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BHA welcomes Michael Gove ordering investigation into Catholic schools promoting anti-gay marriage petition

Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove has ordered an investigation into whether or not the Catholic Education Service (CES) has broken laws against political balance in encouraging secondary school pupils to sign a petition against same sex marriage. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which was the first organisation to suggest that this law had been broken, has welcomed the news.

PinkNews.co.uk has reported a spokesperson for the Department for Education as saying that: ‘Schools have a responsibility under law to ensure children are insulated from political activity and campaigning in the classroom. While ‘faith’ schools, rightly, have the freedom to teach about sexual relations and marriage in the context of their own religion, that should not extend to political campaigning.

‘Officials are looking into this as the Education Secretary and other ministers are anxious to establish the full facts of this case and will be meeting representatives of the Catholic Education Service shortly.’

The BHA believes that sections 406-7 of the Education Act 1996, regarding political indoctrination and requirement for balance, and section 149 of the Equality Act 2011, regarding public sector equality duty may have been broken. The BHA has expressed interest in taking a legal case on this matter, and is seeking a pupil to assist in this.

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented: ‘On Thursday we wrote to Michael Gove and called for just such an investigation. We are glad to see that this is now occurring.

‘Any gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender pupil at a school whose head declares that gay marriage and civil partnerships are unnatural is obviously going to feel discriminated against and trapped. Action to remedy this situation cannot come soon enough.’

However, Richy did have a note of caution: ‘The BHA believes that what has been done here is likely to have broken the Equality Act, as well as laws against political indoctrination. The Government’s statement suggests that only the latter area is being considered, which unfortunately fits with past behaviour. We hope that the Government will fully consider both areas of legislation.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 0781 55 89 636.

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 section 149 of the Equality Act 2011, regarding public sector equality duty: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/149

Read PinkNews.co.uk’s latest story, http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/04/28/exclusive-education-secretary-orders-investigation-of-catholic-schools-anti-gay-petition-scandal/

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 Richy Thompson’s Pink News comment piece, ‘Encouraging pupils to sign the Coalition for Marriage is shocking, repugnant and probably illegal’, 26 April 2012: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/04/26/comment-encouraging-pupils-to-sign-the-coalition-for-marriage-is-shocking-repugnant-and-probably-illegal/

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

Read the press release, BHA welcomes Welsh government probe into Catholic schools promoting anti-gay 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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