Many parents in Britain believe it’s a case of “suffer little children” at the moment as new sex education legislation continues to make its way through Parliament.
I hadn’t planned on returning to this issue so soon, but pro-life, family and human rights groups warn there is a real danger that the Children, Schools and Families Bill, which the government says would mandate Catholic schools to teach pupils how to procure abortions, could be passed unless a concerted campaign is now mounted against it.
Campaigners of all three monotheistic faiths and others are deeply concerned the legislation, which would also include the teaching of divorce and same-sex relationships to primary school children aged seven to 11, could be rushed through Parliament in a “clearing up” procedure before Britain’s general election, expected in early May. The bill had its second reading in the House of Lords on March 8, and could go to the Lords committee stage before the end of the month.
During this week’s debate in the Lords, the distinguished Catholic peer, Lord Alton of Liverpool, spoke passionately about the bill being “a wholly unacceptable assault on the rights of conscience, beliefs, the integrity of religious foundations, and the integrity of families.” He added that the way the government has ignored parents’ concerns on such a sensitive matter “smacks of arrogance and the worst kind of nanny state,” and quoted the results of the government’s own consultation in which 68% of respondents voiced opposition to such sex education in the national curriculum.
“I cannot begin to tell the Minister how much anxiety this has engendered, and not just among Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Anglicans, who as a matter of conscience believe abortion to be the taking of an innocent life,” Lord Alton said.
Yet so far the bishops of England and Wales have been silent on the bill or actively supported it. The chairman of the Catholic Education Service, Bishop Malcolm McMahon, wrote a long article in the London Times last week without indicating any objection to the legislation. (Some Catholics are reportedly already discouraged after he said recently that people in same-sex civil partnerships should be able to be head teachers of Catholic schools.)
The CES’s director, Oona Stannard, insists the bill is a “positive step forward” and that Catholic schools would not be compelled “to promote abortion” under the legislation (despite Ed Balls, Britain’s education minister, saying recently that Catholic schools “must explain how to access abortion”). But even if Catholic school children are exempt, campaigners say other children will still be vulnerable to the promotion of lifestyles that are against the natural law.
The absence of opposition from the bishops, which some charitably think may be tactical, has led to prominent Catholics such as Lord Alton and respected priest bloggers to formally protest on behalf of the Church. It’s also been noted how laudably a Protestant campaign group, Christian Concern for Our Nation, has responded to the dangers of the legislation and its problems with regards to Home Schooling.
Some Catholics have taken the matter into their own hands and set up an online petition asking the bishops to speak out. So far it has attracted nearly 2,000 signatures.
Meanwhile, Catholics and other Christians in Britain will join together in a National Day of Prayer and Fasting (organized by the pro-life movement) on Monday March 14 to pray that the bill will be defeated. Campaigners are also urging those opposed to the bill to make their concerns known to peers and the Conservative Party, without whom the legislation cannot be rushed through parliament.
It just boggles the mind that people would think it necessary to teach 7-11 year old children how to procure an abortion. (Emphasis mine throughout.)