Church co-opts children in marriage fight

The Catholic church in England is asking pupils to sign a petition against same-sex marriage…


© Kevin Dooley


Pupils in every Catholic state-funded secondary school in England are being asked to sign a petition against same-sex marriage, in a move that secular groups say is not only ‘outrageous’, but could also be illegal.

The Roman Catholic church has written to the schools to promote a message recently delivered in Catholic churches around the country, that said worshippers have a:

duty to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations

One pupil at a secondary school in South London said pupils there had been encouraged by the headteacher to sign the a petition against government moves to legislate gay marriage:

In our assembly for the whole sixth form you could feel people bristling as she explained parts of the letter and encouraged us to sign the petition. It was just a really outdated, misjudged and heavily biased presentation.

There are several people in my year who aren’t heterosexual – myself included – and I for one was appalled and actually disgusted by what they were encouraging,

After all, that’s discrimination they were urging impressionable people to engage in, which is unacceptable.

The British Humanist Society said that the move likely contravenes the Education Act, which bans the political indoctrination of children. Meanwhile, National Secular Society president Terry Sanderson said:

This is a clear breach of the authority and privilege that the Catholic Education Service has been given in schools.

Surely it is no part of its remit to promote a specific political campaign from this purely sectarian viewpoint. It is disgraceful that children are being encouraged into bigotry when they are attending a state school paid for by taxpayers.

Responding to criticism, a spokesman for the Catholic Education Service, the body that wrote to the schools, said:

We said that schools might like to consider using this [letter] in assemblies or in class teaching. We said people might want to consider asking pupils and parents if they might want to sign the petition. It’s really important that no school discriminates against any member of the school community.

Schools with a religious character are allowed to teach sex and relationships – and conduct assemblies – in accordance with the religious views of the school. The Catholic view of marriage is not a political view; it’s a religious view.