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Top news agency bans use of term "homophobia"

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Associated Press (AP) has prohibited its journalists from using the word “homophobia”, saying it is inaccurate to use the term to describe someone who does not agree with homosexuality.

The position is stated in AP’s Style Book, which offers guidance on the use of language by its reporters. It states that “-phobia” should not be used for “political or social contexts” as it means “an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness”.

“A phobia is a psychiatric or medical term for a severe mental disorder. Those terms have been used quite a bit in the past, and we don't feel that’s quite accurate,” said AP deputy standards editor Dave Minthorn.

“Homophobia especially – it’s just off the mark. It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don’t have. It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case”.

The AP has employees in more than 300 locations worldwide, and its language guide is used by many other media outlets in the United States.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern, said:

“In recent times, the term ‘homophobic’ has been unfairly used to describe those who do not agree with homosexual practice and to shut down any robust discussion on the issue.

“We have just seen Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic being labelled as a ’bigot’ for his views on traditional marriage. In a truly tolerant society, there must be room for alternative views, and those who hold them should not be misrepresented”.

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