a political activist.
Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda (ODS), who gave his auspices to the festival, issued the following warning about homophobia: "Homosexuals live among us and there is no point in pretending they don't. Moreover, it goes against my soul to create divisions between people because of their sexual orientation, skin color or religion. In the past such divisions have proven to be more than disastrous."
Boris Šťastný, ODS chair in Prague, approves of the mayor's support for the festival, stating: "I clearly of approve the mayor's position of giving his auspices to Prague Pride and I personally support this event. ODS is not, nor do I believe it ever will be, an intolerant or xenophobic party, and the same applies to Prague, which is a modern city for everyone. I have already noted the ridiculous loathing for our position expressed by the crypto-facsist Bátora and his D.O.S.T. movement. If Mr Bátora doesn't like it, he can take a walk somewhere else until the parade is over. Prague is big enough for everyone."
Prague 1 city manager Oldřich Lomecký (TOP 09) has also given his auspices to Prague Pride, saying this is not an expression of favoritism, but of tolerance. He also said he would not have granted auspices to an event comprised solely of radical opinions and rejected Hájek's as extreme. "Those are claustrophobic opinions. [Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring] Breivik is just the tip of that iceberg. Those opinions make for intolerance," he said.
According to Petr Vácha, a member of the board of the PROUD association (an acronym which in Czech stands for "Platform for Equality, Recognition and Diversity"), the "[Czech] President's message" is not surprising. "Unfortunately, this demonstrates that the climate of opinion in the Czech Republic, even in the 21st century, still oscillates between a rejection of the objective reality that gay and lesbian persons exist as part of society and preconceptions about them based of lack of information or the will to understand this," Vácha said. In his view, "it is sad" that Hájek and the Czech President have a completely different understanding of the cultural festival. The Platform has welcomed the auspices of various foreign institutions and politicians , who are said to be aware that gays and lesbians form "part of culture and society here as they do the world over."
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