Members of various religious conservative groups attended a protest against a Birmingham school teaching the LGBT-inclusive “No Outsiders” programme on Thursday (7 March).
Videos of the protest published on the Facebook page Alum Rock Community Forum, a local residents’ group, showed a man addressing the crowd from a van bearing the slogans “Our children, our choice” and “Stop! No Outsiders.”
A group of parents objecting to the teaching of LGBT-inclusive lessons has been petitioning and staging protests outside Parkfield Community School for weeks.
Protests intensified at the beginning of the month, with more than 500 parents reportedly refusing to send their children to school on Friday (March 1).
One of the men addressing the rally on Thursday demanded the abolition of the No Outsiders programme, accusing its creator, assistant headteacher Andrew Moffat, of “reinterpreting religious scriptures.”
Calling the programme “toxic” and “mind-altering,” the man said the protesters’ goal is not to just stop No Outsiders at Parkfield Community School, but at all Birmingham schools and even all schools around the UK.
On Twitter, residents living in the area near the school reported receiving leaflets from the Alum Rock Parents’ Community Group with instructions on how to set up a pressure group to oppose LGBT-inclusive lessons in other schools, reading: “It is blatant discrimination against our ethos to promote a gay ethos in our schools.”
A disclaimer at the bottom of the leaflet also reads: “We do not condone any homophobic behaviour and believe all people be treated with respect.”
Members of conservative religious groups attend protest outside Birmingham school
The speakers addressing protesters on Thursday weren’t only concerned parents or community leaders. One woman who was invited on stage to address the crowd introduced herself as Dr. Lisa Nolland of the Anglican Mainstream.
The Anglican Mainstream is a religious group known for its anti-LGBT stance. In 2012, they distributed leaflets at the Conservative Party Conference opposing then Prime Minister’s David Cameron’s support for same-sex marriage. In 2015, Anglican Mainstream was among the conservative groups that organised a conference in Westminster promoting so-called gay cure therapy.
The event caused a group of Church of England clergy to denounce their own leaders of “deeply cowardly” behaviour for failing to oppose the conference—whose organisers were mainly members of either the Church of England clergy or congregants—as the Independent reported at the time.
Addressing the crowd, Dr. Nolland said the protesters have become an inspiration: “We are standing behind you, you are showing us the way.”
She also urged protesters to “up their game,” adding: “We are for toleration, kindness, respect, no-bullying, but that doesn’t mean No Outsiders.”
Another video posted on the Alum Rock Community Forum features a brief exchange with Shraga Stern, a London-based ultra-Orthodox Jewish activist who, earlier this year, had his lawyers send a letter to the Department of Education warning that some members of the Charedi community “would rather choose to leave the United Kingdom for a more hospitable jurisdiction,” rather than having their children receive LGBT-inclusive education at school.
“This is a resource that helps school and gives schools a framework through which to teach children that we are all different but actually that’s fantastic.”
— Birmingham school educator and No Outsiders creator Andrew Moffat
Mariam Ahmed, who has a four-year-old daughter attending the school and launched the parents’ first petition against No Outsiders in January, told The Sun the opposition to the programme has found support among other religious communities.
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She said: “This is not a Muslim issue. We have been supported by Jews and Christians over this.”
Insisting that those opposing the programme taught at the Birmingham school aren’t homophobes, she added: “We have no issue with Mr Moffatt as a person at all. He’s homosexual, that’s fine. We don’t have an issue with that. But his sex life needs to be left in his bedroom.”
The Birmingham school, who has asked parents to avoid protesting outside the building, issued a statement this week saying that the No Outsiders programme would be stalled for the remainder of the term.
The move that was interpreted as giving in to the protestors’ demands, but the school clarified on Tuesday (March 5) the programme would resume after the Easter holidays in April, as reported by Birmingham Live.
What is the No Outsiders programme taught at the birmingham school?
Moffat started the No Outsiders programme in 2014 to teach students of various ages about diversity and inclusion and was awarded an MBE by the Queen for services to equality and diversity in education in November 2017.
Moffat, who resigned from his previous role as assistant head at Birmingham’s Chilwell Croft Academy after coming out as gay in 2014 following protests from religious parents, told the BBC in February he has received threats because of the No Outsiders programme, but that he also feels supported by his employers.
He was recently named among the top 10 teachers in the world—the only one from the UK—as part of the prestigious Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize.
“A big challenge for us is to teach our children that there are different people out there,” Moffat said in a video showcasing his work at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, published on the website of the Global Teacher Prize and on YouTube.
“This is a resource that helps school and gives schools a framework through which to teach children that we are all different but actually that’s fantastic,” he added, describing his programme.