We were appalled to read that the Catholic Education Service had written to state-funded Catholic schools to push them into taking a stand against gay marriage (Catholic state schools promote petition against gay marriage, 26 April).
Brook and FPA do not believe there is a place for this type of lobbying. It raises serious concerns about the impact on the school community and on individuals who are gay or have family members who are gay. Schools have a duty to work within the equal opportunities statement of the national curriculum, and faith-based schools are not exempt.
The young people who responded to this naked attempt by the Catholic Education Service to induce bigotry and intolerance about gay marriage into their school day, by advocating for gay rights instead, should be congratulated. It takes courage to stand up for one’s convictions, especially when this pressure comes from those in authority.
Brook and FPA support young people’s rights to make choices based on accurate and balanced information. And this is as true for their political and religious views as it is for their sexual health decision-making.
Simon Blake CEO, Brook
Julie Bentley CEO, FPA
• The Catholic Education Service should not be seeking to influence pupils to sign petitions against gay marriage. This entirely breaches the spirit of the Equality Act.
Many Catholic schools will have students and teachers who are gay or questioning their sexual orientation. Students may have family members who are gay or lesbian. It is important that all our schools promote equality, value diversity and implement effective strategies to eradicate homophobia. Students in every school need to discuss human rights and be prepared for a world where gay and straight people are equal.
The Catholic Education Service has failed to realise that teaching what looks like intolerance about lesbian and gay people compounds stereotypes about gay people, and fuels prejudice. Homophobia can lead to hate crime and causes very real harm to LGB young people, even driving some to suicide.
Discrimination on the grounds of sexuality or marital status should have no place in any of our schools.
General secretary, National Union of Teachers
• As a gay man who was raised in the Catholic church and attended Catholic schools, I am deeply saddened by the church’s response to the proposals to change the legal definition of marriage.
While I initially dismissed the comments of Cardinal O’Brien (Report, 5 March) as irresponsible and misguided, the letter that was then read at Catholic masses troubled me greatly. I was concerned by how its contents would be interpreted by younger members of the church, who may still be struggling to reconcile their sexuality with their faith.
The church’s campaign has now made its way into Catholic schools. As a trainee teacher, I am only too aware of the power teachers have to shape the ideas and beliefs of the young people in their care. With this power comes responsibility, and I believe it irresponsible to present ideas against equality to schoolchildren in this way. I can only hope common sense prevails, with schools choosing not to peddle the church’s campaign in this way.
• Reading Chris Bryant’s comments in your article (Anti-gay adverts pulled from bus campaign after protests, 13 April), I had to laugh. Not in an amused way. “The emotional damage that is done to the individuals who try to suppress their sexuality [and] the women they marry …” Sorry. I suppose I wrongly assumed that some of the “hurt teenagers struggling with their sexuality”, or any of the other vulnerable, misled individuals who might be hurt by the campaign, could be lesbians? Silly me. Of course only men experience homophobia … only men lead double lives. In an article that takes care to point out the negative social and psychological effects of attempts to “cure” homosexuality, Bryant’s comment reminds me of the double invisibility that I’d guess makes a lot of gay women susceptible to such campaigns.
This article originally appeared on: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/29/no-place-for-prejudice-in-schools?newsfeed=trueOlder postNewer post