London teacher: ‘Why shouldn’t faith schools criticise gays?’

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A college teacher in north-west London has argued that faith schools should be allowed to criticise people’s sexual orientation in a swipe at “militant atheists” and “shrill” LGBT campaigners.

Neil Davenport has commented on this week’s revelations by the British Humanist Association that scores of schools in England and Wales have had polices in place targeting the “promotion” of homosexuality, in language reminiscent of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988.

Section 28 banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools and was repealed in 2003.

Earlier this week, the Department for Education launched an investigation into the allegations – but Mr Davenport has criticised the decision.

The former music journalist is currently Head of Sociology at the JFS Sixth Form Centre in Harrow, Middlesex, and teaches Government & Politics and Sociology.

Writing for the website Spiked, the teacher mentioned human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and said: “In a secular society that is supposedly committed to freedom of religion, the really outrageous thing here is that MPs and shrill campaigners are meddling in the values being taught in faith schools. In essence, under the increasingly smokescreen-like claim of upholding equality, these activists are undermining up [sic] a core aspect of a liberal society – that religious people must be free to hold and promote certain beliefs. The accusation that faith schools are practising intolerance seems breathtakingly unconvincing, not to mention hypocritical, when one considers that militant atheists are themselves being intolerant of traditional and religious communities and their belief systems.”

Mr Davenport then criticised the British Humanist Association (BHA).

“It is true that some religious communities that hold traditional views on sex, marriage and relationships view homosexual acts as morally wrong,” he said. “Only the philistines of the BHA will be shocked to learn that many religious-minded people do not have a positive view of homosexuality. Such traditionalists often also view sex before marriage, abortion, divorce and euthanasia as morally wrong. But so what? A free society should be strong enough to allow the existence of all sorts of views, prejudices and judgements without recourse to clampdowns or official investigations into such beliefs. Is the gay-rights lobby now so fearful of minority old-fashioned views that it must demand measures to censor them – the same kind of measures that were once employed against its own members? At a time when traditional views are less influential than ever, and when acceptance of gay equality is thoroughly mainstream, it seems odd that campaigners cannot abide any expression whatsoever of disapproval of homosexuality.”

Mr Davenport concluded his article by arguing that students should be able to hear negative portrayals of same-sex relationships in the classroom.

“Campaigners will say that it is one thing for adults to hold traditional, anti-gay views, but it is wrong to pass such opinions on to the next generation through schools,” he added. “This could make gay pupils feel ashamed or humiliated, we’re told. So are we saying that the self-esteem of gay teens is more important than the autonomy of religious communities and also of parents? Campaigners are using apparently hurt teens as a stage army to prevent adults from passing their values on to their children. Under the guise of championing gay rights, we are really witnessing an attack on parental autonomy.”