Wednesday, 30 January 2013

History exposes the Government's empty assurances on same-sex marriage and schools

Maria Miller, the government's equalities minister, blogged on Friday on the government's assurances regarding conscientious objection to same-sex marriage. Here is what she wrote about schools:
"There has been some debate about how this Bill will affect teachers and teaching about marriage in schools. Let me make it absolutely clear, that teachers will continue to have the clear right to express in a professional way their own beliefs, or that of their faith, such as that marriage should be between a man and a woman. No teacher will be required to promote or endorse views which go against their beliefs. As with any area of the curriculum, teachers will of course be required to teach the factual position that under the law, marriage can be between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples. But, of course they will not be required to promote same-sex marriage, and neither will we be bringing in new powers to sack teachers who disagree with same-sex marriage. There are already many subjects which need to be taught carefully, particularly in faith schools – divorce, for example. The guidance governing these issues is the same guidance that will govern how same sex-marriage is handled. And equally, parents will continue to have the right to withdraw their children from sex education lessons that they do not consider appropriate."
SPUC is continuing to respond to the detail of the government's assurances, such as in our letter to headteachers and in forthcoming documents. What is also needed, however, is a historical perspective on the reliability of assurances given to Parliament. Here are but three examples:
  • In 1967, Parliament was told that the Abortion Act would not lead to mass abortion or to abortion on demand. Today, there are 200,000 abortions annually, almost all authorised with little or no question.
  • In 1990, Parliament was told that an abortion on the grounds that the unborn child had a cleft palate would never be allowed. Today abortions on that ground are performed every year.
  • In 1994, the Sunday Trading Act was passed following assurances that no one would be forced to work on a Sunday. Last month the High Court ruled that Christians have no right to refuse to work on Sundays.
Now let us look at what the senior figures of the three main parties have said in the recent past about homosexuality and schools. Here is what David Cameron, now Prime Minister but then Leader of the Opposition, said during an interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight on 23 April 2010:
Paxman: "You're in favour of faith schools being able to teach sex education as they like".

Cameron:"Not as they like. That's not right. What we voted for was what the government suggested in the end, which is proper sex education..."

Paxman: "Should they be free to teach that homosexuality is wrong, abortion is wrong, contraception is wrong?"

Cameron: "No, and the government discussed this and came up with a good idea, which is to say that we wanted a clearer path of sexual education across all schools, but faith schools were not given any exemption but they were able to reflect some of their own faith in the way that this was taught. But no, you must teach proper lessons in terms of gay equality and also combat homophobic bullying in schools, I think that's extremely important."
Mr Cameron is the most high-profile and powerful politician to make clear that same-sex marriage is essential for 'gay equality'. Therefore it is clear that, for Mr Cameron, "proper sex education" and "proper lessons in terms of gay equality" means forbidding schools from teaching that homosexual marriage is wrong, including because homosexuality is wrong.

Nick Clegg, then only leader of the Liberal Democrats but now also Deputy Prime Minister, was reported by The Independent newspaper on 13 January 2010 to have told Attitude, the homosexual magazine, that all schools, including faith schools, should be forced to teach that homosexuality is "normal and harmless". Interestingly, The Independent also reported that:
"the Tories are unlikely to give full marital rights to gay couples."
And if the Labour party were to lead the government after the 2015 election, we have an indication of what will happen from the comments of Ed Balls, then Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families:
Telegraph, 23 Jan. 2010:
"... Does [Mr Balls] agree with Nick Clegg that faith schools should be forced to teach that homosexuality is normal and harmless? The answer is yes."
[Balls]: "If their faith has a view in scripture, they can inform pupils of that. What they must not do is teach discrimination. They must be absolutely clear about the importance of civil partnerships [and that] bullying of homosexuals is wrong ..." .

Today programme, 23 February 2010:
"[S]chools cannot just ignore these issues or teach only one side of the argument. They also have to teach that there are different views on homosexuality. They cannot teach homophobia. They must explain civil partnership ... [Catholic schools] cannot teach that homosexuality is wrong and that therefore it is OK to discriminate on homosexuality ..."
    Letter to The Times, 23 February 2010:
    "[S]tatutory lessons on sex and relationship education...includes education about contraception and the importance of stable relationships, including marriage and civil partnerships. It will not allow the teaching of homophobia. All maintained schools and academies will be required to teach the full programmes of study. This includes promoting equality and encouraging acceptance of diversity ... The bottom line is that...discrimination is prevented in all schools."
    Thus we know what our political leaders want and where they are leading us. The Government's latest assurances regarding same-sex marriage are empty.

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