An academic conference organised by a group that works to combat homophobic bullying in schools has been attacked by fundamentalist Christians.
The Christian Institute has “exposed” the event, and the story was picked up by the Daily Mail, under the headline “Teach the ‘pleasure of gay sex’ to children as young as five, say researchers.”
In reality the seminar at Exeter University, entitled Queering the Body; Queering Primary Education, has no connection with sex education.
It is being run by No Outsiders, who work in 14 primary schools and receive £600,000 of state funding from the Economic and Social Research Council.
The group, made up of academics from Sunderland University, give schools, local authorities and teacher-training institutions sexualities equality training and resources, including a wide range of children’s literature.
Dr Elizabeth Atkinson from No Outsiders told the Daily Telegraph:
“The seminar is part of a long-standing academic debate and has nothing to do with schools.”
Questions for discussion were outlined in the seminar schedule, published on The Christian Institute website. They include:
• How might we create primary classrooms where gender-queer bodies and queer sexualities (for children and teachers) are affirmed and celebrated?
• What would it take to teach queerly? How would teachers’ and children’s bodies be implicated in this? What sorts of subversions and reversals might it entail?
• At what cost do we deny children’s and teachers’ sexuality? What do we lose if desire and pleasure are banned from the classroom?
The Christian Institute’s Simon Calvert said:
“When an adult who is working in a primary school suggests that children should explore their sexuality, that should result in a complaint to the police.”
Patricia Morgan, a sociologist and author of books supporting the “traditional” family structures, is quoted in the Christian Institute story.
“The proposal is that primary school classrooms should be turned into gay saunas,” she claimed.
“This is about homosexual practice in junior schools. The idiots who repealed Section 28 should consider that this is where it has got them.”
The Christian Institute is a small but vocal group who have made a name for themselves with high profile campaigns against equality for gay people.
They recently financed Lillian Ladele’s case.
She won employment tribunal ruling that Islington council discriminated against her because she wanted to opt out of performing civil partnership ceremonies on religious grounds.
The tribunal ruled that she was unlawfully discriminated against because of her religion.
Last year the Christian Institute claimed that the new offence of incitement to hatred based on sexual orientation restricts free speech targets Christians and will stifle debate about homosexuality.
It objected to the extension of incitement to racial hatred laws to sexual orientation as “homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle. Many ‘gay rights’ activists would say that their sexual orientation is a choice, not a genetic characteristic.”
The fundamentalist group previously failed to stop the introduction of the Sexual Orientation Regulations which protect gay people from discrimination in goods and services.
Last year the Christian Institute targeted a No Outsiders scheme promoting gay couples and families through fairytales aimed a primary-aged children and called for the reintroduction of Section 28.
Passed in 1988 under Margaret Thatcher, it banned local authorities from promoting homosexuality as a valid lifestyle, after tabloid newspaper outrage at a book which showed a little girl living happily with two gay men.
It was abolished in 2003.
It is hoped that teaching children as young as five about the existence of gay relationships might help in tackling the use of the word ‘gay’ to mean bad or inferior.
Last year research by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers revealed that the vast majority of their members hear the word used pejoratively on a regular basis.
Many felt that homophobic language was institutionally tolerated. The union backed the No Outsiders book scheme, as did the General Teaching Council.