Merton LGBT+ Forum is a small volunteer led organisation that strives to support the local LGBT+ community by providing social activities, information, and advocacy. It is empowered but while prepared to express an opinion and to speak out where it feels this necessary is strictly non-political.
The Forum has been diverted in its recent work by an ongoing campaign orchestrated by the group ‘Merton Matters’ that it believes is politically motivated. This campaign hinges on opposition to the Labour run London Borough of Merton’s plan to transfer primary use of a building of community interest, ‘Merton Hall’, to the Elim Pentecostal Church to secure an alternative local site that will enable the building of a secondary school with over 1000 extra pupil places.
The Forum believes the Elim Church and its teachings to be deeply homophobic and unsupportive of LGBT+ people. However, it also recognises that many other Churches and religions – some far more ‘mainstream’ – also fall into this category. In this particular instance, the Forum is not aware that this church has broken any law, nor of any instances where LGBT+ people have been subjected locally to anything constituting a hate crime nor, for that matter, of any instances where use of Merton Hall has been denied to the local LGBT+ community. The Forum also recognises both the difficulty and dichotomy the Council has faced but believes that they have acted to date with the future best interests of the Borough’s education needs to the fore.
Should, in the future, any prima facie positive discrimination against the local LGBT+ community become apparent in consequence of these plans then the Forum may re-consider its stance at that time.
In the meantime, the actions of ‘Merton Matters’ are beginning to have a deleterious effect on the Forum that approaches harassment – with one key officer of the Forum’s board already having stood down on account of directly related stress.
The Forum will always advocate for what it believes are the best interests of the local LGBT+ community – but will not be drawn into what it believes are divisive, malign and politically motivated campaigns.
Patrick Lyster-Todd FRSA MInstLM MInstF
Secretary on behalf of the Board of Merton LGBT+ Forum