Catholic schools in Wales were in breach of the law when they read out a anti-gay marriage letter from a religious education group to pupils as young as 11, claimed Education Minister Leighton Andrews.
The Welsh government has reminded Catholic Education Services (CES) that schools should give a ‘balanced perspective’ when discussing same-sex marriage. The intervention comes after the CES invited schools to ask pupils to sign a petition opposing gay civic marriage laws.
Education Minister Leighton Andrews said that the CES campaign was political.
“Whilst the petition itself is not directly related to a party political matter it does in my view relate to political matters generally as the petition is seeking to persuade people to lobby the Westminster government to prevent a change in the law,” Mr Andrews wrote, reminding CES of their legal obligations under the Education Act 1996.
“These provisions require that head teachers and governing bodies must not allow the pursuit of partisan political activities by any registered pupil who has not reached the age of 12 and must not allow the promotion of such views in any subject taught,” Mr Andrews added.
“I trust you will ensure that if your pupils have been made aware of this correspondence they will also be made aware of the converse view in order to give them a balanced perspective.”
The CES was encouraged by the Catholic Church to forward the text written by Archbishops Vincent Nichols and Peter Smith which had been read out during masses in March.
The CES has now issued new guidelines to its schools to remind them that children under the age of 16 cannot sign the online petition.
A statement on its website added: “The Catholic Church’s view on the importance of marriage is a religious view, not a political one.”
The coalition government is expected to formally announce plans to introduce gay marriage when it sets out its legislative agenda for the coming parliament tomorrow.
While the plans have the backing of the leadership of all three main political parties in Westminster, the government has faced fierce opposition from some religious groups and backbench Tory MPs.
News category: World.