Archive for the ‘Freedom of Conscience’ Category

postheadericon LGBT education push leaves Jews feeling forced out

LGBT education push leaves Jews feeling forced out

Jewish parents are warning that many families may leave the UK if the Government presses ahead with guidance covering same-sex relationships and gender reassignment. Members of the strictly Orthodox Haredi community now say that they would rather leave the country than see their children taught “alternative lifestyles”.

The Christian Institute has said the guidance “confuses respect for people (which is always right) with respect for beliefs or behaviour.” The advice for independent schools states they will not meet standards if they suggest “that same-sex marriages or civil partnerships should not be recognised as being lawful unions under civil law.”

But lawyers for one Jewish parent wrote to Damien Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education, to warn: “Many members of the community would choose to leave the United Kingdom for a more hospitable jurisdiction rather than comply with such an obligation to mention homosexuality or gender reassignment in a positive context at school.”

Ofsted is also insisting that the schools teach about homosexuality and transgender issues despite them holding opposing religious beliefs. The education watchdog’s head, Amanda Spielman, has accused Orthodox Jewish schools of “accommodating intolerance”.

Head teachers are seriously concerned. One, whose female pupils were subjected to intrusive personal questions about sex following a complaint from secularist campaigners Humanists UK, wrote to the Prime Minister to object. “It is hugely disappointing that a fringe pressure group can influence so-called independent bodies in this way. Our community has been targeted consistently and our staff and students are being intimidated by the deliberate disregard for cultural sensitivities.”

In 2017 Vishnitz Girls School faced the threat of closure for refusing to teach its young girls about transgender issues. Despite Ofsted describing the school as “clearly focused on teaching pupils to respect everybody, regardless of beliefs and lifestyle”, it failed the independent schools standards. And Rabbi Anthony Adler, from Beis Soroh Schneirer, said: “We teach our children British values such as the rule of law, mutual respect and tolerance, but we will not spell out alternative lifestyles.”

John Denning, Education Officer at The Christian Institute, said: “The Department of Education must respect the religious liberty of parents and the schools they choose to teach about moral issues in accordance with their faith. and not impose secular humanist values.”

 

Christian Institute 25th January 2019

 

postheadericon Church of England schools will include biblical marriage in sex education

Church of England schools will include biblical marriage in sex education

Church of England schools will promote biblical marriage within Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) lessons) its Chief Education Officer has said.

Revd Nigel Genders’ comments came in a blog post explaining the CofE’s response to the Government’s recent RSE consultation.

The consultation, which closed last month, asked for views on how RSE lessons could be improved.

‘Good gifts’

Genders said: “Healthy relationships and sex are good gifts from God and should bring joy”, before explaining that “the Christian understanding of marriage” is the context for sexual relationships.

He said that in Church of England schools, RSE “will be rooted in the teachings of the Church”.

He added that abstinence and celibacy should also be taught as “positive life choices”.

The Church’s consultation response also says that while biblical marriage is “the perfect context” for a sexual relationship, pupils should also be taught about different kinds of sexual relationships, and that different views on sex must be respected.

Church teaching

The Church of England’s official position on marriage, based on Genesis 2, says it is “a creation ordinance, a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace”.

CofE canon law on holy matrimony states: “marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children”.

Christian Institute – 15.3.18

 

postheadericon ‘British values’ agenda criticised by Bishop of London

‘British values’ agenda criticised by Bishop of London

Government efforts to promote ‘British values’ in schools could play a part in turning the State into an “ideologically driven Big Brother”, the Bishop of London has warned.

Speaking on Thursday, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, raised concerns over
the attempt to “enlist schools in the communication of ‘British values’ as a way of combating ‘extremism”’.

He suggested that the State should support religious freedom, but that it should not pry into everyday affairs.

Big Brother

“The business of the State is to ensure that the living traditions in our pluralist society have space
to flourish without the State itself being drawn into the role of an ideologically driven Big Brother, profligate with ever more detailed regulation”, he said.

In a message delivered at St Paul’s Cathedral, the Bishop touched on the issue of human rights and said that while an “insistence” on individual rights had been valuable, that now needed to be reassessed.

Schools in England have been required to “actively promote” British values since 2014.

Intrusive

Pressure from The Christian Institute, MPs and others forced the Government to issue new guidance to all schools setting out that it is respect for people – rather than their beliefs – that schools need to promote.

However, in its inspections Ofsted have subjected some children in faith schools to intrusive questions.

Now the Government is considering giving Ofsted the power to investigate non-school settings such as church youth work under the Conservatives’ British values drive.

Christian Institute 29th March 2016

 

postheadericon Ofsted Head’s comments on The Christian Institute

Ofsted Head’s comments on The Christian Institute

In a speech to Anglican school leaders today about ‘extremists’ who ‘pervert’ education, Chief  Inspector of Schools Amanda Spielman referred to The Christian Institute. As reported on the front page of today’s Times, she said:

“Rather than adopting a passive liberalism that says ‘anything goes’ for fear of causing offence, school leader should be promoting a muscular liberalism.” .

“It means not assuming that the most conservative voices in a particular faith speak for everyone – imagine if people thought the Christian Institute was the sole voice of Anglicanism. And it means schools must not be afraid to call out practices, whatever their justification, that limit young people’s experiences and learning in school.”

Just because you oppose theological liberalism doesn’t mean you also oppose democratic liberalism. There seems to be some confusion here.

Indeed we fear that some Ofsted inspectors will interpret the call for ‘muscular liberalism’ as a call for more aggressive secularism.

We genuinely hope that Ofsted will promote the Great British tradition of democratic liberalism.

At its heart such liberalism means the freedom to disagree.

The Christian Institute which is non-denominational – has been a strong critic of Ofsted. Perhaps that’s why we get a mention. We have disagreed with the way in which some Ofsted inspectors have gone about their work. For example demanding that Vishnitz – an Orthodox Jewish School – should be promoting transgender rights to five-year-olds. Anyone reading that inspection report will see how inspectors can be unhelpfully ‘muscular’.

There have also been cases of unprofessional conduct where inspectors have asked teachers their personal views on same-sex marriage.

Clearly there is a problem of religious literacy.

Social liberalism is a particular viewpoint, whereas the tradition of British liberalism is about the freedom to disagree. Ofsted inspectors need to know the difference.

Please pray for us as we respond to Ofsted.

Pray that the concerns of Christian parents and teachers will be heard.

Thank God that the Government has not backed giving Ofsted power to inspect Sunday schools

Colin Heart – Director of the Christian Institute

1st February 2018

 

 

postheadericon 245 million Christians suffering high levels of persecution

245 million Christians suffering high levels of persecution

A new report by Open Doors has revealed the extent of Christian persecution around the world. The 2019 report reveals the number of Christians experiencing high levels of persecution reached 245 million. Its annual World Watch List details the 50 countries where persecution is at its worst.

Open Doors estimates over 4,300 Christians were killed because of their faith over the last year, though the true figure is thought to be much higher, with friends and relatives said to be afraid to report killings. Most of these deaths occurred in North. and Central Nigeria, where 3,700 Christians were killed for their faith, including 1,885 in ‘genocidal’ acts in Plateau state.

Levels of persecution in Nigeria are categorised as ‘very high’, but despite the violence, the country is only twelfth on the World Watch List. Persecution is thought to be ‘extreme’ in eleven countries, including India, which overtakes Syria to make the top ten for the first time. In Asia an estimated 140 million Christians – one in three – are persecuted.

In the previous year’s report, around 215 million Christians were said to have experienced persecution across 58 countries, but they now experience high levels of persecution in 73 countries worldwide.

Persecution in China was said to be receding in 2017, but it is on-the rise-once again, with the country-jumping–
from 43 in last year’s list to 27 in 2019. President Xi Jinping has considerably tightened control of religious affairs in the last year, with new rules dubbed “the most restrictive in 13 years”.

CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland Henrietta Blyth said: “Our research uncovers a shocking increase in the persecution of Christians globally. “In China our figures indicate persecution is the worst it’s been in more than a decade – alarmingly, some church leaders are saying it’s the worst since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976.
“Worldwide, our data reveals that 13.9 per cent more Christians are experiencing high levels of persecution than last year. That’s 30 million more people.”

The report was presented to MPs at the World Watch List’s parliamentary launch yesterday. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “I think it is an extraordinary figure that almost a quarter of a billion people are suffering persecution today because of their Christian faith. “It is also extraordinary to think that’ 80 per cent of people suffering persecution because of their faith are Christian.” He said it should always be high on the list of priorities for Foreign Office ministers to raise the issue of persecution in countries where it is happening.

The Christian Institute – 18th January 2019

postheadericon Council backs faith school freedom in sex education

Council backs faith school freedom in sex education.

The Government has been urged to allow faith schools to teach sex education in accordance with their religious ethos by councillors in a London borough.

Barnet Council unanimously backed a motion calling for tolerance to be shown to people of faith.

The Government has just concluded a “call for evidence” on the new primary school Relationships Education subject, and on. secondary school Relationships and Sex Education. A full consultation will follow.         ;

‘Tolerance and understanding’

Cllr Brian Gordon, who put forward the motion, said: “In the same way children should be taught not to harbour prejudice and hatred and violent desires towards others, tolerance and understanding has to be shown towards people’s religions and their values.

“It is wrong, and I would say counter-productive, for faith schools to be penalised or marked down for failure to teach particular aspects of sex and sexuality counter to their religious ethos.”

Councillors from across all parties backed the motion.

‘Different types of relationships’

A spokesman for the Department of Education said it was important that sex education is taught in all schools and added: “Our guidance will support schools in ensuring that teaching is appropriate to the age and religious background of pupils.”

Ciaran Kelly, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, said: “It’s a welcome intervention, but the scope of Government proposals is not limited to faith schools or even to sex-ed. Relationships education will apply to all primary schools in England.

“Children as young as four will be taught about ‘different types of relationships’, which could include homosexuality, transsexualism and same-sex marriage. But the Government has said there will be no parental opt-out.”

The Christian Institute 22nd February 2018

 

postheadericon Govt confirms: Ofsted will not inspect churches

Govt confirms: Ofsted will not inspect churches

Churches will not be inspected as part of Government attempts to counter extremism, the Department for Education has confirmed. Under the approach first mooted by David Cameron, any setting which provided instruction to children for more than six hours a week could have been inspected by Ofsted,

But amid strong concerns from groups including The Christian Institute, and critical consultation responses, the Government confirmed it has dropped the plans. Some 18,000-people responded to the call for evidence in total, expressing doubts about Ofsted’s ability to inspect settings such as churches and questioning the vague ‘British values’ definition.

According to the official consultation report, 75 per cent of those who responded using the Government’s questionnaire said Ofsted should not be able to investigate out-of-school settings. “Respondents who disagreed with this question expressed concerns about Ofsted’s capacity, expertise and neutrality in dealing with such settings”, the document said.

Many of those who responded also warned that the “proposed policy would result in the state becoming a regulator of religious teaching”. And respondents said “existing laws are already in place to tackle issues raised in the call for evidence and therefore additional powers are not needed”.

The Government decided “not to pursue the model proposed in our call for evidence”, but instead to “develop further the evidence base for a national approach”. It said: “We believe it is equally important that we ensure any future system carefully takes into account the differences within such a diverse sector”.

In 2016, The Christian Institute, CARE, Christian Concern, Evangelical Alliance and Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship called for the Government to scrap its controversial out-of-school settings proposals. Colin’ Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said at the time: “Christians are justifiably alarmed at the prospect of Ofsted conducting ‘British values’ inspections of church youth work. “The freedom ‘to proclaim the Gospel, and indeed our wider civil liberties, must be protected, not undermined in the name of ‘counter-extremism’.

 

Christian Institute 12th April 2018

 

postheadericon Backlash after Ofsted’s ‘muscular liberalism’ push

Backlash after Ofsted’s ‘muscular liberalism’ push

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector is facing calls to resign following her inflammatory speech about faith schools. Amanda Spielman had called on schools to promote a “muscular liberalism” to ‘face down’ socially conservative views.

Her speech to a Church of England schools conference has come under fire from those who say such ‘liberalism’ is anything but liberal, and undermines free speech.

Alienation

Christians in Education’s Gill Robins said Spielman cannot “abuse her role as Chief Inspector of  Education, Children’s Services and Skills by imposing her views on society.”

Mrs Robins also noted that Ofsted’s motto is ‘Raising Standards, Improving Lives’, but asserted: “Lives are improved when people have the opportunity to determine their own beliefs, not have them inculcated by aggressive secular dogmatists.”

She added that Ofsted’s position will simply drive the real problems underground “whilst alienating vast tracts of a reasonable and balanced society”.

‘Totalitarian’

Dr Tom Rogers, of the Safe at School Campaign, said Spielman’s comments are “very sinister”, and threaten the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit.

He said: “It is not the role of the state to override parents and decide what is in the best interests of their children.

“She is effectively calling for schools to operate a totalitarian regime where there is no room for the voices of concerned parents to be heard.”

‘Dissent’

Dr David Landrum of the Evangelical Alliance also spoke out against the Ofsted chiefs speech.

He said: “Amanda Spielman talked about a liberalism strong enough to tolerate dissenting views, but then she goes on to criticise views that dissent from her own and they are not violent in any way”, adding, “that doesn’t seem like liberalism to me”.

Christian Institute 16th February 2018

 

postheadericon Justin Welby: I’m an extremist, according to the Govt’s definition

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the Government has a seriously flawed view of extremism that places Christians alongside extreme Muslim groups. Criticising ministers and civil servants for “religious illiteracy”, Justin Welby said many assume conservative Christian believers are “a bit bonkers”. The Archbishop also recounted a conversation where he told a politician that he was an “extremist” because he believed the “kingdom of God outweighs everything else”.

‘Trying to catch up’

He made the comments to leaders of Church of England schools as he considered the challenges they face. “The Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, our Government generally, is desperately trying to catch up, to understand a world in which they have no grip on what it is to be religious at all”, he said. The Archbishop added that the atmosphere in Whitehall is one “where religious illiteracy is prevalent” and where people fail to see “the difference between an extremist Muslim group like the Muslim Brotherhood and a sort of conservative evangelical group in a Church of England church”. “They assume they’re a bit bonkers”, he said.

Faith

He then described a conversation with a politician who questioned what could be wrong with the Government’s British values drive. The “very senior politician” said, “are you seriously going to tell me that I don’t call someone an extremist if they say that their faith is more important than the rule of law?” He responded: “So I took a deep breath and said ‘Well, you’ve got a real problem here because for me personally my faith is more important than the rule of law so you’ve got an extremist sitting in here with you.” He explained: “We do not believe as Christians that the rule of law outweighs everything else, we believe that the kingdom of God outweighs everything else.”

State-imposed orthodoxy

In 2015, Sir Edward Leigh MP warned that faith schools were “under attack from the forces of intolerance”, as he highlighted the treatment from Ofsted against several schools. Sir Edward argued that the schools’ regulator “appears to be guilty of trying to enforce a kind of state-imposed orthodoxy on certain moral and religious questions”. Ofsted came under fire after the introduction of new British values rules in 2014.

 

Christian Institute 9th November 2016

 

postheadericon Christians should be able to share their faith at work

Theresa May has said Christians should be able to speak about their faith in the workplace.

Responding to a question in Parliament today, the Prime Minister said the UK has a “very strong tradition” of “religious tolerance and freedom of speech”, and added that our “Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of’.

Fiona Bruce MP had raised concerns that many Christians are worried “about mentioning their faith in public”, after a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) hit out at organisations which suppress Christianity for fear of causing offence.

The Prime Minister agreed that the ability to ‘speak’ freely, respectfully and responsibly about one’s religion’ should be a ‘jealously guarded principle’.

She went on to say: “I am sure we would all want to ensure that people’ at work do feel able to speak about their faith, and feel able to speak quite freely about Christmas”.

The EHRC’s report, due to be published this week. hits out at organisations which discipline Christians or drop references to Christianity.

According to The Mail on Sunday, it references several cases where believers were treated unjustly, including that of Institute client Adrian Smith. Mr Smith was demoted for writing that gay marriage was ‘an equality too far’ on his private Facebook page,

One section is reported as saying: “There is no right in Britain not to be offended and. in our view, respect for people’s right to express beliefs with which others might disagree. is the mark of a democratic society.”

Deputy Director for Public Affairs at the Institute. Simon Calvert, responded to the report saying: “Christians have certainly felt that their fundamental freedoms have been set aside by the human rights and equality industry in recent years.

“It’s a relief to see the Commission stand up for freedom of religion as a fundamental right and recognise that it should not be suppressed through fear of offending.

But Mr Calvert insisted that the current law needs to be amended.

“We have long argued that equality law needs rebalancing so that courts have to take time to weigh up competing rights to see if both sides can be reasonably accommodated.

“Too often the courts come down strongly in favour of the secular liberal side of the argument.”

Christian Institute