Current Affairs

Teachers must get ‘opt out’ from telling kids it’s OK to be gay, MP insists

Nick Duffy February 6, 2017
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An MP has insisted that school teachers receive an “opt-out” from teaching that there is nothing wrong about homosexuality during sex ed lessons.

Democratic Unionist Party MP Jim Shannon made the comments in a Commons debate on calls for inclusive sex and relationship education last week.

Labour’s Diana Johnson had argued that “age-appropriate sex and relationship education [is] a vital tool in the fight to address unacceptable attitudes to women, combat child abuse and tackle homophobia”.

Mr Shannoninsisted that it is unfair on Christian teachers to expect them to “promote the latest Government definition of morality”, citing the case of a Christian bakery that refused to make a ‘gay’ cake.

He said: “We must also allow teachers who are uncomfortable discussing and promoting British moral values that might undermine their own dearly held personal faith to withdraw from teaching those values, with no penalty and no fear of losing their job. We have many examples of that.

“There is the example of Ashers in Northern Ireland. We have the case of the bed and breakfast owners and that of the Christian registrar. It is not enough for our Prime Minister to talk about freedom to live one’s faith; we must now have the support of the law to do that. Any legislation must protect the right of teachers to withdraw from promoting values that undermine their faith.”

He continued: “I understand that we cannot press our faith on others, but by the same token we should not be expected to directly oppose the teachings of our faith on the say-so of others.

“Teachers do not want their teaching to promote the latest Government definition of morality; they want it to help a child to have a fully rounded life and to make a difference. Allow them to do that in an appropriate way and legislate to protect them with any proposed changes.

“I have learned a lot from the Ashers [gay cake] case about the need for protection, and I hope that the Government, and particularly the Minister, can take that on board.

“To me, this is essential for any family: the right to teach their child the morality and the standards they hope their child will stick to, and the right to withdraw their child from a lesson that they feel will not complement how they teach their child. Again, that is an absolute must for me and the people I represent.”

Government minister Caroline Dinenage said it was “fundamentally important that we get it right… taking all views into consideration”

She said: “We are actively considering calls to update the guidance on SRE [and are] fully committed to improving the quality and accessibility of SRE and PSHE.

“Our intention is to follow a responsible and dynamic approach that engages a wide range of views, including those of parents, teachers and young people.

“We know that SRE is a developing and vital area of education and we need to do all that we can to ensure that our guidance is fit for purpose and can equip our children with the skills they need to be safe in modern British society.”

One of Mr Shannon’s DUP colleagues recently claimed that the government spends too much money fighting HIV, insisting AIDS is the result of “lifestyle choices”.

More: DUP, Education, Equality, Gay, Jim Shannon, LGBT, Sex, sex ed, sex education

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