Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Bad Faith Awards 2011: place your vote now

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It’s time once again for New Humanist readers to vote to decide who walks away with our annual Bad Faith Award. Now in its fifth year our award is a means of dishonouring the year's most outspoken enemy of reason. Previous winners include Sarah Palin, the Pope and last year's victor Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed, the head of the UK Islamic Sharia Council, for his assertion that it is not possible for a man to commit rape within marriage. 2011 has been a bumper year for irrationality (aren’t they all), and we’ve been flooded with nominations. We have whittled them down to a field of six arch adversaries of human advancement – take a look, make your choice, then deliver the click of shame using the poll below.

Michele Bachmann

It would have been hard to believe, back when she won the award in 2008, that it was possible for someone to out-Palin Sarah Palin. Step forward Michelle Bachmann, Minnesota congresswoman and prospective Republican presidential nominee, who has lit up the nomination race with a string of bizarre and barmy statements, on everything from slavery to science.

The quote: It’s not easy to pick just one, but her assertion that “there isn't even one study that can be produced that shows carbon dioxide is a harmful gas" takes some beating, and usefully sums up the anti-scientific attitude that plagues the Republican Party. It was actually delivered in 2009, but this year's nomination campaign has shown that she remains one of the United States' most outspoken global warming contrarians.

Anjem Choudary

The leader of the Islamist group Muslims Against Crusades (formerly Islam4UK, which was banned, and before that Al Ghurabaa, which was banned – you get the idea) was previously nominated in 2009, polling a derisory 232 votes, but he’s back and hoping to fare better, having chosen 2011 as the year to establish “Sharia Controlled Zones” in various UK cities.

The quote: The "only option", he told bemused journalists at the launch, is to "bring home here in Britain" the "authority that the Muslims have in Somalia, Southern Iraq and Afghanistan".

Nadine Dorries

Where to begin? Conservative MP Dorries has been fighting a war on two fronts this year against the twin evils of abortion provision and comprehensive sex education. In May she proposed legislation which, in the unlikely event of it becoming law, would introduce abstinence-based sex education for girls, while in September she suffered a heavy defeat over her proposals to prevent abortion providers offering counselling services, which many believed would force vulnerable women into the hands of faith groups.

The quote: Asked by humanist Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert to respond to evidence suggesting the abortion counselling system works just fine, she responded: "That is probably the most fatuous comment that we will hear in this House".

Tom MacMaster

As the Arab uprisings spread to Syria, where activists faced the brutal reprisals of dictator Bashar al-Assad, observers were drawn to the Gay Girl in Damascus blog, where author Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari offered a riveting account of life in the country’s capital. When she was apparently kidnapped in June, worried activists appealed for information, until it emerged that she was in fact the fictional creation of a 40-year-old American living in Edinburgh.

The quote: “I do not believe that I have harmed anyone," protested MacMasters, but few agreed, with many furious that his fantastical sideshow had distracted from the very real plight of activists on the ground in Syria.

Rick Perry

Anyone who serves up a prayer rally for 30,000 people as a prelude to announcing his presidential bid is likely to pose problems for secularists, and Texas governor Perry hasn’t disappointed since entering the Republican race in August. Like Bachmann, he’s an arch sceptic when it comes to pesky scientific issues like evolution and global warming, and his enthusiasm for the death penalty and gun ownership has left many liberal Americans running for cover.

The quote: On evolution – “It's a theory that's out there. It's got some gaps in it.”

Melanie Phillips

Those familiar with Phillips’ weekly missives in the Daily Mail will share our surprise that this is the first year that she's been nominated. She’s been on fine form during 2011, holding forth on all her favourite topics, from BBC bias to the “Islamisation” of Britain.

The quote: Her reaction to the legal victory for a gay couple turned away from a Cornish B&B was typically measured, as she declared that “It seems that just about everything in Britain is now run according to the gay agenda” and railed against the “ruthless campaign by the gay rights lobby to destroy the very concept of normal sexual behaviour”.

The poll is open until 28 November, when it will close in time to get the results into our January issue. Happy voting, and do feel free to tell us how you voted and why in the comments.

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