By Hilary White

LONDON, February 24, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The House of Commons voted 68 to 177 last night to pass third reading of the government’s sex-education bill in a vote that pro-life and pro-family advocates have called “deplorable.”

Under the bill, schools, both religious and secular, will be required to give children information on homosexual relationships as well as artificial contraception and abortion. The government has confirmed that these programs will specifically include information for children on how to obtain abortions and contraceptives.

Under current rules, parents have the right to withdraw their child from sex and relationship education (SRE) classes up until the age of 19. But the bill will lower that to 15, ensuring that students receive at least one year of sex-education. The BBC notes that currently, only 0.04 per cent of parents use the opt-out.

The bill now goes to the House of Lords.

While the bill has been called “controversial,” the controversy in the media has focused on a promise made by the government, with an amendment, that religious schools could teach the new sex-ed curriculum according to their religious “ethos.”

After an outcry by the homosexualist lobby and secular humanist organizations, the bill’s principle supporters, the government quickly backpedalled, assuring the public that the amendment was not an opt-out for faith schools.

This week, while his department issued a public statement to confirm, Children’s Minister Ed Balls told media that the amendment will not change the requirement of Catholic and Anglican schools to promote abortion, contraception, “civil partnerships” and homosexuality as “normal and harmless.”

Even with the amendment, Balls told the BBC, religious schools “must explain civil partnership. They must give a balanced view on abortion, they must give both sides of the argument, they must explain how to access an abortion, the same is true on contraception as well.”

The BBC reports that with 1/3 of Britain’s schools being faith schools, the government is aware that the support and cooperation of both the Church of England and the Catholic Church is crucial to the success of the programs.

This support has been assured by the Catholic Education Service (CES), which helped draft the bill and has defended it against criticisms from parent groups and pro-family advocates. CES claimed credit for the tabling of the faith schools amendment that pro-life and family groups have called “worthless” and Ed Balls himself said would change nothing.

On a BBC radio program Balls specifically thanked Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, the head of the Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales, and the Catholic Education Service for their support of his bill.

“To have the support of the Catholic Church and Archbishop Nichols in these changes is, I think, very, very important, is a huge step forward.”
 
Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn children, which has lobbied heavily against the bill, said last night, “This is a dire result for school-children and for unborn children who are in the firing-line of this bill.”

Tully said that Balls had made it clear that the government’s intention was to force all schools, regardless of religious “ethos,” to teach children how to use and where to obtain birth control and abortions.

“These are the key ‘advertising’ messages that the pro-abortion lobby is fighting to have promoted throughout the education system – where children can be influenced and corrupted without parental guidance or protection.”

SPUC has been heavily critical of the involvement of CES, saying that the bishops’ education group has been complicit in creating anti-life and anti-Catholic legislation, that will usher in a new “totalitarianism,” suppressing religious freedoms.

Greg Hurst, writing in the opinion pages of the Times, added that the sex-education bill was all about boosting Labour’s reputation in time for the upcoming general elections, in which Gordon Brown’s Labour party is widely expected to lose. The point of such legislation, Hurst wrote today, is to continue the already massive socialist re-adjustment of Britain.

“Labour politicians want to entrench a change in social attitudes regardless of who wins. Leaving behind a more liberal Britain would be part of Labour’s legacy of achievements. If there were to be a change of government, their successors would have to live with such changes or risk looking reactionary by unpicking them one by one.”

A media release from the Department of Children Schools and Families (DCF) described the kind of cooperation that is expected from Britain’s faith schools, citing a Catholic school in Bedford as a good example.

St. Thomas More school, the DCF said, has developed a “successful balance” between the “faith ethos” and the sex education curriculum. The school teaches that restricting sex to marriage is “the ideal” but it “explicitly recognises the reality that some young people may choose to be sexually active” and will need contraception and abortion.

“The school nurse provides students with clear accurate information” on contraception and “details of local services.” These include “pregnancy options” that include abortion, which is “discussed in a non-judgemental way.”

Paul Tully remarked, “Many people will be especially appalled that both the National Society of the Church of England and the education service of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference have endorsed the provisions of the bill. Mr. Balls made much of the support for the bill by Archbishop Nichols, and we have called upon the Archbishop, and other faith leaders to reconsider their support even at this late stage.”


To contact the Department of Catholic Education and Formation
Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales:
39 Eccleston Square
LONDON SW1V 1BX
Tel: 020 7901 4829
Fax: 020 7901 4821
Email: grace.applewaithe@cbcew.org.uk