A number of fundamentalist and fringe religious groups are seeking to undermine the Government’s plans for relationships and sex education (RSE) in English schools by opposing teaching about same-sex relationships, Humanists UK can reveal.
The Department for Education’s (DfE) consultation on Relationships Education (RelEd) in primaries and RSE in secondaries closed on Monday. Whilst the consultation invited views on what content should be included in the two subjects, some religious groups – including Christian, Jewish, and Muslim organisations – used it as an opportunity to encourage supporters to respond by attacking the Government for its insistence that both RelEd and RSE be inclusive of same-sex relationships and LGBT people. Exposing the deeply homophobic, sexist, and pseudoscientific claims made by various religious organisations in their guidance for responding to the consultation, Humanists UK has urged the Government to be resilient to intolerance and defend the ‘equality and dignity of all people’.
Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘It is time for the Government to make a decision. Will it continue to allow state-funded schools to teach that homosexuality is a sin and to condemn, stigmatise, or just entirely ignore the existence of LGBT people? Or will it move to end the state’s endorsement of such teaching and prohibit it as an anachronistic, discriminatory, and unconscionable affront to the equality and dignity of all people?
‘It was not long ago that similar decisions had to be made by governments both in the UK and the United States in the face of segregationists and opponents of interracial marriage. History has taken a dim view of those who sought to hold back the tide of racial equality then, and it will no doubt take a dim view of those who oppose LGBT equality now.’
The groups and their RSE briefing documents include:
Coalition for Marriage (C4M)
C4M is a predominantly Christian campaign group launched in 2012 to oppose same-sex marriage. It describes itself as ‘an umbrella group of individuals and organisations in the UK that support traditional marriage between a man and woman, to the exclusion of all others’. In its guidance on responding to the DfE’s consultation – guidance that has reportedly been promoted by some Catholic state schools to their parents – C4M state that:
- ‘The Coalition for Marriage believes that there is no “age-appropriate” way to teach primary school children about same-sex marriage or transgenderism. We should be teaching young children broad values of respect and tolerance, not ordering them to accept adult sexual relationships which they are far too young to understand. Nor should schools be encouraging young children to question their biological gender.’
- RSE guidance should acknowledge ‘Marriage between a man and a woman as the gold-standard of adult relationship[s]’, and ‘that a person’s gender is determined by biology’.
National Association of Jewish Orthodox Schools (NAJOS)
NAJOS ‘acts as an umbrella organisation’ for modern Orthodox and strictly Orthodox Jewish schools in the UK, and consults and advises them on a wide range of issues. In an almost identical statement to that provided by C4M, NAJOS states that the consultation represents an ‘opportunity to define what our cultural sensitivities and no-go areas are’:
‘Our Daas Torah guides that there is no “age-appropriate” way to teach primary or secondary school children about same-s[ex] marriage or transgenderism. We should be teaching young children broad values of respect and tolerance, not ordering them to accept adult s[exual] relationships which they are far too young to understand. Nor should schools be encouraging young children to question their biological gender.’
SREIslamic ‘provides advice, support, and training to parents’ and was founded by a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has been widely described as an extremist group. Since 2008 it has delivered hundreds of seminars across the country on how RSE is taught in schools and what legal rights Muslim parents have with regard to RSE. Its guidance on responding to the consultation includes:
- ‘Why marriage between a man and a woman is the cornerstone of any successful society’
- ‘Why contraception does not safeguard people from STIs or stop pregnancy’
- ‘You can also take this opportunity to talk about topics you feel would be inappropriate to teach at primary school as they are not age-appropriate. Such as sexual relationships, reproduction, LGBT relationships, pornography etc’
SREIslamic also warns that ‘Under the guise of “equality”, the government undermines marriage through laws to normalise homosexual relationships.’
Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC)
SPUC is an anti-choice campaign group which also provides school speakers and school resources on RSE. In a briefing to its supporters giving guidance on how to respond to the DfE’s consultation, SPUC states that:
- ‘Priority subject areas’ for RSE should include:
- ‘The importance and value of marriage between a man and a woman and the natural family’, and
- ‘The courtesies and respect due to each of the sexes (for example, men taking on harder physical tasks etc.)’‘Very young children will be told that two men or two women in a relationship or marriage is as valid and natural as a man and a woman’
- In PSHE, ‘seemingly sensible subjects like citizenship or combatting bullying have been hijacked to promote homosexuality and transgenderism. This is particularly the case because of the obligation on schools to promote so-called Fundamental British Values, which include a distorted notion of ‘tolerance’ with regard to homosexual behaviour.’
Christian Concern is an evangelical campaigning organisation that aims ‘to see the United Kingdom return to the Christian faith’. In its guidance for responding to the consultation, it argues that that any official guidance on RSE must mention:
- ‘The mental and physical risks of sexual promiscuity and homosexual practices’
- ‘An understanding that we are created male and female and that gender identity is not distinct from biological sex’
- ‘Faith schools should be allowed to teach God’s design for humanity – that we are created male and female, and that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman’‘Schools are currently required to deliver a Personal, Social and Health Education (PHSE) programme, although how that is done is entirely in the remit of each individual school. They also have to satisfy Ofsted that they are delivering spiritual, moral, social and cultural education, although again, it is up to each school to determine how this happens. Schools are also required to comply with the Equality Act 2010. All of these requirements are being conflated in order to justify the active promotion of an LGBT agenda.’
Family Education Trust
The Family Education Trust is a group which ‘researches the causes and consequences of family breakdown’. Whilst it does not have an overtly religious character, its outlook and ethos is Christian and it has links to a number of evangelical Christian organisations. It’s briefing on responding to the consultation notes:
- ‘How history demonstrates the importance of marriage, defined as the lifelong union of one man and one woman’
- ‘The limited effectiveness of barrier contraception as a means of providing protection against the transmission of STIs and the reality that outside of a committed, mutually faithful, lifelong relationship with an uninfected partner, there is no such thing as “safe sex”’
- ‘Schools should not be required to teach that gender is fluid or that same-sex marriage is morally equivalent to marriage between a man and a woman. Similarly, schools should be free to teach in line with the tenets on their faith on matters such as sexual abstinence before marriage, contraception and abortion.’
Humanists UK has previously urged the Department for Education to resist pressure from such groups, which fail to represent the views of the overwhelming majority of parents.
For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 324 3078.
Read Humanists UK’s response to the Department for Education’s consultation: https://humanism.org.uk/2018/02/07/humanists-uk-responds-to-government-rse-and-pshe-consultation/
Read the Coalition for Marriage’s guidance: https://www.c4m.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/C4M_SRE-PSHE-CallForEvidence.pdf
Read SREIslamic’s guidance: https://sreislamicorg.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/consultation-guidance-sreislamic.pdf
Read Christian Concern’s guidance: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/RSE-Consultation-Guidance-Christian-Concern.pdf
Read the Family Education Trust’s guidance: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Family-Education-Trust-rsebriefingjan2018.pdf
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