CARDIFF, May 11, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An anti-Christian lobby group is cheering the Welsh government this week, after the education minister threatened Catholic Schools for having asked students to oppose the government’s gay “marriage” plans.

Catholic schools in Wales have been instructed in a letter from Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews to ensure that on the subject of same-sex “marriage,” students are “made aware of the converse view in order to give them a balanced perspective.”

At issue is a letter sent by the Catholic Education Society (CES) to 385 secondary schools in England and Wales alerting students to a letter from bishops opposing the redefinition of marriage to include homosexual partnerings. Students and staff were asked to consider signing a petition being circulated by the Coalition for Marriage, to maintain the traditional definition in the law.

The bishops’ letter was read publicly from the pulpits of Catholic churches throughout England and Wales in March, but Andrews said that asking the students and staff of schools to consider signing a petition supporting traditional marriage could be a violation of the Education Act that forbids direct political campaigning in schools.

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Andrews said he took legal advice and was told “the Archbishops’ letter merely expressed support for preserving the current legal situation and did not contain homophobic statements.”

“I am advised that the correspondence and related actions of the CES do not breach the Act. Whilst schools are free to employ the materials provided as suggested, it is incumbent on them to do so in a balanced way.”

“Whilst the on-line petition is not directly related to a party political matter it could be seen as relating to political matters generally as the petition seeks to lobby the current Westminster Government to prevent a change in the law.” 

Andrews also said it was “unfortunate” that the CES had failed to make clear that only students over 16 were eligible to sign the Coalition for Marriage petition. The CES has since re-written its material to clarify the point.

Andrews’ statement comes in response to a complaint made by the anti-Christian campaign group the National Secular Society who wrote to Andrews and to national education secretary Michael Gove. The NSS said they received an immediate response from Nick Gibb, the Minister of State for Schools at Westminster, who said that the education department is “taking the matter seriously.”

Andrews wrote to the NSS, saying, “Opposing a proposed change in the law could itself be considered to be a political act. I have therefore written to all the Roman Catholic secondary schools in Wales reminding headteachers and governing bodies of their duty and responsibilities.”

Under the Education Act 1996, schools must “take whatever reasonably practical steps are necessary to ensure that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.”