Britain's Education Secretary Michael Gove is under fire for his stance that the sex education curriculum of schools run by religious groups does not come under the purview of the country's equality laws that prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The U.K.'s Trades Union Congress, an influential federation of trade unions, is accusing Gove, a lawmaker from the Conservative Party, of not doing his duty by saying that the Equality Act 2010 does not extend to the school curriculum, The Guardian reported this weekend.
At the center of the debate is a booklet, titled "Pure Manhood: How to Become the Man God Wants You to be." The Catholic Diocese of Lancaster invited Jason and Crystalina Evert, apologists with Catholic Answers in the United States, to speak to pupils at all Catholic secondary schools in Lancashire in 2010 and 2011. The apologists used the booklet in their teaching sessions as part of the Sex and Relationships Education curriculum, which is statutory in England and Wales.
The booklet says homosexual attractions could "stem from an unhealthy relationship" with one's father, "an inability to relate to other guys," or even sexual abuse. It states that "the homosexual act is disordered, much like contraceptive sex between heterosexuals. Both acts are directed against God's natural purpose for sex – babies and bonding."
TUC's General Secretary Brendan Barber wrote to Gove last December raising objections, saying the booklet contained "homophobic material." "Schools now have a legal duty to challenge all forms of prejudice. Such literature undermines this completely," he wrote.
Gove disagrees. "The education provisions of the Equality Act 2010 which prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their protected characteristics (including their sexual orientation) do not extend to the content of the curriculum," he was quoted as saying. "Any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the act."
The debate comes days after Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, co-chair of the Conservative Party, warned that Britain was under attack from "militant secularization." Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has also warned that Christianity is being marginalized in Britain.
"We need to create a country in which people can be unashamedly proud of their faith – where they don't feel that they have to leave religion at the door," Baroness Warsi recently wrote in an article in Daily Telegraph. "That means being proud of Christianity, not downgrading it."