Comment On: Michael Gove, LGBT Rights and "Pure Manhood"

24th February 2012

By: Peter Purton - LGBT Office, TUC

The question as to whether schools are allowed to teach that being LGBT is bad, at the same time as they are obliged by the Equality Act (and in particular the public sector equality duty) to prevent discrimination and promote good relations, has been exposed as a real conflict by the recent correspondence between the TUC and Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education.

The TUC had been alerted to the fact that a booklet (“Pure manhood”) and its author, Jason Evert, had been touring Catholic schools in the North West. The minister’s reply, in our view, failed to apply the law correctly, and even more importantly left it open to schools to continue to promote such publications. The TUC has written to him again to explain that a publication that preaches (as it does) that homosexuality is “disordered”, alongside many other utterly discredited and dangerous assertions (“scientifically speaking, safe sex is a joke”), cannot but promote ignorant and prejudiced views and will inevitably lead to the bullying and harassment of anyone who is, or is perceived to be, different (including staff as well), that is in direct opposition to other Government policy on eliminating homophobic bullying. 

The TUC, and the education unions, hope that the Minister will recognise that there is this contradiction in the policies, will see the need to clarify it by advising schools on the correct interpretation of the law, and will reject the counter-argument being voiced in various publications that freedom of religion requires that these views be promoted. 

There are plenty of faith schools that succeed in promoting a message of acceptance and respect without compromising their ethos. But the examples from Lancashire demonstrate that there is a continuing problem, and that this confusion on the meaning of the Equality Act must be addressed.