By Edward Pentin
LONDON, FEB. 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Britain’s House of Commons is set to vote on legislation this week that would introduce a program of sex education to primary school children from as young as 5 years of age.
The “Children, Schools and Families Bill” also contains many other clauses which, critics say, is not so much a denial of Catholic teaching “as a whole uprooting of the natural law relationship between parents, children and the state.”
The bill, which Members of Parliament will vote on Tuesday, is causing widespread concern among United Kingdom priests and laity who see it as further erosion of legitimate freedoms. As most U.K. Catholic schools are state funded or maintained, the bill also threatens to erode the Catholic identity of these schools.
The legislation, which one priest called “terrifying,” would mandate all state schools, including state-funded faith schools, to not only teach sex and relationship education (SRE), but also include signposting and links to abortion and other services opposed to life and the family.
Critics say schools would be forced to teach SRE according to principles of “equality,” “diversity” and “rights,” which are interpreted by the government to include abortion, birth control, homosexuality and “a wide range of sexual practices.” They may also have to prove their SRE programs accord with the bill’s principles and that they had “regard” for the government’s sex education program.
The government insists faith schools are entitled to protect their ethos, but it remains unclear how much the government will mandate faith schools to accept its sexual health agenda. Advocacy groups such as the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) say that even though schools may adapt “the way things are taught,” the government will nevertheless insist that all aspects of SRE will have to be delivered in all schools.
“There can be no doubt the government will use the bill, if passed, to promote abortion in schools,” said John Smeaton, SPUC’s director. “The bill’s principles will be used to ensure that pro-abortion propaganda dominates the content of sex education.”
“Equality” and “diversity,” he said, “will be used to suppress opposition to abortion” and the abolition of parents’ right to withdraw older children from sex education classes “will ensure that no child leaves state schooling without having been brainwashed with a pro-abortion mentality.”
Parents can request to withdraw their children from SRE lessons, but once their children reach the age of 15 they will not be able to do so. Critics note that this age falls below the legal age of consent in the U.K. which is 16. Currently, parents have the right to withdraw their children from sex education classes throughout the years of their compulsory education, although those opposed to the bill say the process is “messy.”
People of other faiths and non-believers have joined in protesting the legislation’s threat to natural law.