Incredible though it sounds, it seems that the hated piece of British legislation known as Section 28 is still in force in the minds of some teachers – people who ought to know better.
Section 28 of the Local Government Act of 1988 sought to outlaw the “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities, and was widely interpreted as prohibiting discussion of the subject in schools. No prosecutions were ever brought under the hated measure, which was eventually repealed.
As part of its work in support of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), the British Humanist Association chaired an event exploring issues of religion, sexuality and education. And it was here that the extraordinary claim was made.
The event was organised by the Cutting Edge Consortium, which brings together religious and non-religious groups, including the BHA, human rights campaigners and trades unions, to work for the elimination of any faith-based homophobia or transphobia and institutionalised prejudice towards gay and transgendered people.
The event, led by Naomi Phillips, head of public affairs at BHA and a trustee of the Consortium, kicked off the meeting with the wider context, criticising in particular the religious lobby, including the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales, which seeks even wider exceptions from law to allow them to discriminate against employees and service users, including on grounds of sexual orientation, than they already have.
Elly Barnes of Schools Out warned that “lots of teachers don’t know Section 28 has been repealed”. That was a sentiment echoed by Jennifer Moses from the NASUWT teachers’ trade union, who said that the legacy of Section 28 was “ingrained in the minds of senior school leaders especially”.
Sharon Ferguson of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement spoke about their new online resource which aims to support Christian, Jewish and Muslim gay young people, and Martin Pendergast, chair of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality, spoke on sexuality and theology.
Alison Ryan, who sits with the BHA on the steering group of the Accord Coalition, said that there was a higher incidence of homophobia in “faith” schools and that the “privileging of traditional religious views over the rights of other groups” is a contributing factor to this.