Ultra-religious Jewish families will ‘leave UK over LGBT education’

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish activist has warned that “many” Jews will leave Britain if faith schools agree to teach children about LGBT issues.

Lawyers have written to the Department of Education on behalf of Shraga Stern to say that members of Britain’s 70,000-strong ultra-religious Charedi community “would rather choose to leave the United Kingdom for a more hospitable jurisdiction, rather than comply with such an obligation to mention homosexuality, same-sex relationships or gender reassignment in a positive context at school.”

In an 8,500-word letter seen by PinkNews and reported on in The Sunday Times, Stern’s lawyers told Education Minister Damian Hinds and Minister of State Nick Gibb that their client, whose children attend an independent faith school in London, was “alarmed” by draft guidance published in March 2018.

“Disproportionate, morally unacceptable to our client and unlawful”

— Shraga Stern’s lawyers

The initial proposals state that pupils must be made aware of the Equality Act’s protected characteristics—which include “sexual orientation” and “gender reassignment”—in an “age-appropriate way.”

The lawyers have called the draft guidance “disproportionate, morally unacceptable to our client and unlawful.”

They argued that it would be “deeply unfair” to the Jewish Orthodox tradition to “require the schools to teach in a manner that is contrary to the faith and belief of the community and is something which they do not wish to teach.

“Our client agrees with this position.”

School inspectors respond to Jewish Orthodox fears

Amanda Spielman, who oversees Ofsted in her role as Chief Inspector of Education, said that faith schools could not opt out of teaching children about LGBT people, as it was required by the Equality Act.

“We know a gay child might be born into any town, any family, any time,” Spielman said in a statement quoted in The Sunday Times.

“You can’t say in these communities there won’t be any gay children.

Jewish Orthodox children wait for their father to swing a chicken above their heads as part of the Kaparot ritual in the neighbourhood of Mea Shearim

Shraga Stern’s lawyers have argued that the government’s draft proposals are against the law (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty)

“This is about making sure every child has the chance to grow up with the right level of information [and] … access to the kinds of conversation or support they might want,” she explained.

Stern’s lawyers have written in their letter that “the current law of the United Kingdom,” including the Equality Act, “does not permit the proposed changes to the Department’s Advice.”

And Stern said that, as far as he was concerned, Jewish Orthodox children should not learn about any sex at school, including gay sex.

“We do not want sex education taught in schools. We are tolerant of different lifestyles but we do not promote them,” he said.