David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has said that his commission is ready to use its legal powers to protect the teaching of LGBT issues in the face of opposition from faith groups.
Describing the commission as a ‘strategic regulator,’ he explained: ‘We can’t support absolutely everybody, but we will take cases where we think it moves the law forward to protect human rights.’
His comments come as protests by mostly Muslim parents continue at several Birmingham schools and others around the country. Last week Birmingham City Council closed one of the schools, Anderton Park primary school, early for half term.
The decision was criticised sharply by local MP Jess Phillips who said it was contrary to the Equality Act and a response to the actions of ‘bullies and bigots’ – an extraordinary way to describe parents protesting against their children being taught things contrary to their faith.
My identity politics is good, yours needs to be banned.
Speaking to the Observer, Isaac expressed concern that identity politics in the UK has gone ‘too far’ and is ‘undermining empathy’ among the population. Certainly Phillips appears to have zero empathy for the ‘bullies and bigots’ she demonises merely for trying to raise their children in their faith.
But this does not appear to be the lack of empathy Isaac has in mind. Rather the opposite. It is the Muslims parents who are lacking empathy, it seems, by failing to show sufficient concern for LGBT people. And Isaac is prepared to use the full force of his commission’s legal powers to make them more empathetic – which he will do in a fulsome spirit of empathy, of course.
Describing himself as ‘a gay man, who’s been very involved in the LGBT movement,’ Isaac says that while ‘identity politics have been hugely important historically,’ all this school protesting business suggests that ‘identity politics has gone too far.’
It is not hard to read between the lines here to see the real message being conveyed. Identity politics was great for advancing the LGBT agenda, Isaac seems to be saying, but now that religious people want to use it to oppose that agenda it has gone ‘too far’. My identity politics is good, yours needs to be banned.
Despite being all too ready to step in with the coercive power of the state to put down social conservatives who dare protest, Isaac shows a staggering lack of awareness of the issues in this debate. He says it is ‘completely possible to teach the tenets of your faith in school, but at the same time say “that child over there has two mothers”. We are asking them to respect somebody else’s lifestyle choice or desire to love someone of the same sex.’
But Isaac should know that education in LGBT issues goes well beyond merely telling children that a child has ‘two mothers’ (and explaining how on earth that can come about). It also includes teaching children about the ins and outs of same-sex relationships, sometimes in graphic detail, and teaching children to accept and endorse them – including being encouraged to consider them for themselves.
Isaac says that the protests are ‘probably making some headteachers nervous about their commitment to teaching about minority [same-sex] families.’ He says that his job is to ‘remind people that the law is the bottom line.’
But what law is he referring to? There is no law against protesting – though we have seen in the case of abortion that progressives are all too willing to create one. And the right of parents to ensure their children are taught in line with their religious or philosophical convictions is enshrined in international treaties and domestic law.
There is no law against protesting – though we have seen in the case of abortion that progressives are all too willing to create one.
Progressives like Isaac and Phillips claim that teaching LGBT issues is required by the Equality Act, but in fact the Equality Act is clear that it does not apply to teaching in schools.
Furthermore, the law recognises that education in sexual ethics is particularly sensitive, which is why there are parental rights to withdraw children from it. While it is true that the new RSE regulations downgrade this right at secondary level, and muddy the whole area with ill-defined ‘relationships education’, still the uniquely controversial nature of the subject matter is reflected in the special provisions in the law.
Isaac’s high-handed attempt to crush the objections and concerns of parents only shows the intolerant turn that progressive ideology has taken.
In the end, the arguments being pushed by progressives like Isaac don’t stack up ethically or legally, and we wait to see what happens when these things finally come to court.
In the meantime, parents need to keep up the pressure on schools as it is clearly having an impact and getting progressives worried, which is why they are escalating their threats. More people also need to join in with the demonstrations so it does not get defined and dismissed as only a Muslim issue, when in reality it affects all of us.
With LGBT ideologues like David Isaac in key positions and with their fingers on powerful legal triggers, the battle for our freedom looks set to get nasty in the coming years.
(Dr Will Jones is a maths graduate with a PhD in political philosophy and author of Evangelical Social Theology: Past and Present [Grove, 2017]. He blogs at Faith and Politics)