COULD the Church of England’s open door to trans-activism in its schools be the undoing of its role in education?
It is with sadness that I explore the question. I was a C of E vicar for 19 years and though there was not a Church school in the parish I served, there was a C of E primary school in a neighbouring South Yorkshire parish at which I was a parent in the 2000s. The Christian education provided there was good.
However, 20 years later, I would suggest the established Church’s position as an educator is vulnerable because of the trans scandals it is becoming embroiled in.
TCW has covered the case of a Christian teacher at a C of E primary school who was sacked for gross misconduct after pursuing safeguarding concerns about a gender-transitioning child.
She is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which says she will appeal against the refusal last month by a judge in Birmingham to grant her a judicial review of the decision by the school’s governing body and the local authority.
‘If the appeal is rejected it is highly likely that a full employment tribunal case will follow,’ CLC says.
This action follows the legal victory in September for Christian parents Nigel and Sally Rowe, also supported by CLC. After the High Court granted them a judicial review against the Department for Education’s transgender-affirming policies for schools, the government reached a financial settlement with them and made a commitment to reform transgender policies in primary schools.
This was the culmination of a five-year legal battle for the Rowes after they objected to their young sons being forced to affirm other children’s transgender identities in a C of E primary school.
Following the Rowes’ victory, CLC’s parent company, Christian Concern, has launched a petition addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, urging him to ‘scrap the Church of England’s transgender affirming guidance, Valuing All God’s Children’. When it was revised in 2019, Archbishop Welby wrote a foreword to this guidance for C of E schools on tackling ‘homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying’.
Significantly, this document presents the politically influential LGBT lobby group Stonewall as an authority in Christian education: ‘Schools can be among the most homophobic, biphobic and transphobic social spaces. Studies in a range of countries show that young people are more likely to experience homophobic bullying at school than in the home or community. Furthermore, the 2017 Stonewall School Report reports that LGBT pupils attending “faith schools” are less likely to report that their school says homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is wrong.’
For the time being the Labour Party shows no signs of softening its largely pro-trans tone. But if the Conservatives manage to narrow Labour’s lead in the opinion polls over the next two years under their new leader Rishi Sunak and Labour parliamentary candidates start hearing louder noises from voters on the doorsteps that the party’s stance is a turn-off, its leadership could come under pressure to drop its devotion to the ‘T’ in LGBT.
If the public mood were to turn strongly against trans-activism aimed at children, this could present MPs opposed to the Church’s role in education with a pretext for legislative action.
The C of E would have far fewer friends in Parliament under a Labour government or under a coalition with the Lib-Dems and the Scottish Nationalists than it has even under the Conservatives. However much it tried to ingratiate itself with a New Left government, it cannot escape the fact that it has traditional privileges in public life that politically-correct secularists hate.
The C of E hierarchy would be unwise to presume on the permanence of their privileges. Could they find that they have bet their political capital on the wrong horse in pandering to trans-activism in C of E schools and, locked out of education, are left standing outside in the cold wind of pending disestablishment?