In 2017 the British Parliament passed the Children and Social Work Act. Section 34 of this legislation calls for compulsory Relationships Education (RelEd) for primary schools and compulsory Sex and Relationships Education (RSE) for secondary schools. Catholic and other Christian parents have for many years struggled to protect their children from the worst effects of sex education, but the recent legislation presents new challenges.
Parents have always had the legal right to withdraw their children from sex education lessons and that right is retained under the new legislation, but there will be no right of withdrawal from the new Relationships Education, which is set to become mandatory in primary schools. While the government’s educational plans will not come into force until September 2019, the government has recently finished consulting on what the content of the new RelEd and RSE should be.
The Department for Education’s consultation document attempted to reassure concerned parties that not much is changing, that all RelEd and RSE will be age-appropriate, and that the rights of parents will be respected, as will the rights of faith schools to teach about sex and relationships in accordance with their religious and moral beliefs. For example, the document states:
As is already the case where sex education is currently mandatory, schools will also have flexibility over how they teach these subjects so that they can ensure their approach is sensitive to the needs of their pupils and, in the case of faith schools, in accordance with the tenets of their faith. The subjects must be age-appropriate and schools will engage with parents on their approach. Parents will have a right to withdraw their child from sex education in RSE in secondary school. If a primary school chooses to teach sex education, parents will be able to withdraw their child.’1
While the above may sound reassuring, and several Christian members of parliament with good voting records on life and family issues have assured Christians they have nothing to fear from the new legislation, any faith one may have in the government’s intentions must evaporate when one reads, in the same document, that among the government’s aims is the following:
We will also be looking to gain a better understanding of what constitutes good practice in considering all types of diversity, and to gather examples of this. This could include, but is not limited to, areas such as: special educational needs and disability, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans, faith etc.’2
Additionally, in the opening pages of the consultation the government quoted several prominent public figures in support of compulsory RelEd and RSE. These include representatives of children’s charities, a Catholic archbishop, and the chief executive of the LGBT rights organization Stonewall, who is quoted as saying that the government’s plans are “a huge step forward and a fantastic opportunity to improve inclusion and acceptance in education.”3
It appears clear therefore that the government intends to advance the LGBT agenda in schools and that the compulsory “relationships education” to be taught in primary schools will include teaching about LGBT relationships. And bear in mind that parents will have no right to withdraw their children.
While Christian and other conservative-minded organisations strongly encouraged their followers to respond to the consultation to oppose these plans, it appears likely that the government will give more credence to the various family-planning and LGBT groups who have waited for this moment for decades. It is worth looking at a few of the organisations that are seeking to insert their agenda into the new Relationships Education.
The LGBT lobby group Stonewall is possibly one of the most powerful organizations in Britain today. Its star-shaped logo is displayed on the official documents and websites of numerous public bodies eager to gain recognition for their achievements in “equal opportunities.” It is lavishly funded by government, the major banks, universities, and various other bodies.4 There is barely a single area of British life into which Stonewall’s tentacles have not extended. It has even made its way into some Catholic schools under the guise of “anti-bullying.”
Stonewall’s educational resources are extensive and are aimed at even the youngest of children. One such resource is titled Getting Started: Celebrating Difference and Challenging Gender Stereotypes in the Early Years Foundation Stage. This educational pack states that its aim is to “explain why thinking about lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) inclusion is important in the early years” and “is designed to be used by any practitioner working with children aged 0-5.”5
Stonewall has also compiled a recommended reading list for primary schools. This list includes a large assortment of LGBT literature aimed at children. There are a total of 54 titles, and these include King and King, a story in which a queen tries to arrange a marriage for her son but he falls in love with a boy instead and they subsequently marry. Other stories include one featuring homosexual penguins and a whole host of cartoon children’s books seeking to normalize same-sex families.6 And this is just a small selection of the market in LGBT literature aimed at children. Some of these books are already being used in primary schools, but it is likely that with the implementation of compulsory “relationships education” that this literature will be far more broadly distributed.
Another organization that is likely to be involved in helping develop the RelEd and RSE curriculum is the Brook Advisory Service. For well over 50 years this organization has provided confidential information on contraception and abortion to young people, including those under the legal age of consent. The government stated in its consultation document that it has endorsed the supplementary advice for schools, “‘Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) for the 21st Century,” in which Brook had a hand.7 Brook is in fact largely funded by government.
Some years ago, Brook developed a Sexual Behaviors Traffic Light Tool. This, Brook claims, is supposed to help “professionals working with children and young people” to identify, based on a young person’s age and development, which sexual behaviors are “potentially harmful and which represent healthy sexual development.” Different sexual behaviors are put into red, amber, and green categories—red being those that give the greatest cause for concern, green being those that are supposed to represent “safe and healthy sexual development.” Green behaviors, Brook explains, are worthy of “positive feedback.” However, the following behavior is marked “green” by Brook for those as young as 13: “consenting oral and/or penetrative sex with others of the same or opposite gender who are of similar age and developmental ability.”8
That an organisation willing to label sexual acts between 13-year-olds as “safe and healthy” and worthy of “positive feedback” is advising the government on sexual education—and is in receipt of considerable government funding—does not give one confidence that the government has the best interests of children and young people at heart. Other “green” behaviors Brook considers worthy of “positive feedback” for 13-year-olds include “solitary masturbation,” “sexually explicit conversations with peers,” and “interest in erotica/pornography” all of which are placed on the same level as “choosing not to be sexually active.”
The Family Planning Association (FPA) is the UK affiliate of Planned Parenthood. Needless to say, the FPA, like Brook, with which it frequently collaborates, supports the confidential provision of contraception and abortion to under-age girls. Its publications on sexual matters are almost always devoid of any reference to marriage or to any moral considerations. It has gone to court to defend the right of girls under 16 to access abortion confidentially.9
The FPA, along with Brook and Stonewall, is part of the Sex Education Forum, an alliance of organizations that support compulsory sex education in schools. In recent years the Sex Education Forum has called for lessons on pornography, claiming that this is needed to protect young people from its influence. In 2013 however, the Sex Education Forum published a resource for teachers which described pornography as “hugely diverse” and told young people that pornography is “not all bad.” The resource also linked to a youth forum which told teenagers that “porn can be great.”10
Like Brook, the FPA receives the bulk of its funding from government sources.
Given the massive influence that the above organizations have over sex education in the UK and are likely to have on the new Relationships Education, the future for Catholic and non-Catholic parents who want to protect their children from exposure to immorality looks bleak.
Several well-intentioned Christian MPs assure us that Relationships Education will merely involve a respectful teaching about different types of relationships within the family. But given the influence that the aforementioned groups have over the government, we can place no faith in such assurances. Parents must fight to protect their children from the morally corrupting influence that these groups seek to impose. In standing up to this great threat to our children, Catholic parents have a wonderful weapon in The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, the 1995 document of the Pontifical Council for the Family (PCF). Quoting St. John Paul II, this document states:
Parents are the first and most important educators of their children, and they also possess a fundamental competency in this area: they are educators because they are parents.11
While others may assist parents in this task, they can only replace parents “for serious reasons of physical or moral incapacity.”12
The PCF document mentions that parents would be guilty of failing in their duties if they were “to tolerate immoral or inadequate formation being given to their children outside the home.”13 For this reason it is essential that parents exercise their legal right under UK law and withdraw their children from RSE unless they are confident that there is no threat to the moral welfare of their children. The enactment of compulsory RelEd in primary schools with no right of withdrawal should greatly advance the case for home-schooling in modern Britain, but if this is not possible, parents should do their best to ensure that the RelEd curriculum is rendered harmless and devoid of inappropriate content. Positive content that they could try to insert could include information about the importance of committed, loving parents for a healthy childhood, the complementary virtues of motherhood and fatherhood, the fact that marriage is associated with a higher degree of stability than other living arrangements, and that stable families in turn contribute to a healthy, cohesive, and harmonious society.
The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality states that parents have a right be present in any classes related to teaching about sex and that this right cannot be denied. It is a right which parents in the UK should fight for.
Above all, parents need to remember that is they and not teachers or government bureaucrats who are the primary educators of their children. Catholic parents should fortify their children with the sacraments and ensure that they learn the Christian virtues in the home. As the PCF document states:
The family environment is thus the normal and usual place for forming children and young people to consolidate and exercise the virtues of charity, temperance, fortitude, and chastity.’14
If our children are fortified with the grace that comes from the sacraments and the cardinal and theological virtues, they will be living barriers against the poisonous ideology of the sex-education lobby.