Christian Institute threatens to challenge plan to outlaw homophobic teachings in schools

Elementary School

The Christian Institute has threatened to challenge the government over guidance that bans homophobic teachings in schools.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds this month published a draft of new guidance for the teaching of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), which will become compulsory in all schools across the country from September 2020.

Under the proposals, primary schools would teach students about respect for different types of families, while guidance for secondary schools states that “sexual orientation and gender identity should be explored at a timely point and in a clear, sensitive and respectful manner.”

Chairs in a classroom

The guidance “leaves flexibility for schools” to change teachings “bearing in mind their age and religious backgrounds… by reflecting on the teachings of their faith,” but separate guidance on standards for independent schools warns that that standards “will not be met if the PSHE curriculum… suggests that same-sex marriages or civil partnerships should not be recognised as being lawful unions under civil law.”

The independent school guidance adds: “A school can teach that its particular faith has teachings relevant to these matters, and explain to pupils what those teachings are. However, this does not mean that a curriculum can be planned or teaching provided which advocates or otherwise encourages pupils not to respect other people on the basis of a protected characteristic.”

The Christian Institute, which has long opposed LGBT+ rights reforms, commissioned a legal opinion from barrister Christopher McCrudden, who claims that the plan is “legally flawed and would be open to challenge in respect of the effective prohibition on teaching that suggests that same-sex marriages or civil partnerships should not be recognised as being lawful unions under civil law.”

A child (Stock photo/Pexels)

McCrudden said the plan “would [not be] compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and with the public sector equality duty were it to be adopted in its current form” and would infringe on religious freedom.

John Denning, Education Officer at The Christian Institute, said in a release: “These proposals seem to be a deliberate attempt to police the views of Christians, Muslims, Jews and others who hold the traditional view that marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman.”

He claimed: “In 2013 politicians repeatedly promised that ripping up the centuries-old definition of marriage would not be used as a stick to beat those with traditional views. But increasingly it is. We have already seen a sustained assault on faith schools by the state, now the DfE want to police fundamental aspects of Scripture.

“This is unlawful. Preventing debate about our laws in schools is anti-democratic and banning the consideration of religious perspectives on the law amounts to a significant limitation on the ability to manifest religious belief and will be challenged vigorously.”