Combatting Extremism – the danger to Christian rights in enforcement of The New Independent School Standards

The New Independent School Standards, designed to combat Islamic extremism in wake of the so-called Trojan Horse Scandal in Birmingham, lay down that from now on independent schools, Academies and free schools will be required actively to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs.   The Standards are being extended to cover all schools by Ofsted inspection.

We support the move to combat extremism, which, if left unchecked, poses a clear danger to our society, culture, and values. However, we are concerned at the lack of consultation and short period of time involved in implementing these measures, and their apparent exploitation to promote values that have nothing to do with curbing extremism. We are also disturbed by certain aspects of the consultation which, although not incorporated into the final SI, indicate aggressive promotion of the liberal sexual agenda, having little or nothing to do with combatting Islamic extremism.  We believe this is detrimental to society and poses a direct threat to the values sought to be maintained.

The Problem

As currently framed the SI states that schools must actively promote British values, which for the purpose of the SI include homosexual and gender neutrality rights in compliance with ‘protected characteristics’ as laid down in the Equality Act 2010. Schools that fail to comply will be challenged and liable to closure.   The Guidelines issued prior to the SI stated that there would be no allowance made for conscientious objection to any of the provisions on religious or moral grounds.

The SI, when passed, was markedly silent on the issue of conscientious objection, leaving implementation open to interpretation. We are already seeing the fruits of this lax approach, however, with Anglican, Roman Catholic and Jewish schools all being challenged by Ofsted inspectors since the Guidelines came into effect, and an independent Christian School in the Home counties even being threatened with closure, if it fails to invite representatives from other religions to lead collective school worship.

No one has suggested that any of these schools pose a risk to national security or the stability of society. Current application would appear, therefore, to be exploitation of anti-extremism measures to force compliance with a liberal sexual agenda seeking to extend homosexual and trans-gender ‘rights’.

Such exploitation is not just contrary to the law of this land, but is a violation of human rights, as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 and the European Convention of Human Rights, subsequently incorporated into UK law in the Human Rights Act 1988.   These rights, formulated in response to Nazi atrocities in WW2, specifically include the rights to freedom of religion and conscience; the right to free speech; and the right of parents to choose the type of education that will be given their children.

 How does application of the Standards deny freedom of belief?

Christians believe that every person is an ‘enfleshed’ spiritual being created by God in His own image – eternally and unconditionally loved, unique and of absolute value. The enfleshed spirit is similarly eternal, in its essential being neither male nor female. However, the body housing the spirit is not eternal, but is temporal, transient, and formed as either a man or a woman. The two sexes are complementary and complete each other, together and jointly reflecting the image of God.

For this reason, the Bible says that a man and woman are to come together in lifelong and exclusive union (marriage), and that they thereby become one flesh. As said, they complete each other. Marriage is seen as the gift of God, for the couple’s mutual support, and for the bringing up of any children they might have as result of their union.

In the Bible, all sexual relations outside this lifelong and exclusive union (marriage) are prohibited. This includes fornication, adultery, incest, bestiality, and homosexuality. But while the sin is condemned, the sinner is not. For Christians, all are sinners, but God, in Christ, redeems and saves us from that sin, which, without help, prevents us from becoming fully the people we are meant to be. It is God, in Christ, who heals us and sets us free – but without acknowledgment of sin and repentance, there can be no salvation.

In the campaign for homosexual and trans-gender rights, liberal activists see the refusal of Christians to agree that same-sex practices are “natural”, that marriage can be between two persons of the same sex, or that human beings are other than fundamentally male or female, as an affront to the dignity of those with same sex attraction/orientation, derogating from their human right to be treated as equal, and therefore discrimination.

Such a position fundamentally misunderstands Christian belief, which sees gender as a bodily characteristic and not a definition of being, dismissing the damaging effects of sin which, if left unchecked, prevent the individual not just from becoming fully the person he or she is intended to be, but lead ultimately to eternal death. More than that, the arguments employed deny the validity of the Bible as the revealed word of God. The say, in short, that the Bible is wrong. This is both a denial of, and insult to, Christian belief, denying adherents the right to follow their faith.

Indiscriminate enforcement of the new Standards across education, as currently envisaged, promote an ideology that will politicize the curriculum and suppress any and all divergence of opinion or belief on the part of teachers, parents, and students when it comes to religious views on homosexual and trans-gender rights. The practical effect of this will be, therefore, to criminalise Christian belief.

The Erosion of Parental Rights

As said, the charge has been made that the promotion of “fundamental British values” is little more than a smokescreen for the progression of so-called equality issues. For example, a Christian parent in one of the Birmingham Trojan horse schools recently resigned as a school governor because of the use of the CHIPS programme (Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools) to combat bullying[1].

With 46% of children reporting being bullied at school, the problem is clearly one that needs addressing, but in this extensively used programme, concepts of “safety” and “fairness” are linked almost exclusively to homosexuality. According to the NSPCC, the causes of bullying are far wider, including such things as learning or mental health difficulties, shyness, physical disability, difficult home situations, a parent in prison, etc, etc. The CHIPS programme does not acknowledge this. Such exclusive focus clearly promotes sexual “diversity”, but leaves the wider problem unaddressed.

Under the Guidelines, the required use of this and other such resources to demonstrate that schools are actively promoting respect for people with protected characteristics will leave parents powerless to protect their children from ideas which may be very far removed from the values and beliefs of their family.

This runs in direct opposition to the right of all parents to choose for their children education conforming to their belief.

The Politicisation of Parenting

The imposition of such over-zealous promotion of policies in respect of equality and diversity is underpinned by the assumption that parents cannot be trusted and must be subject to control. The regulations therefore pose a direct threat to the relationship of trust between parents and their children’s schools, over-riding previously internationally accepted parental rights.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children

UN Children’s Summit 2002: “The primary responsibility for the protection, upbringing and development of children rests with the family”.

UN Conference on Population and Development 1994: “The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his or her education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with the parents.”

True respect for parents does not treat them like passive recipients of educational policy. But the natural and innate privileges of the parental primary right to educate, as evidenced by the above quotes, could be outlawed by this kind of “promotion” of “diversity”. What we colloquially refer to as family values or traditional moral teachings have always been in the front line of conflict between parents, schools and state regulators: the difference now is that what is proposed would give the state powers that it did not have before.  In reality this will mean more ground undemocratically conceded to the government’s “Equalities” agenda.

This is the real Trojan horse, imposing on schoolchildren a radical liberal agenda lurking behind a thin veneer of “British Values”.

 A suggested way forward

The plethora of school structures – state, faith, academy, free, independent, studio etc. – mean that no Local Authority now knows what is going on in many of its schools. Whilst the governing body of each state school is responsible for its ethos, RE, worship, PSHE, Sex and Relationships Education etc., in the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ case it was at governing body level that infiltration of extremist views had taken place. The LA seemed powerless or too frightened to intervene.

The reality is the new regulations will be avoided and/or ignored by extremist governors, but will seriously disrupt and distort education across the board.  Indeed, many ‘moderate ’ governors are likely to resign if forced to implement the proposed standards, leaving room for yet more extremists to take their place.

As a society, we must protect our children from the ravages of extremism from every quarter – but the idea that all life choices should be not just celebrated and approved, but ideologically imposed, is misconceived. Furthermore, to demonise Christians and other faith groups for their beliefs is a violation of human rights.

To deal more effectively with the problem of ideological indoctrination, we propose that an Ombudsman be appointed to each region, to whom staff and parents can refer if they are unhappy about possible extremism in their school. We also call for the right of parents to ensure children be educated in conformity with their beliefs be made more clear, and that the parental right to withdraw children from all forms of SRE Education, which has become an area of competing ideologies, be reinforced.

 

 

 

 

[1] CHIPS was developed by Birmingham City Council in 2007 and is used around the country. It is a teaching resource specifically for primary school children, and has been accused of inculcating gender fluid ideas through a manipulative presentation of many otherwise harmless children’s storybooks.

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