A Rotherham vicar is under investigation by the school where he is a governor after describing classes teaching children about LGBTI relationships as “state-sponsored child abuse”.
The Reverend Peter Hughes of St Alban’s Church in Wickersley has been condemned by local politicians after making the remarks in a three-page article in a parish magazine, where he also described Government plans for children to learn about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual relationships as part of compulsory lessons from September 2020 as a “form of child grooming”.
In remarks first revealed by the Rotherham Advertiser, his article stated in connection with teaching about transgender issues: “The UK government’s proposed Relationships and Sexual Education programme is nothing but state sponsored child 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 is a governor at St Alban’s CE Primary School in Wickersley, which is part of The Diocese of Sheffield Academies Trust. The school’s website lists him as the “designated governor for anti-bullying”.
A statement from executive headteacher Alison Adair said while Mr Hughes “is entitled to his views”, the school and the trust do not agree with them.
She said: “With regards to Rev Hughes’ position as a governor, there is a due process if we feel any governor has brought the school or academy into disrepute.
“That process has begun, which does of course include a full investigation before a decision is made.”
The statement also said: “We are fully behind the new Department for Education proposals around the new Sex and Relationships teaching curriculum; but as with any changes to our children’s education, we will inform and work with parents before the full implementation in 2020.”
Mr Hughes told The Yorkshire Post today he would not be commenting any further "until the investigations have run their course".
In the article, Mr Hughes also praised campaigners against LGBT teaching at a Birmingham primary school.
“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.”
Weeks of megaphone-led protests at Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham saw the council successfully apply for a High Court interim injunction, which banned demos outside the gates for the first time on Friday.
Demonstrators object to the school's use of particular relationship education materials, claiming the teaching is "over-emphasising a gay ethos".
Protesters have repeatedly referenced the use of two books; one about two male penguins who raise an egg, and another about a boy who wears a dress.
Labour MP Roger Godsiff has been reported to the party’s chief whip for telling protesters “you’re right” and that they had a “just cause”.
Mr Hughes’ article also makes 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.
Mr Hughes said: “Pupils all over the UK are being indoctrinated by culturally-Marxist ideology. The government makes no secret its aim is to use the education system to promote LGBTI lifestyles and identities.”
‘Cultural Marxism’ is based on a conspiracy theory 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.
In March, former minister Suella Braverman was criticised by The Board of Deputies of British Jews for saying in a speech: “As Conservatives, we are engaged in a battle against cultural Marxism.”
She subsequently met with the Board of Deputies to discuss her use of the phrase, with the organisation saying afterwards it had been a productive meeting and she “did not intentionally use anti-semitic language” and was “clearly a good friend of the Jewish community”.
Mr Hughes’ comments have also been criticised by Rotherham Council leader Chris Read.
Coun Read 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.
“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.”
The remarks have also been condemned by gay Liberal Democrat peer Paul Scriven, a former leader of Sheffield Council who spoke earlier this year in the House of Lords in favour of the new legislation by revealing how he contemplated suicide as a teenager and his hope the new lessons would help today’s LGBTI children avoid a similar situation.
He told the BBC that he believes Mr Hughes is a “fool”, whose opinions are “wrong and outdated”.
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.”
The DfE also says: “These subjects don’t ‘promote’ anything, they educate.
“Pupils should be taught about the society in which they are growing up. These subjects are designed to foster respect for others and for difference, and educate pupils about healthy relationships. RSE should meet the needs of all pupils, whatever their developing sexuality or identity – this should include age-appropriate teaching about different types of relationships in the context of the law.
“Pupils should receive teaching on LGBT relationships during their school years - we expect secondary schools to include LGBT content. Primary schools are enabled and encouraged to cover LGBT content if they consider it age appropriate to do so, but there is no specific requirement for this. This would be delivered, for example, through teaching about different types of family, including those with same sex parents.”