A new code for teachers has been branded “unacceptable” by Roman Catholic leaders because it promotes equality.

The Catholic Education Service said the General Teaching Council’s proposed Code of Conduct and Practice could conflict with the personal beliefs of some teachers about gay people and those of other faiths.

Oona Stannard, head of the CES, wrote to the GTC during the consultation period on the code, which ended last week.

She expressed an “understandable fear that the call to ‘proactively challenge discrimination’ could be used to oppose faith schools per se, and the rights that they have in law, for example, to select leaders who are of the faith.

“This anxiety extends similarly to the direction to ‘promote equality.’

“It would be unacceptable to expect anyone to be required to promote something contrary to their own faith beliefs and, indeed, it would not be possible for a person of faith to promote another faith – this is a matter of conscience.”

Other Christian groups have also taken exception to the section of the Code which reads:

“Registered teachers should proactively challenge discrimination, stereotyping and bullying, no matter who is the victim or perpetrator; promote equality and value diversity in all their professional relationships and interactions.”

The Christian Institute and other evangelical groups have interpreted this be “a tool for promoting secularism and gay rights.”

In a mail-out to its supporters the Institute listed some “examples” of supposed discriminations that Christians have suffered.

They include a nurse who was disciplined for offering to “pray” for patients and a registrar who tried to claim that she should be excused from some of her duties because of her religious prejudice against gay people.

The Institute claims that under the GTC guidelines Christian teachers will have to treat gay kids with respect regardless of their views on homosexuality.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said:

“Who could possibly object to children being protected from the prejudices of bullies, bigots and zealots when they are captive in school?

“The objections to this Code of Practice are not only nasty, they are unconvincing and exaggerated.”

The NSS has written to the GTC warning them that an orchestrated campaign is underway and urging them to leave the section of their Code unchanged.