January 7, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As French Catholics prepare to mobilize on January 13 for a national march against the creation of homosexual “marriage,” the country’s education minister is warning Catholic schools against participating, claiming that it could cause “homophobia” against homosexual students.
National Education Minister Vincent Peillon has written a letter to all of the country’s 8,300 Catholic school principals, claiming that they have the responsibility to maintain “neutrality” regarding the debate over homosexual “marriage” in their institutions, according to reports by Le Monde and the French Press Agency.
“It is your responsibility in effect to ensure that the debates that are occurring in French society not be expressed, in the schools and establishments, by the phenomena of rejection and homophobic stigmatization,” wrote Peillon.
“I call you to the greatest vigilance regarding the conditions of the legitimate debate regarding marriage for all (…) notably in private establishments under contract,” he said. “It is therefore proper to call for restraint and neutrality within all of the institutions so that schools are not made the object of any manipulation.”
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Peillon also asks principles to inform him “as quickly as possible regarding eventual incidents and regarding any initiative contrary to these principles, within the public institutions as well as the private institutions under contract.”
Most private Catholic schools are regarded as “under contract” with the national government, which pays the salaries of the teachers, although the schools maintain their autonomy as private institutions.
French president Francois Hollande has made clear that he supports his education minister’s controversial statements.
“Secularism is a principle of the Republic” that “each one must protect,” said the country’s socialist leader, claiming that “there is a principle that appeals to the neutrality of the government and notably within educational establishments under contract…”
The government’s reaction comes in response to a letter sent by the Catholic bishops’ secretary of education, Eric de Labarre, to all Catholic school principles in December, urging them to permit students the “freedom” to act in response to the government’s proposed homosexual “marriage” legislation.
“Each school, middle school or high school can undertake the initiatives that seems to it to be locally most appropriate to permit each one to exercise an enlightened freedom regarding the choice which is today envisaged by the public power,” wrote Labarre.
Eduation minister Peillon reacted to Labarre’s letter, calling it a “mistake.” “It doesn’t seem opportune to me to import into the school the debate regarding marriage for everyone,” he told the French press.
“This letter risks more to support certain partisan and sectarian operations than the proposition of enlightened debates, even if he doesn’t clearly appeal to that,” said Peillon.
The French government’s threatening language has galvanized the growing opposition to the ruling party’s proposed homosexual “marriage” legislation, and has evoked bitter memories over a previous attempt by socialists to take over private schools in the mid 1980s, according to French social commentators.