The row over LGBT teaching has spread to more schools but has been wilfully misrepresented by the mainstream media, politicians and some headteachers. Faisal Bodi separates the facts from the myths.
Myth 1: Schools are obliged by law to give children sex and relationships education.
Fact: As the law currently stands there is no requirement for primary schools to teach about sex or relationships. Sex education is provided in local authority run secondary schools.
Myth 2: Schools are required by law to teach about LGBT relationships.
Fact: There is at present no legal obligation to teach about LGBT. The law is set to change in September 2020 when sex and relationships education (SRE) will have to be provided in all state maintained secondary schools. Primary schools will have to provide relationships education.
Myth 3: It is only Muslims who have voiced their opposition to the planned changes to SRE.
Fact: Christian and Jewish parents and organisations have also voiced their objections saying the new regime will sexualise and confuse young children and that it is at odds with their religious teachings. One Jewish parent has even mounted a legal challenge.
Myth 4: It is the role of the state to teach children about sex and relationships.
Fact: No. It is parents’ duty to teach their children about these issues and about sexual morality in general. In fact the Dept for Education’s own guidance issued in February 2019 acknowledges the role of parents as a child’s first teachers. It actually states that schools must work closely with parents when planning and delivering these lessons. However, as we’ve seen in Birmingham and elsewhere, some heads are riding roughshod over parents’ wishes.
Myth 5: Teaching of LGBT is required by the Equality Act.
Fact: The Equality Act 2010 legislates against discrimination on several grounds called “protected characteristics”. Sexual orientation is one of them, as is religion. However, it is a big stretch of the Act to say that it requires an affirmation of the moral validity of LGBT relationships. And if religion is also a protected characteristic why should sexual orientation assume precedence where there is a conflict between the two?
Myth 6: There is nothing wrong with teaching children that in today’s society some people have gay relationships and that they are treated equally under the law.
Fact: If pupils were being taught just that then it might defuse the current conflict. However, evidence shows that children are in fact being taught that LGBT activities are equally valid choices and even that they are acceptable within Islam. This goes beyond toleration of differences and challenges the very essence of the Abrahamic religious belief that sex should take place within marriage and only between a man and a woman.
Myth 7: The government has consulted parents in drawing up the new legislation.
Fact: That is true. However, the government has chosen to ignore their feelings. There have been two public consultations. Over 23,000 responded to the first one between 2017-2018 with only a small proportion (page 35) saying primary schoolchildren should be taught about gender and sexual identity. In a second consultation (page 33) launched in 2018 only 29% of people supported teaching LGBT in schools as opposed to 71% against.
Myth 8: Religious views should play no part in education.
Fact: The UK is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, all of which uphold the fundamental right of parents to teach their children in line with their own religious and moral convictions.
Myth 9: The parents who are protesting outside schools and withdrawing their children are homophobes and religious extremists.
Fact: Most parents would like their children to go to school and learn the three R’s, not sexual choices. They are protesting peacefully against a violation of their fundamental rights as parents. To demonise them as homophobes is unacceptable and inaccurate. To the contrary, the extremists are those who insist on ramming their beliefs down everyone else’s throats.
Myth 10: Muslims want to have their cake and eat it by insisting on equality for their community and denying it to LGBT people.
Fact: Equality is not the same as uniformity. We respect your right to be different under British law but that does not mean we have to accept or affirm your beliefs, just as we don’t expect you to affirm our view that adultery is a sin or that sex outside marriage is wrong.
This article first appeared on the Islamic Human Rights Commission’s website.