Religious groups responding to the government’s plans to introduce statutory relationships and sex education from primary school onwards are campaigning against the idea of teaching same-sex marriage.
Some of these groups are also calling for lessons in how marriage can prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
Humanists have condemned such attitudes as an affront to the equality and dignity of all people.
The Department for Education’s consultation on the content of the relationships and sex education curriculum closed on Monday. This drew responses from campaigners, teachers and parents, as well as a range of religious groups.
While mainstream religious groups are in favour of statutory sex education, six organisations outside the mainstream have written to the government to express their opposition to the fact that the new relationships and sex education curriculum could include discussion of same-sex marriage and transgender issues.
The Coalition for Marriage, a predominantly Christian campaign group, said that primary-school children “are not able to critically assess complex adult sexual relationships, particularly same-sex marriage, and so neither these nor transgenderism should be taught.
“Instead we believe that parents are best placed to determine how and when young children encounter these concepts,” the response said.
The Coalition also claimed that current proposals involved making it mandatory to teach five-year-olds about such relationships. In fact, the government has proposed teaching primary pupils relationships education, focusing on self-esteem and the prevention of abuse. Parents will retain the right to withdraw children of all ages from lessons in which sex – rather than relationships – education is taught.
But other religious organisations felt that same-sex relationships were inappropriate classroom material for pupils of any age. The National Association of Jewish Orthodox Schools also appeared reluctant to include the word “sex”, in its response.
“There is no ‘age-appropriate’ way to teach primary or secondary school children about same-s marriage or transgenderism,” the organisation wrote. “We should be teaching young children broad values of respect and tolerance, not ordering them to accept adult s relationships which they are far too young to understand.”
Other organisations that spoke out against teaching about same-sex marriage included the anti-abortion campaign group Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and evangelical campaigners Christian Concern, as well as SREIslamic, a Muslim group founded by a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the Family Education Trust, an organisation with links to a number of evangelical Christian groups,
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The government’s consultation asked respondents to suggest what content would be appropriate to include in sex-education lessons.
SREIslamic suggested teaching the following to secondary pupils: “Why contraception does not safeguard people from sexually transmitted infections or stop pregnancy.”
Similarly, the Family Education Trust recommended that schools should teach pupils that avoiding sex outside marriage “is the surest safeguard against sexually transmitted infections and emotional harm.”
Jay Harman, of Humanists UK, called on the government to prohibit such teaching as “an anachronistic, discriminatory and unconscionable affront to the equality and dignity of all people”.
He added that it was not too long ago that governments in the UK and USA were facing similar arguments from opponents of interracial marriage.
*The Coalition for Marriage later stressed that it represented members of many different faiths and none, and that it used non-faith arguments to support its belief in marriage.
The Coalition also stated that its concerns around primary guidance concerned relationships education and were about “adult relationships being taught to children where the configuration of the relationships is based upon sexual preference”.