A couple is calling on the Church of England to do more to safeguard the beliefs of Christian parents after they withdrew their son from school on World Book Day, concerned that the text students were reading promoted harmful messages about gender identity.
Stephen Evans and his wife, Joanne Evans, said that other parents at CofE St. Mary's Church of England Primary School in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, shared the same opinion about the book that the school had students engage with last Thursday when World Book Day was celebrated in the United Kingdom.
The book in question is My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart. The book centers around a little boy who likes princesses and other things typically seen as intended for girls. Instead of a blue shadow, the boy has a pink one, and he learns to accept himself with the support of his dad. The story is told through rhyme, and the book uses the concept of everyone having colored shadows to represent the idea of gender identity.
According to a Sunday statement from Christian Legal Centre, an advocacy group representing the parents, the Evanses asked permission from their 4-year-old son's head teacher, Aleishia Lewis, to withdraw their son from school for the day.
The parents said they saw the school's plan for the day on the class application and knew "something was not right."
Throughout the course of World Book Day, students "engage[ed] with the story and explore[d] the themes within it." Students were asked to dress up "to reflect how they see their shadow and how they see themselves."
Lewis granted the parents' request to withdraw their son for the day. But in a letter to the couple, she encouraged them to read Living in Love and Faith to learn more about how CofE is developing its understanding of "identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage."
"In the Bishops' response to the years of work that went into 'Living in Love and Faith,' they have said that the Church of England 'continues to seek to be a church that embodies 'the radical new Christian inclusion,'" Lewis wrote.
"Like the Church of England itself, myself and the staff at St. Mary's recognize that the Bible is central to our understanding and living out of the Christian faith and whilst we are united in this belief, we all interpret the Bible differently," she continued.
"Just as the Bishops are encouraging us all as we journey together, at St. Mary's we will continue to build a school community that is focused on learning and listening together: to God, one another and the world around us."
St. Mary's Church of England Primary School did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment.
The head teacher also cited Valuing All God's Children, a guide for schools that encourages them to affirm a child's perception of their gender identity, according to CLC. In addition, the advocacy group noted that Lewis is speaking alongside Andrew Moffat at the Annual Equity in Education & Society Conference.
In 2019, a program created by Moffat to teach students as young as 4 years old about LGBT lifestyles was met with pushback from Muslim parents at the Parkfield community school in Birmingham.
The program, titled "No Outsiders," taught kids ages 4-11 that some "families look different" and had kids read books about same-sex relationships. The school suspended the program after 600 children were kept home by their parents in response to the learning material.
The Evans family, with the support of CLC, have written to CofE's Chief Education Officer Nigel Genders claiming that both Christian and non-Christian parents raised concerns about the book, but the head teacher ignored them. The letter accuses the school of failing to properly consult parents before making the plan for the day.
"The CofE's own guidance being used against us to justify confusing and harmful teaching on gender identity is a slap on the face," the parents wrote. "Parents who believe we are born male and female and who do not want their children exposed to harmful ideology are losing their voice and their rights."
"We want the CofE hierarchy to step in and do more to protect the rights and beliefs of, not just Christian parents, but all parents who do not want their children exposed to transgender propaganda," the letter continued.
CLC Chief Executive Andrea Williams questioned the decision to teach the book to children, calling for the CofE to "wake up" and return to "biblical teaching."
"It is another example of the Church of England hierarchy's lack of confidence in the gospel they are there to promote and which has actually given their schools such outstanding reputation," Williams stated in the group's statement.
In December, Calvin and Nicola Watts of Kent pulled their children from St. Michael's Church of England primary school after their 8-year-old was shown a video titled "It Feels Good to be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity" without parental consent, according to the CLC.
Critics, including two Church of England General Synod members, have also pushed back on the Church of England's guidance for its 4,700 primary schools allowing students to self-identify as the opposite sex. The denomination defended the guidance last year, refuting claims that the guidance allows students as young as 5 to identify as the opposite sex.
As CP reported, members of the church's General Synod approved plans last month to allow same-sex couples in a civil marriage or civil partnership to "receive God's blessing" from priests.
The vote also called for the church to "lament and repent" for what officials said was "the failure of the Church" to welcome LGBT-identified people and for "harm" LGBT communities "have experienced — and continue to experience — in churches."