Britain's Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has become
embroiled in a public row over the use of anti-gay teaching
material in faith schools.
Gove claims that the
Equality Act does not cover the content of textbooks used in the
As reported by The
Guardian, head of the TUC trade union federation, Brendan Barber,
wrote to Gove in December after it emerged anti-gay religious
material had been distributed amongst Roman Catholic schools in
Lancashire by a US preacher in 2010.
In the letter, Barber
argued: "Schools now have a legal duty to challenge all forms of
prejudice. Such literature undermines this completely."
The pamphlet, titled
'Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be', included
a claim that a boy's same-sex attraction may "stem from an
unhealthy relationship with his father, an inability to relate to
other guys, or even sexual abuse".
And concerning the act
of gay sex, it adds: "The homosexual act is disordered, much like
contraceptive sex between heterosexuals. Both acts are directed
against God's natural purpose for sex - babies and bonding."
But Gove responded by
confirming equality legislation that prohibits anti-gay
discrimination in schools does not cover content used in sex
He said: "The education
provisions of the Equality Act 2010 which prohibit discrimination
against individuals based on their protected characteristics
(including their sexual orientation) do not extend to the content
of the curriculum. Any materials used in sex and relationship
education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the
discrimination provisions of the act."
The TUC has hit out at
Gove following his response, criticising his "lack of concern" over
the issue. Barber said: "Having written to the education secretary
to express our worry about the distribution of homophobic
literature in faith schools, his lack of concern is very
Speaking to The
Guardian, head of gay rights charity Stonewall, Ben Summerskill,
said: "It would certainly be helpful if there was clarity as to
what is appropriate for young people of all ages. The water could
no longer be muddied by people pushing age-inappropriate sex
material on the one hand and fundamentalist anti-gay religious
materials on the other."
A spokesperson for the
Department for Education told The Guardian: "Any school engaging in
the promotion of homophobic material would be acting
Photo from Wikipedia, courtesy of Paul Clarke.