Pure Manhood: how to become the politician God wants you to be
It transpires that Roman Catholic Schools across Lancashire have been using a booklet written by a Roman Catholic theologian which includes a bit of Roman Catholic orthodoxy on human sexuality, and this apparently amounts to ‘homophobia’ or ‘gay hate’. The booklet is entitled Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be, by one Jason Evert, and it is reported to discuss ‘a boy dealing with "homosexual attractions" which it suggested may "stem from an unhealthy relationship with his father, an inability to relate to other guys, or even sexual abuse".’
Supplementing this outrageous homophobia with a bit of generalised sexophobia, the booklet ‘claims that "scientifically speaking, safe sex is a joke", explains that "the homosexual act is disordered, much like contraceptive sex between heterosexuals. Both acts are directed against God's natural purpose for sex – babies and bonding”.’
Well, this has got right up the nose of the TUC’s Brendan Barber who wrote to Mr Gove, reminding him that the Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination against individuals based on their ‘protected characteristics’ (which includes [in case you don’t yet know] their sexual orientation). He wrote: ‘Schools now have a legal duty to challenge all forms of prejudice. Such literature undermines this completely.’
Mr Gove apparently responded that the education provisions of the Equality Act 2010 do not extend to the content of the curriculum: any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, are not subject to the discrimination provisions of the act.
This might have been his initial reading; it might have been his understanding; it might have been his hope; it might even have been his legislative intention when he devolved curriculum matters to headteachers, parents and governors as part of his ‘free schools’ initiative. But as the Human Rights Blog correctly points out, the school curriculum is not exempt from the tentacles of the Equality Act: it is all pervasive, all invasive and all consuming – ‘A school is permitted to teach about whatever subject it likes, so as not to inhibit it from teaching about a wide range of issues, including, it would seem, controversial views about homosexuality. However, the school must still ensure that those issues are not taught in a way which subjects pupils to discrimination.’
Of course, if (as appears to be the case) Mr Evert is a Christian, it is highly likely that he would have presented these ‘controversial’ views in a sensitive and compassionate way. The problem is that Brendan Barber wouldn’t know ‘sensitive and compassionate’ if they hit him in the face. Anything which may be interpreted as ‘phobic’ or ‘hateful’ will most certainly be; and anyone who dissents from the orthodox creed of egalitarianism is a bigot. So Roman Catholics are no longer permitted to teach that even the inclination toward homosexuality is an ‘objective disorder’ because to do so amounts to ‘homophobia’ or ‘gay hate’.
Jason Evert is married to Crystalina (really), and together the run Chastity.com and also contribute to Catholic Answers. Being Anglican, His Grace doesn’t agree with them on everything, but he is certainly of the view that if they wish to go around schools teaching their moral and meta-ethical views about homosexuality, masturbation, pornography, birth control and chlamydia, they should be free to do so. It is for headteachers, parents and governors to determine the curriculum, and this was clearly Michael Gove’s legislative intention and understanding.
There is a curious and irreconcilable tension between the DfE’s Whiggish desire to devolve and liberalise (indeed, abolish) the Tory National Curriculum – encouraging free schools to forge their own – and the simultaneous desire to impose a form of National Curriculum on the vast majority of schools. There is a manifest contradiction in the assertion that an autonomous free school should have imposed upon it a standardised syllabus of sexual ethics. Mr Gove cannot have it both ways. Either one trusts parents and teachers or one does not. Either one is prescriptively imposing a centralised national curriculum or one is not.
Interestingly, Mr Evert wrote two versions of his book: there is a Pure Manhood for believers and a Pure Manhood ‘Secular Version for use in public schools’. Comparing the contents, the only difference appears to be the cover (unless all mention of God is expunged in the ‘secular’ version, but His Grace really can’t be bothered to fork out for either booklet, even though we are told both are ‘a priceless gift’). Perhaps Brendan Barber might like to see if the secular version is more to his liking. Since there is to be no new British Bill of Rights to sort out this dog’s breakfast, perhaps, like Eric Pickles, Michael Gove might like to ‘clarify’ educational subsidiarity provisions or ‘strengthen’ devolved curriculum matters in an Act of Parliament?