Friday, 30 July 2010

Rev Alex Brown: Naughty Gay Vicar Caught Acting Like A Christian

For The Daily Mail this story must have looked like a marriage made in heaven.
'Do you take this complete stranger? Vicar facing prison for conducting 360 illegal migrant marriages in Sussex church.'
No wonder they gave over most of today's front page to it.
"A Church of England vicar was found guilty yesterday of carrying out the biggest fake wedding scam Britain has ever seen.
"The Reverend Alex Brown abused his position to marry 360 illegal immigrants to complete strangers.
"Armed with a marriage certificate, the immigrants were then able to hoodwink the Home Office into giving them a visa to stay in Britain as a 'spouse', with access to education, healthcare and benefits.
"At his Victorian parish church in the seaside town of St Leonards, East Sussex, Brown married up to eight couples a day between 2005 and 2009, a court heard."
Dear oh dear, eh? Immigrants bending the rules to stay in the UK - they could even claim benefits in theory! - and it was a small town vicar who aided and abetted them.
Whatever next?
"The three defendants denied conspiracy to breach immigration laws, but they were found guilty by a jury at Lewes Crown Court after a sevenweek trial.
"Brown, who is openly gay, also became the only vicar in 800 years to be convicted of failing to read out the banns - asking the congregation if they knew of 'any just cause or impediment' why two people may not marry."
Hang on - the vicar's gay!!?
Surprisingly, that's the only mention of this that's made in the main story.
We get a bit more in a background piece; 'Eight couples every Sunday at marriage factory for migrants.'
"Brown lived with his long-term partner in the St Peter's Church vicarage.
"Ordained in 1983, he had been parish priest since 1991, and retired just before being arrested in June 2009.
"One elderly neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: 'Rev Brown is a dear friend of mine. We have been neighbours for 20 years and he was absolutely brilliant when my husband died, a real rock.
"'Everyone knew he was gay. He and his partner have been together for years and they are both really nice people. You could just go over and knock on his door and he'd invite you in for a cup of tea and a chat.'"
The Daily Express didn't mention that he was gay or lived with his male partner in their coverage.
Nor did The Sun, The Daily Mirror or The Daily Star.
What's wrong with the tabloids today?
"Gay vicar behind mass immigrants weddings sham" - it was an open bloody goal!
The Independent said there was no evidence he had benefitted financially; "He was approaching retirement, and the only evidence of any money acquired through the scam was when officers raided his home and found £5,000 in cash.
"Police are perplexed by his motives. Under interrogation and in court he simply said he was doing his job. If there was a sudden increase in couples wanting to get married, he said, his job was to marry them."
Maybe he thought this was the Christian thing to do?
According to The Guardian; "If he was motivated by a social conscience and a belief that asylum seekers who had lost their cases deserved a chance to stay in the country, and that immigration law, as he put it in his police interview, "was an ass", then he did not make this case in court.
"Instead, Brown pleaded ignorance and extraordinary naivety, an argument many of his parishioners continue to believe. "If anything, he's possibly been a bit silly, a bit naive. I find it hard to believe he's deliberately set out to make money," said one local man who knew him well. "He might be gullible but that is the most he's guilty of.""
The Times gave readers 'Profile: Rev Alex Brown, the sham marriage vicar', where he comes across as a decent and caring man; "By 1982 he was ordained a priest and began work at St Alban’s Church in Crawley. Nine years later he moved to the Church of St Peter and St Paul in the Bohemia Village area of St Leonards.
"Finding its adherence to high Anglican ideals “stuffy and cliquey”, Brown, who is openly gay, took a more modern approach that saw him work with drug addicts and the homeless, making him a popular vicar with his congregation."
But there's always a "but" in these stories.
"But in recent years Brown became a regular at two of the town’s local pubs and was seen regularly by neighbours drinking with his boyfriend in his back garden at the rectory.
"Few in the parish have a harsh word to say about him. One elderly parishioner, who did not want to be named, said he was a “lovely man”.
“He buried my husband and after that would always check up on me,” she said. “He said his door was always open. You couldn’t meet a more committed priest.”
Yesterday, the judge adjourned sentencing until September, and released Alex Brown on conditional bail.

1 comment:

  1. Melanie McDonagh in today's Sunday Times;

    "One eastern European bride had to change into her borrowed wedding dress, stuffed into a plastic bag, in the vestry. Given that most brides give more thought to their dress than their groom, this should all by itself have suggested to the vicar — who, being gay, is presumably alert to these things — that there was something funny afoot."