British MP’s: Homophobia OK in Faith Schools

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on February 26, 2010

“Faith” schools in Britain may soon have a government seal of approval to teach homophobia in their institutions. That’s what opponents of an amendment to a law passed by the Members of Parliament (and soon to be considered by the House of Lords) are claiming. The proposed law, the “Children, Schools and Families Bill,” mandates the teaching of sex education in all schools in the country, including those run by religious institutions. The amendment, the product of extensive lobbying by religious groups including the Catholic Church, waters down the original intent of the legislation by allowing faith schools to opt out and to teach human sexuality “in a way that reflects the school’s religious character.” According to Keith Porteous Wood, director of the National Secular Society, the amendment spells disaster.

“The Government have once more bowed to pressure from the Catholic Church,” he commented, “betraying the children in faith schools who have a right to objective and balanced sex education.”

“This cowardice,” Wood said, “will blight many lives.”

Schools Secretary Ed Balls disagrees with Wood’s assessment. “There is no opt-out for any faith school from teaching the full, broad, balanced curriculum on sex and relationship education and that is a huge step forward.”

“Every school,” Balls said, “will have to teach the full curriculum in a balanced way that respects equality and is not discriminatory, but of course what we are saying is they can explain the views of their faith. Catholic schools can say to their pupils that, as a religion, we believe contraception is wrong, but what they can’t do is therefore say they are not going to teach about contraception.”

Balls is either naive or doing damage control for a bad amendment.

I went to Catholic school. Twelve years of it. I can well imagine what will happen if Catholic teachers in Britain reflect “their school’s religious character” or “explain the views of their faith” in teaching about controversial topics such as homosexuality, transsexuality and condoms. It will not be a pretty picture.

Especially for LGBT youth in those classrooms. They will not walk away from the experience with a positive sense of who they are. They deserve to be taught that their sexuality and gender identity is part of the spectrum of normal human expression. That there is nothing sinful or wrong about what they are feeling.

That’s the opposite of what the Catholic Church teaches.

Teens also need life-saving information about ways to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and diseases such as AIDS. Given the Pope’s recent stupid statement about condoms helping to spread AIDS in Africa, one has to wonder what sort of slant young people will receive on safe sex.

By buckling to pressure from right-wing religious groups, the MP’s have done a grave disservice to the youth of their country.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has been nominated for an American Library Association award. His website is www.avicollimecca.com.

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