Supported by VfJUK, the multi-faith Let Kids Be Kids Coalition have now served papers calling for Judicial Review of the Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) Regulations. The Regulations, which became mandatory on 1st September this year, make Relationships Education compulsory for Primary aged school children, Sex and Relationships Education compulsory for Secondary aged school children, and Health Education compulsory for all. They state that all teaching must be age-appropriate and have regard to the religious background of pupils and their families. However, Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson has consistently promoted LGBTI+ teaching for children of all ages, and has stated that every school will receive support from the government on teaching same sex relationships (https://www.tes.com/news/schools-will-be-backed-lgbt-lessons-says-williamson). The stated rationale is that in order to prepare young people for life in modern Britain and to end discrimination, children must learn about ‘diversity’ as early as possible. This, we know, is starting from age 3, using a large number of LGBT related picture books, and recommended group activities for different classes.
Under international and UK law, parents have an absolute right to have children educated in line with their religious or philosophical beliefs (European Convention on Human Rights, Article 1, Protocol 2; The Human Rights Act 1998, Schedule I, Part II, Article 2; The Education Act 1996, s.9). In line with this, prior to the passing of the RSE Regulations, parents have had an absolute and unquestioned right to withdraw children from teaching that is in conflict with their religious beliefs or that they feel to be inappropriate. Under the new Regulations, however, although the parental right of withdrawal continues at Primary level – where there is actually no requirement that children receive sex education – at Secondary level this right has been effectively removed, becoming now merely a right to request withdrawal, subject to agreement by the Head teacher. On top of that, from age 15, children themselves have the right to decide to opt in, irrespective of the wishes of their parents.
However dressed up, this is a major violation of the right of parents as primary educators of their children. But the Regulations also violate more broadly the right to freedom of belief as set down in Article 9 of the Human Rights Act, which states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and to manifest their beliefs ‘in worship, teaching, practice and observance’ (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/schedule/1/part/I/chapter/8). All the world’s major religions prohibit LGBT behaviours and same sex marriage, so that promoting explicitly prohibited behaviours can only serve to undermine belief. While, therefore, the Regulations may not specifically require that Primary aged pupils learn about same sex relationships, the conscious and focused normalisation and promotion of such relationships, enjoined by both the DfE and Ofsted, constitute a direct attack on the right of parents to raise children to follow their faith. Of course, some schools have attempted to get around this by maintaining that they are simply upholding the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, but under the provisions of this Act, religion is equally a protected characteristic, alongside age, disability, gender reassignment, race, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity. The Regulations pose, therefore, a covert but focused attack on religion.
For the wellbeing of the nation’s young and protection of the twin freedoms of belief and speech, please pray for the success of this action, and that the Regulations, as they stand, be ruled unlawful. If you would like to contribute financially, please go to the Donate page of VfJUK, adding a note that you wish to support the action for Judicial Review.