Gay author’s school visit cancelled by Catholic diocese after anti-LGBT+ smear campaign

Author Simon James Green

Gay author Simon James Green has been blocked from visiting a Catholic state school by the local diocese after an anti-LGBT+ campaign.

Award-winning children’s and young adult author Green was scheduled to do a World Book Week talk and book-signing at The John Fisher School in Croydon, London on Monday (7 March). It was cancelled just days before by the Catholic Diocese of Southwark, which insisted the visit fell “outside the scope of what is permissible in a Catholic school”.

In the days before the event was set to go ahead, the anti-LGBT+ website Catholic Truth encouraged its readers to contact the school and diocese to protest the “scandalous” and “outrageous” book-signing.

“Hosting such an event where young people – in this case young boys – are being misled into accepting, as normal and good, sexual behaviour which is condemned by Christ’s Church is a major problem today,” it wrote on 1 March.

Speaking to the i, Green described his young adult books as comedy novels with LGBT+ characters and “occasional kissing” but “nothing… you wouldn’t find in pretty much any Young Adult novel that’s published today”. His childrens’ books contain no LGBT+ content, he said.

Yet Catholic Truth readers suggested in the comments that “a homosexual author of teenage fiction visiting a Catholic school is 100 per cent as much of an issue as the ongoing war in Ukraine”.

By Thursday (3 March), the Education Commission of Southwark Diocese, which oversees the faith school and appoints most of its governors, released a statement recommending that the event be cancelled.

The diocese said: “From time to time materials or events emerge for consideration that fall outside the scope of what is permissible in a Catholic school… In such circumstances, we have no alternative but to affirm our unequivocal and well-known theological and moral precepts and to act in accordance with them.

“The book-signing event scheduled for 7 March, 2022 at The John Fisher School, Purley is one such event and we have recommended that the school’s leaders cancel it.”

School thrown into turmoil by call to cancel gay author event

Following the release of the statement, the leadership team at the all-boys secondary school voted to go ahead with the visit anyway, according to the i, and was supported by the governors.

Southwark Diocese refused to accept the decision, intervening and cancelling the event. It also removed several governors, and cancelled another talk by Green at St John’s Primary School in Gravesend, which it also oversees.

Some teachers told the i that they had considered striking in protest but were urged not to by governors because of the impact on children. Staff who are union members passed a motion which read: “We believe this decision violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child… and deters from our journey to become a Rights Respecting School.”

Simon James Green said the Catholic school censorship reminds him of Section 28

Speaking to the i, Simon James Green said that the incident reminded him of Section 28, which banned the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools in the late 80s through to the early 00s.

“We’re dealing here with people who actually think it’s possible to basically turn someone gay by talking about it or by allowing them to read or see on television an LGBT+ person,” he said.

“It does make me angry, but to be honest with you what I am most worried about is the message it sends to LGBT kids at that school and in general – that somehow they are wrong and inappropriate and everything they are is kind of sinful and problematic.

“I think that is a terrible thing.”

LGBT+ bookshop Queer Lit is running a school donation programme in response to the censorship by the Catholic diocese, and Green’s upcoming book Gay Club can be pre-ordered at cost price to be donated to a UK school.

The UK’s School Library Association (SLA) said in a statement: “This event was due to happen at the end of a week-long celebration of reading and that was the purpose – to encourage children to read for pleasure… It is only by being exposed to a broad, balanced and diverse range of information and stories that [library] users can not only learn more about themselves, but to empathise and engage productively with the people around them.

“We stand with the school’s senior leaders, governing body and staff in believing the visit should go ahead, and send our support and sympathy to those impacted by this decision.”

PinkNews contacted The John Fisher School and the Catholic Diocese of Southwark for comment on the issues in this article.