BHA welcomes Welsh government probe into Catholic schools promoting anti-gay marriage petition
The Welsh government have today announced that they are investigating whether the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CES) broke laws on equality and against political indoctrination. The British Humanist Association (BHA) wrote earlier to both Welsh Education Minister Leighton Andrews and Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove to address the matter, and has welcomed the announcement.
Last month, the CES wrote to all Catholic secondary schools and asked them to draw attention to a letter against gay marriage from the Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark which was read out at Sunday Mass on 11 March. The CES also asked schools to ‘draw attention’ to pupils as young as 11, a petition against gay marriage from the Coalition for Marriage.
The story was initially reported yesterday on PinkNews.co.uk, with the BHA being the first to suggest that the laws on political balance might have been broken. The BHA announced that it is looking for a pupil at a Catholic secondary school to take a legal case forward, and today Education Campaigner Richy Thompson wrote an article for Pink News appealing for such a student.
The Catholic Education Service, meanwhile, has indicated that it does not see that it has broken the law, and intends to continue to promote the petition to over-16 year olds.
A Welsh government spokesperson has now told BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye programme that ‘The education minister has seen the press stories and has asked officials to investigate. All schools must ensure issues are taught in a way that does not subject pupils to discrimination.’
Responding to the latest news, Mr Thompson commented, ‘We welcome the announcement that the Welsh government are investigating any potential law-breaking, and will offer to work with them on this matter. In the meantime, we are still interested in taking on a legal case, and hope to find a pupil who is willing to work with us on this.
‘It is undoubtedly the case that the Catholic Education Service’s actions have victimised many pupils. We do not think such behaviour is an acceptable part of society.’
For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson at or on 020 7462 4993.
Read sections 406-7 of the Education Act 1996, regarding political indoctrination and requirement for balance: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/part/V/chapter/IV/crossheading/politics
Read section 149 of the Equality Act 2011, regarding public sector equality duty: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/149
Read PinkNews.co.uk’s initial story, Catholic school ‘urged pupils as young as 11 to sign anti-gay marriage petition’, 25 April 2012: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/04/25/exclusive-catholic-school-urged-pupils-as-young-as-11-to-sign-anti-gay-marriage-petition/
Read Richy Thompson’s Pink News comment piece, ‘Encouraging pupils to sign the Coalition for Marriage is shocking, repugnant and probably illegal’, 26 April 2012: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/04/26/comment-encouraging-pupils-to-sign-the-coalition-for-marriage-is-shocking-repugnant-and-probably-illegal/
Read the BHA’s initial press release, BHA: Catholic Education Service has likely broken multiple laws in pushing anti-gay marriage petition on pupils, 25 April 2012: http://www.humanism.org.uk/news/view/1026
Read more about the BHA’s work on Sex and Relationships Education: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/sex-and-relationships-education
Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/faith-schools
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.