Commentary Magazine

An Orwellian Education Law in Britain

AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, Pool

Brexit was supposed to liberate Britons from unaccountable government, PC orthodoxy, and high-handed bureaucracy. But who needs Brussels mandarins when supposed Conservatives in Westminster are beholden to the same orthodoxies?

That’s the question religious leaders in the U.K. are asking themselves as Prime Minister Theresa May’s government prepares to make it mandatory for all schools–including private, faith-based institutions–to teach an ultra-progressive sex education curriculum. Under the proposal, all schools would be required to teach children from age 4 and up “age-appropriate” content that includes information about same-sex marriage and transgenderism. Catholics, evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and others with traditional views on sex and gender would have to comply. No exceptions.

Former Education Secretary Justine Greening first floated the idea last March on the ground that the current law is “outdated,” since many religious schools are exempt from the sex-ed curriculum requirements. The prime minister sacked Greening last month, but her successor, Damian Hinds, recently told Parliament that he remains committed to the compulsory sex-education agenda.

Greening made no effort to disguise the ideology behind her policy push, telling Sky News in July that “it is important that the church, in a way, keeps up and is part of a modern country. We have allowed same-sex marriage, that’s a massive step forward for the better. And for me, I think people do want to see our major faiths keep up with modern attitudes.”

Dame Louise Casey, another senior government adviser, singled out Catholics in particular. It is “not OK for Catholic schools to be homophobic and anti-gay marriage,” she testified in the House of Commons. “I have a problem with the expression of religious conservatism because I think often it can be anti-equalities.”

Yet it isn’t only Catholics who have found themselves on the sharp end of the government’s anti-religious drive. Last year, a government regulator threatened a private Jewish school in London with closure over its refusal to teach students about homosexuality. The failure to teach about homosexuality and gay marriage, the inspector said, deprives the students of “a full understanding of fundamental British values” and limits their “spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and does not promote equality of opportunity in ways that take account of differing lifestyles.”

Bear in mind that that was under existing regulations and distinct from the curriculum issue. The new rules make it even easier for the government to control what private and religious schools can and can’t teach about sex and gender. Nor is it clear that parents would have a right to withdraw their children from these courses. That this is happening under a Tory government tells you that the future of religious freedom and parental autonomy in the U.K. is bleak.

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