European particle physics laboratory Cern is at the centre of a homophobic row with scientists in its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group who have been the recipients of abusive emails and anti-gay graffiti plastered across its noticeboards.
One researcher has been disciplined after being seen on video surveillance cameras attacking posters, and others are thought to be involved in the anti-gay campaign as well.
According to members of the LGBT group, the abuse has been ongoing for years. Physics World was sent photographs of 14 LGBT Cern posters that had an offensive note attached, been covered with blank paper, been "crossed out" with red pen, had "No post here" or "Schwein!" (pig in German) written over them, had chunks ripped out or been torn off and crumpled. One photo shows an LGBT Cern poster with a printed-out message attached to it quoting the Old Testament book of Leviticus: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman… they shall surely be put to death."
"The continued defacing of our posters is an unacceptable campaign of hate and intolerance," said Aidan Randle-Conde, a British physicist who founded the LGBT Cern group in 2010. "When I found out that CERN had no LGBT group, I was shocked and felt quite sad."
"We do keep track of how many posters get taken down or defaced, and over a two- week period roughly one-third can be removed," he told the Sunday Times. I don't know who is responsible, although it is probably the work of a few people. In some cases, there have been religious texts attached to the posters."
A bone of contention is that Cern's staff association refused to let LGBT Cern become an official club. The association recognises more than 50 others, but stated its diversity policy did not allow the "emergence of interest groups promoting particular communities".
However, Cern's management has compromised by creating a new category of "informal networks", of which LGBT Cern is the first member.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as Cern is a European research organisation that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. In 2012 scientists used its particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, to discover the Higgs boson, a sub-atomic particle that helps matter gets its mass.