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BHA: Michael Gove concludes Catholic schools did not break the law in promoting anti-same sex marriage petition

An investigation by the Department for Education (DfE) ordered by Michael Gove, Secretary of State, has concluded that St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls in Carshalton did not break any law in promoting a petition against same-sex marriage. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has criticised the conclusion, which also appears to be at odds with the Welsh Government’s separate investigation on the matter.

The DfE’s investigation concluded that St Philomena’s, which read out a letter against same-sex marriage and encouraged pupils to sign a petition, did not break laws on ‘the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school’. The BHA was the first organisation to suggest that this law may have been broken. However, Mr Gove did write to the Catholic Education Service (CES) and expressed concern at their blurring the distinction between matters of faith and matters of politics.

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘If St Philomena's hasn't broken the law, why did the Catholic Education Service need a rebuke from Mr Gove at all? And why did the Welsh Government conclude that schools which followed the CES's advice, like St Philomena's, would have broken this law? Mr Gove’s conclusion seems to be at odds with the evidence and with itself.

‘First and foremost, it is disappointing that there is no sign of compassion from the DfE for gay and lesbian pupils at schools like St Philomena’s, who had to sit through an assembly in which gay marriage and civil partnerships were described as being “unnatural”. Such behaviour will leave pupils feeling isolated from the very body that is meant to be looking after them; it cannot be right that this is an acceptable part of the British school system.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 020 7462 4993.

Read sections 406-7 of the Education Act 1996, regarding political indoctrination and requirement for balance: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/part/V/chapter/IV/crossheading/politics

Read PinkNews.co.uk’s initial story, Catholic school ‘urged pupils as young as 11 to sign anti-gay marriage petition’, 25 April 2012: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/04/25/exclusive-catholic-school-urged-pupils-as-young-as-11-to-sign-anti-gay-marriage-petition/

Read the BHA’s first press release, BHA: Catholic Education Service has likely broken multiple laws in pushing anti-same sex marriage petition on pupils, 25 April 2012: http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/1026

Read the press release, Welsh Government investigation concludes Catholic schools likely broke the law in promoting anti-same sex marriage petition, 26 April 2012: http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/1028

Read more about the BHA’s work on Sex and Relationships Education: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/sex-and-relationships-education

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/faith-schools

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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