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Mother of six begs archbishop to reverse support for sex ed bill

23 February 2010

Mother of six begs archbishop to reverse support for sex ed bill London, 23 February 2010 - A mother of six, representing a leading pro-life group, has begged the Archbishop of Westminster to reverse his support for the government's sex education bill.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has called on MPs to vote against the Children, Schools and Families bill after Ed Balls, the schools secretary, declared today that schools must teach children how to use and access contraception and where to get abortion.

Mr Balls told the Today programme: "To have the support of the Catholic Church and Archbishop Nichols in these changes is, I think, very, very important." (See Notes for editors below for more quotes from Mr Balls today.) Mr Balls was rebutting claims that a widely-reported government amendment would water down sex education in faith schools.

SPUC has condemned that amendment as mere window-dressing Antonia Tully, mother of six school-age children, and co-ordinator of SPUC's Safe at School campaign, said: "We beg Archbishop Nichols, and other religious leaders, to back parents, whether Catholic or of other faiths, who refuse to allow their children to be subjected to what the government's bill demands. "Archbishop Nichols must say whether schools should do what Ed Balls demands  - tell children how to access abortion and where to get, and how to use, contraception. Or will the archbishop tell schools to resist - even though they may risk legal action, losing Ofsted accreditation, or even losing hard-won state funding? "SPUC urges all faith leaders to speak out in oppostion to Mr Balls' demands, assuring parents that this is not going to happen in their schools. Teachers and school governors need an assurance that their faith leaders will defend them when they refuse to be complicit in arranging abortions, promoting contraception or deceiving parents. "The legislation and guidance enforcing this have been drawn up with the advice and support of the Catholic Education Service (CES), headed by Oona Stannard. "Archbishop Nichols was chairman of the Catholic Education Service and Archbishop of Birmingham when that archdiocese drew up a sex education programme, with funding support from the government. That programme, "All that I am", included instruction for children in a wide range of contraceptives, including many believed to induce early abortions. Will he now have that programme withdrawn?" concluded Mrs Tully. John Smeaton, SPUC national director, is writing to Archbishop Nichols calling on him to reverse the support of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales for the bill. SPUC has campaigned for many years against the promotion in schools of abortion and abortifacient birth control, which is a principal aim of the sex education lobby. Notes for editors: Mr Balls said on the Today programme (our emphases in bold): * "If you are currently a Catholic school ... you could choose to teach only to children that contraception is wrong, homosexuality is wrong. That changes radically with this bill." (at 06:30 mins) * "A Catholic faith school can say to their pupils we believe as a religion contraception is wrong but what they can't do is therefore say that they are not going to teach them about contraception to children, how to access contraception, or how to use contraception. What this changes is that for the first time these schools cannot just ignore these issues or teach only one side of the argument. They also have to teach that there are different views on homosexuality. They cannot teach homophobia. They 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." (from 07:20 to 08:47 mins) * "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." (at 09:05 mins) * "[Catholic schools] cannot teach that homosexuality is wrong and that therefore it is OK to discriminate on homosexuality" (at 10:42 mins) * "[T]he Catholic Church, which I really welcome, is supporting, for the first time, compulsory sex education with an opt-out at 15" (at 12:25 mins) (N.B. Mr Balls knows that the opt-out i.e. parental right to withdraw children from SRE classes, ends at 15, not starts. Also, no child of any age will be able to withdraw themselves from SRE.) In a letter from Mr Balls in today's Times among other things he says (our emphases in bold): "[S]tatutory lessons on sex and relationship education...includes education about contraception and the importance of stable relationships, including marriage and civil partnerships. It will not allow the teaching of homophobia. All maintained schools and academies will be required to teach the full programmes of study. This includes promoting equality and encouraging acceptance of diversity ... The bottom line is that...discrimination is prevented in all schools."


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