Rotherham vicar quits as school governor after calling LGBTI lessons 'state-sponsored child abuse'

A Rotherham vicar has resigned as a primary school's 'anti-bullying' governor after describing classes teaching children about LGBTI relationships as "state-sponsored child abuse".

St Alban's Primary School in Wickersley. Picture: Google Maps

The Reverend Peter Hughes of St Alban’s Church in Wickersley made the comments in a three-page article in a parish magazine, where he described Government plans for children to learn about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual relationships are part of compulsory lessons from September 2020 as a “form of child grooming”.

He has now quit his role as a governor at St Alban’s CE Primary School in Wickersley, part of the Diocese of Sheffield Academies Trust, after an investigation was launched into whether his remarks had brought the school into disrepute.

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His comments caused a furore and were strongly criticised by local politicians, including the leader of Rotherham Council Chris Read, but were defended by the conservative fellowship the Church Society.

St Alban's Church in Wickersley. PIcture: Google Maps.

Executive headteacher Alison Adair confirmed today that Mr Hughes, who was the ‘designated governor for anti-bullying’, decided to leave his post at the school earlier this month.

“Reverend Peter Hughes, having received our formal allegations, took the decision to resign from his role as governor,” she said.

“Reverend Hughes in his resignation letter expressed deep regret for the unwelcome attention the school received and the distraction caused.

“The school accepted his resignation immediately but also formally recorded our appreciation for the seven years of unwavering support he had given the school in his time as governor.”

Mr Hughes said he had “no comment” when asked by The Yorkshire Post about his decision to resign and whether he stood by the comments he had made in the parish magazine.

His article had stated in connection with teaching about transgender issues: “The UK government’s proposed Relationships and Sexual Education programme is nothing but state-sponsored abuse.”

It added: “This sexual indoctrination of young children prepares them for early sexual experimentation, normalises it and, in doing so, opens the door to sexual predators.”

Mr Hughes also praised campaigners against LGBT teaching at a Birmingham primary school. Weeks of megaphone-led protests have taken place outside Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham.

“The UK media were desperate to portray the reasonable, mainly Muslim parents as homophobic bigots,” he said. “Meanwhile, Christian parents, duped by the seductive language, meekly acquiesce to this new programme of state indoctrination.

“Christian parents need to follow the example of our Muslim neighbours and insist on their basic human right to have their children educated accorded to their own beliefs.”

Mr Hughes’ article also made repeated claims that the new lessons are being advocated by proponents of “cultural Marxism” - a term Conservative MP Suella Braverman was criticised for using earlier this year as it references a conspiracy theory associated with the far-right and anti-semitism.

'Cultural Marxism’ is based on the idea that the ideas of Marxist scholars in inter-war Germany, several of whom were Jewish, are being adopted by current policy-makers to undermine traditional western society and values.

The phrase was used repeatedly in the manifesto of far-right terrorist Anders Breivik. Its use has become more mainstream in recent years through the likes of author and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson as a way of describing left-wing ideology.

Mr Hughes’ comments were criticised by Rotherham Council leader Chris Read, who said “this is a deeply alarming article which would be more at home in the darker corners of internet conspiracies than in a church magazine in 2019”.

“It is misleading in its interpretation of the law, confuses gender and sexual orientation and relies on the classic homophobic slur that gay and lesbian people are any more likely to be connected to child abuse than anyone else is,” he said.

“When we are all working hard to keep our children safe, such nonsense can only heighten the risk of genuine harm. Ironically, you can only conclude that the fact that such blinkered views could be promoted by anyone in a position of responsibility today only means that educating children safely and responsibly with age appropriate information is even more important now.”

But the Church Society said his article “reflects the very real concerns of Christian parents, educators, and clergy all over the country”.

A spokesman added: “Church Society is working to support and encourage those who stand against the intolerance of the LGBT activists in our schools.”

In April, Education Secretary Damian Hinds wrote to headteachers to say it is up to primary schools what they teach children about same-sex relationships.

Department for Education guidance on the RSE programme states: “The subjects are designed to help children from all backgrounds build positive and safe relationships, and to thrive in modern Britain.

“In all schools, when teaching these subjects, the religious background of pupils must be taken into account when planning teaching, so that topics are appropriately handled. Schools with a religious character can build on the core content by reflecting their beliefs in their teaching.

“There is no right to withdraw from Relationships Education at primary or secondary as we believe the contents of these subjects – such as family, friendship, safety (including online safety) – are important for all children to be taught.”