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Chris McGovern: Gay rights clash with religious beliefs


This week is ‘School Diversity Week’. It even has a slogan: “Celebrating LGBT+ equality in education.” Promoted by a charity called Just Like Us, it seeks to educate children about LGBT+ and was launched in June 2106 by Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education

The organisation is, already, making progress. This are highlighted on its website.

In our first year, Just Like Us:

  • Trained 120 teachers
  • Trained 50 student role models
  • Spoke to 12,000 school children
  • Empowered 45,000 pupils in School Diversity Week

What can it do for your child’s school?  Its “offer to schools” is:

  • We send our trained student volunteers to speak in secondary schools, championing LGBT+ equality and tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying
  • We provide support for schools to take ownership of LGBT+ education, and organise School Diversity Week, the yearly national celebration of LGBT+ equality in schools
  • We help schools meet the requirements of the Equality Act and Ofsted’s Personal Development, Welfare and Behaviour framework.

Last year, clearly, an impressive start was made:

“We supported schools all over the country in organising non-uniform days, debates, workshops, talks, cake sales, balloon launches, concerts and Pride festivals to champion LGBT+ equality.”

As a teacher, and as a head teacher, I always believed that the most important message about life that I could pass on to children was the ‘golden rule’ – to treat others as you would wish to be treated. Without question this applies to the way in which the LGBT+s should be treated by non-LGBT+s but, also, it should apply vice versa.

It is the ‘vice versa’ that concerns me about  school diversity week.

Many religious groups are unsympathetic towards homosexuality. The 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide, for example, are instructed by their catechism that while homosexual feelings in themselves are not sinful, homosexual acts most certainly are. This condemnation encompasses much of the Abrahamic faiths and, indeed, other faiths. What is more, the condemnation is still expressed in law across large parts of the world.

Are we to vilify those whose religious beliefs condemn homosexuality? Are they to be treated as criminal outcasts and lepers in the same way at the LGBT+ community used to be treated in the UK?

Intolerant, bigoted, anti-faith extremism has raised its head with the emergence of the Democratic Unionist Party as a force in UK politics. If we are going to promote understanding of ‘diversity’ in schools it must, surely, cut both ways. Children should not be subjected to a so-called ‘diversity week’ that is a vehicle for supporting one part of our community at the expense and, in effect, vilification of another. And, most certainly, it should not be undertaken without the consent of a child’s parents.

Better, instead, to stick with that golden rule of treating others, as we would wish to be treated. Jesus got it about right, I think.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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