Act NOW to stop a law that will erode the right of parents to choose if their child will be taught “21st century” relationships and sex education lessons in England.
A Statutory Instrument on Relationships and Sex Education is to be debated in Parliament next week. Unless a decision is made to reject or amend, the new regulations will become law on 8 April 2019, for compulsory implementation from September 2020, applying to all schoolchildren in England.
Achieved in last ten days
Early last week, the House of Lords committee that scrutinises Statutory Instruments (Secondary Legislation) received 430 emails on this subject, the majority apparently from Barnabas Fund supporters. Instead of simply allowing it to pass into law unchallenged, the committee has decided to scrutinise the Statutory Instrument to decide whether the House of Lords should debate it before it becomes law.
The issue will therefore be discussed by the House of Lords committee on Tuesday 19 March. It will also be debated by MPs in the House of Commons on Wednesday 20 March.
Either the House of Lords or the House of Commons can vote down Statutory Legislation so that it is not passed into law. Each House has the power to do this on its own, without needing the agreement of the other House.
What to do now
Barnabas Fund is standing alongside concerned Christian parents, and those of other faith communities, to oppose the government’s proposals to impose Relationships and Sex Education on children as young as four years old and sweep aside parents’ rights to withdraw their children from such lessons.
We believe that parents must retain the right to withdraw their child of any age from being taught the new curriculum on sex and sexuality whether it is taught as Sex Education, Relationships Education, Health Education or within any other subject. To enable this, the curriculum should be taught in specific, clearly-defined and timetabled classes, and not scattered across a variety of subjects or other school activities. Timetabling information for sex and sexuality teaching should also be freely available to parents.
If you live in an English constituency, please write to your own MP before Wednesday 20 March about these issues . It will be much more effective if you write in your own words, rather than sending them Barnabas Fund information. Your letter or email does not need to be long – just let your own MP know that you are very concerned. You may find it helpful to look at our guidance on how to communicate effectively, and prayerfully, with your elected representative. You can find your MP’s name and email address at https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/ or write to them by post at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.
If you know any member of the House of Lords, for example your bishop, write to them too. You can find the names and email addresses of members of the House of Lords here or write to them by post at the House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW.
What to pray
- Thank the Lord for all who wrote emails last week, for the response of the House of Lords committee and for the decision that the House of Commons will debate this Statutory Instrument.
- Pray for the meeting of the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee due to take place at 3.45 p.m. on Tuesday 19 March. Pray that the committee will recommend a debate in the House of Lords on this Statutory Instrument, and that, when the debate occurs, the Lords will reject the Statutory Instrument. Pray also for another meeting on the subject, earlier on the same day, which is open for any members of the House of Lords who wish to attend it.
- Pray for the motion to be debated in the House of Commons soon after Prime Minister’s Question Time on the afternoon of Wednesday 20 March. The subject of the debate is listed as “Draft Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations 2019”. Pray that either the MPs will vote to reject the Statutory Instrument so that it will not pass automatically into law or that the government will amend it to meet the concerns expressed above. It is nearly 50 years since the House of Commons last rejected a Statutory Instrument, but with God nothing is impossible.
- Pray that MPs and Lords alike will recognise the concerns of Christian and many other parents about the steady erosion of parents’ freedom to determine how to teach their children about morals, religious beliefs, sexuality and gender “in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions”. This freedom is guaranteed by the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights.
- Pray that they will also recognise the dilemma that will face Christian teachers and many other teachers who will be required by law to state that non-traditional parenting provides a positive nurturing environment for children, despite the fact that research shows that children flourish best when brought up in a traditional family i.e. with married mother and father. The Statutory Instrument makes no provision to protect teachers with a conscientious objection to teaching this (as there is for doctors and nurses with a conscientious objection to performing abortions). If passed into law, teachers could be disciplined for refusing to teach this, which might include barring them from the teaching profession.
How did we get here?
In 2017 Parliament passed the Children and Social Work Act, which made Relationships Education compulsory in all primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education compulsory in all secondary schools. Because both the main parties in Parliament agreed on this, the detailed regulations were handled as a Statutory Instrument (also called secondary legislation) which is not normally debated.
Due to the emails sent last week, the unusual step of debating the Statutory Instrument in the House of Commons will now take place.
What are the issues?
Some parents are concerned that the new curriculum will expose children to explicit material, including descriptions of sexual behaviours, which could sexualise them at an early age. While health-related guidance is helpful, given in an age-appropriate way, many parents will object to the fact that confused messages may be given to their children at a vulnerable age.
Christian parents and parents of other faiths may also object to materials and messages that contradict deeply held religious beliefs about marriage, sexuality and the binary nature of biological sex.
- The proposed new law will rule that when a child reaches the age of 15, the parents no longer have the right to exclude their child from sex education; the child themselves will make the decision.
- The proposed new law will rule that primary schoolchildren (aged 4 to 11) must be taught a positive view of non-traditional “families”, relationships and sexual identities as part of their Relationships Education curriculum. Parents have no right to exclude children from Relationships Education, only from Sex Education. So putting these subjects under Relationships Education will deprive parents of their rights to choose whether their child is taught these subjects. They could be fined for keeping their children away from school on days when these subjects are taught.
- The government recommendations state that the curriculum should be “integral throughout the programmes of study” i.e. not limited to specific subjects and teaching periods. This will make it virtually impossible for parents to shield their children from the teaching.
Three hundred years ago the then Attorney-General, Sir William Thompson, affirmed that parents have a “natural right of educating their children as they think proper” (House of Commons debate 7 January 1719). This right is now at grave risk.
Please pray and, if you live in England, write to your MP.
[i] “In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.” (First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, article 2 )