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Saturday, 28 May 2011

Many teachers think the detested Section 28 is still on the statute book – claim

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 No prosecutions were ever brought under the hated measure, which was eventually repealed.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Elly Barnes of Schools Out warned that “lots of teachers don’t know Section 28 has been repealed”.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.

1 comment:

Stuart Hartill said...

I certainly believe Jennifer Moses is right, as the local NASUWT rep was the only teacher in favour of retaining Section 38 (Manx equivalent of Section 28) when we got it removed a few years back. And as it happens, it was a college lecturer who later became rep for an even smaller teaching union who, in his other role as a lay preacher, kicked up so much fuss back in 1991 (when homosexuality was partially legalised here) that it was introduced into the Sexual Offences Act in the first place, against a promise made (in return to a question asked by me at the press conference) by the then Chief Minister that there would be no equivalent to Section 28 and that no 'responsible' attempt to teach that homosexuality was normal would lead to any teacher, youth worker or advisor to young people being disciplined or losing their job.
I asked the question, incidentally, because the local Samaritans were concerned that evangelical Christians, who at the time included senior police officers, might mount some sort of sting operation. That's how bad the situation was here then.