Opinion: It is time to pick a fight and show we are serious about institutionalised faith based homophobia

At the next general election Liberal Democrats should look forward to being able to point to the introduction of same sex marriage as a Liberal Democrat achievement. Although the move is supported by some Conservatives, it has only happened because of Lib Dem pressure.

That the Party has made the issue such a high priority, especially when working with a conservative Party, helps to communicate to the public how much we care about equality for LGBT people, and is something that we should be able to draw collective pride. However, the Government is still failing in its commitment on page 29 of ‘The Coalition: our programme for Government’ (pdf) to  “… tackle bullying in schools, especially homophobic bullying.”

Only yesterday it has been revealed that the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales has written to all state funded secondary Catholic schools asking them to draw pupils’ attention to a recent letter by senior archbishops that told Catholics it was their “duty” to oppose gay marriage, and to draw their attention to an online campaign petition opposing civil marriage equality.

This comes on top of the recent revelation concerning the inaction of central Government to counter homophobic material being promoted in schools, after it was revealed that a Catholic school in Lancashire distributed a booklet suggesting “homosexual attractions” may “stem from an unhealthy relationship with his father, an inability to relate to other guys, or even sexual abuse”, and that “the homosexual act is disordered, much like contraceptive sex between heterosexuals”. I guess we should be grateful at least that it didn’t blame it on baldness.

Homophobia is known to be worse within the faith school sector, yet the actions of the Catholic Education Service show a shocking disregard for the condition of LGBT people, many of whom have a concealed miserable experience at school. If the Government wants to show that standing up for the dignity of LGBT people is something of substance, not symbolism, then it needs to pick a fight with institutionalised faith based homophobia in our schools. Otherwise any commitment to tackle homophobic bullying in schools risks becoming meaningless.

Although schools might teach about a range of religious and cultural perspectives surrounding matters of sexual diversity and gender, they should have a duty to promote an acceptance of sexual diversity and transgendered people that should trump all other considerations, and it should be embraced with enthusiasm. Instead, some state funded schools are currently being used by a religious group to actively undermine and stop the Government’s current attempt to give lesbian, gay and bisexual people equality under the law. To try and politicize and make children prejudiced in this way is a gross abuse of power and public funds.

We are two years into coalition and the Government has yet to demonstrate in policy terms what its commitment to tacking homophobia in schools entails, and if is serious about LGBT equality, then it should rebut the recent action of the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales, and if it won’t then Liberal Democrats should.

* Paul Pettinger is a (straight) Party member of 20 years, as well as a former school governor, District Councillor and Party SAO employee.

* Paul Pettinger is a member in Westminster Borough and sits on the Council of the Social Liberal Forum.

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  • “That the Party has made the issue such a high priority, especially when working with a conservative Party, helps to communicate to the pubic how much we care about equality for LGBT people …”

    Now that’s what I call a Freudian slip!

  • LondonLiberal 26th Apr '12 - 2:34pm

    while the issue is important, there are much more politically salient issues to pick a big fight with the tories on. the lack of a growth strategy, the scale and pace of defitcit reduction, the housing crisis, to name but three (or one, as they are so interrelated).

    i agree with the fight bit, but not the choice of issue!

  • …they should have a duty to promote an acceptance of sexual diversity and transgendered people that should trump all other considerations, and it should be embraced with enthusiasm.

    I don’t see it as any of this party’s business what different religions teach in relation to sexual ethics. If a church school wants to teach that sex outside traditional marriage is wrong, I really can’t see what role the state has in imposing its life-style beliefs on people that believe the opposite.

  • A school has many roles Jim, but none of them is to do active and premeditated harm to its pupils.

  • Richard Dean 26th Apr '12 - 2:52pm

    It sometimes seems like heterophobia is becoming rather prevalent as well!

  • A family friend currently doing her PGCE to teach physics and maths is doing a placement in a state funded Catholic school and were pretty shocked and appauled when they were told they should be using maths to draw out ‘moral lessons’.

  • jenny barnes 26th Apr '12 - 3:21pm

    “It sometimes seems like heterophobia is becoming rather prevalent as well!” What had you in mind? The way heterosexual relationships are routinely denigrated? The way schoolchildren say “oh that’s so heterosexual” when they mean something is rubbish, useless, etc.? The way heterosexual partnerships are considered to be second best, and not allowed by religious organisations?
    Or do you mean that the idea that LGBT folk being human beings just like cis/hetero folks upsets your privileged existence in some way? Do tell.

  • “If a church school wants to teach that sex outside traditional marriage is wrong, I really can’t see what role the state has in imposing its life-style beliefs on people that believe the opposite.”

    I think the post is mainly addressing what happens in state-funded schools. Perhaps it’s an unfashionable view these days, but I do believe the state has a role in determining what happens in state-funded schools.

  • When a religion’s teaching on sexuality and gender identity actively contributes to disproportionately high rates of mental health problems and suicide, it absolutely is the business of all parties. The shadow of Section 28 still hangs heavily over secular schools – to have a *higher* rate of anti-LGBT bullying is quite an achievement, requiring nothing short of actively fostering an environment where demonising LGBT people is considered acceptable and even virtuous. If an organisation can’t protect its LGBT students, it has no business acting as an education provider.

  • I am somewhat surprised by Richard’ comment.

  • +1 for @Jenny Barnes comment.

  • Richard Church 26th Apr '12 - 5:06pm

    @ Jim “I don’t see it as any of this party’s business what different religions teach in relation to sexual ethics”.

    It absolutely is this party’s business when homophobia is being promoted through church schools funded with your money and my money as taxpayers. Even if the schools were entirely private fee-paying schools, it still ought to be our business if young gay people are trapped in schools with a culture of homophobic bullying.

  • Richard Dean 26th Apr '12 - 5:10pm

    I think this article is ignorant of some facts. While some people may have their sexual preferences determined by genetics, isn’t it an established fact that sexual preferences for most people are very much influenced by their environment? For example, it used to be a rather trite comment that public schoolboys tended to show higher than average levels of gay behaviours and higher than average levels of guilt about sex. People used to recognize that the environment of a single-sex public boarding school tended to do that to people.

    As adults, we design the environments that our children grow up in. Schools are one such environment, and it is in school years that chldren first learn about sexuality and start to develop preferences. Children don’t become the fixed ” lesbian, gay and bisexual people ” until they have made their choices, and this means that the way we design their environments has a major influence on those choices. So the real question is not how to liberate children who “are” LGB people – such children don’t really exist until later in life! The question is (a) what directions of choice do we want to encourage our children to take, and (b) how do we then design an environment to encourage those directions?

    The adults who operate faith-based schools have made one choice, and it is consistent with liberalism to allow them to do that. It is also consistent with liberalism to regulate those choices in such a way that those schools do not actively prevent pupils from making different choices, such as by allowing bullying, inducing guilt, etc, and it is boithe liberal and democratic to prevent them from “actively undermining” free choice. It is definitely not consistent with liberalism to force children to take on board complex and potentially confusing concepts including LGBT before they are properly able to appreciate them or the implications for their own lives.

    In summary, let’s not replace the old homophobic hell with a new heterophobic hell!

  • “homophobia is being promoted through church schools” and your proof is?

  • “Children don’t become the fixed ” lesbian, gay and bisexual people ” until they have made their choices”

    Just out of curiosity, may I ask how old you were when you made the choice to be heterosexual?

  • Richard Denn “isn’t it an established fact that sexual preferences for most people are very much influenced by their environment? ”

    Care to provide any references for this “established fact”?

  • Richard Dean 26th Apr '12 - 6:53pm

    Hildegard – sorry, no, I don’t know them. That indeed was why I asked a question rather than made an assertion. Perhaps someone else can help with references? I am as old as the hills, well, young hills! I remember the furious debates of several decades ago when the idea that homosexuality was a genetic defect that could be treated in society by genetic selection was being challenged. I even remember the nasty genetic ideas and experiments of Adolph Hitller. Society has come a long way since then, but we would be going too far if we end up creating an opposite hell.

  • jenny barnes 26th Apr '12 - 7:17pm

    Just suppose, for a moment that homosexuality and transexuality were a choice, rather than in some sense fixed. By analogy, you could say, to religion – after all, no-one claims that their religion is genetically determined. But – we’ve learnt through many centuries that discriminating against people on the basis of their religion is not a good thing to do. And it’s clear that religious people, once they have their minds set in a particular way, don’t find it easy to change – and why should they. Is there any rational reason to discriminate against LGBT people in this case? You don’t like someone else’s perfectly reasonable choices that don’t affect you?
    Anyway – I think it’s quite clear that the culture in general is fairly discouraging for LGBT’s – Nearly every story with a marriage in it is a hetero/cis one. We have a duty to protect our children from bullying; and telling them that their choices, and potential choices, are unacceptable by “setting up an environment” is quite a nasty thing to do. How much bullying of LGBT’s do you think is ok? How many suicides do you want?

  • Richard Dean 26th Apr '12 - 7:32pm

    Is the problem of bullying really one of sexuality? It’s a long time ago, but I seem to remember bullies operating at one of the schools I attended at age 6!

  • Andrew Turvey 26th Apr '12 - 8:33pm

    The tone of this debate makes me despair. Liberal Democracy should be about tolerating different lifestyles and finding an accommodation. I wish people supporting LGBT rights and people trying to live a religious lifestyle could at least try to talk, understand and respect each other. “Picking a fight” – in your words – will only increase alienation, radicalisation and, possibly, increase the acceptability of homophobia in certain communities.

    Perhaps you don’t realise – we’re living in a post-religious society now. They are also a minority!

  • It might help if this site showed some of the positive Christian contributions to this debate. Just this week there has been positive contributions from amongst other quarters Anglican Bishops. Some of us within the wider Christian church have been pushing for equality for years. It’s a bit disheartening when only those on the other side of the argument get noticed and we get tarred with their brush…

    We don’t need to pick fights, we do need to highlight outdated and bigoted attitudes and behaviours. Some of these bigots want a fight, let’s win with reasoned and reasonable debate…

  • Richard Dean 26th Apr '12 - 9:39pm

    @Jenny Barnes. Sorry, I think I may have misled you by a typo. In my third paragraph, by ” have made one choice” I meant that the faith-based schools had come to one acceptable decision about part (a) of my qiuestion, ie.the directions they wanted to encourage. I agree that, if they anser part (b( by promoting bullying and homophobia, then their solution is not acceptable. I think you can probably see that the rest of the paragraph is consistent with this.

    Victims of bullying and suicide are not confined to LGBTs, and I imagine that some LGBTs are even bullies themselves. The problem of child and youth stress is wider and more compex. My first memory happens to be of being bullied, at age 6 so nothing to do with LGBT choices at all. My second is of discussing with my father what to do about it. Not all choices are concious of course, and not all environments are hostile.

    Hoping this helps to reduce the temperature, as per Andrew Turvey’s sound advice

  • What an depressing mess we’re in when it’s even possible to discuss whether it’s acceptable for state-funded schools to preach prejudice and bigotry.

  • I don’t see the party are picking a fight, rather than some churches are picking a fight with government. It is perfectly reasonable for government to require state schools, secular and faith based, to teach particular things. Indeed, it is perfectly reasonable for government private schools to meet certain standards as well.

    Even what ministers preach in church is covered by laws on incitement.

    Whether sexuality is genetic or a choice makes no difference – there is no reason for the state to prefer one outcome or the other. No form of bullying is acceptable. The more we can oppose it, in all forms, the better.

  • jenny barnes 27th Apr '12 - 9:07am

    @richard dean ” (b) how do we then design an environment to encourage those directions?

    I see no reason why a school should “encourage” a particular sort of sexuality or gender expression. There have been many instances of people “encouraging” children not to be gay, trans, etc. which to my mind are little better than child abuse (you might like to look at this http://www.tsroadmap.com/info/kenneth-zucker.html about how some pshrinks treat trans people. ) And suppose a child is bullied because they aren’t hetero/cis? Will the teachers support them? Or the bullies? The evidence in some schools is that the bullies get the support, because they are in line with the school’s culture of encouragement. See this http://preview.tinyurl.com/2ek3gj7 about the schoolchildren in the US suiciding, sometimes after years of school based bullying.
    Everyone should be celebrated for who they are, not demeaned or bullied for what they are not.

  • It is worth noting that Paul works for the Accord Coalition which includes various faith groups and I believe he is line managed by a Rabbi.

  • Richard Dean 27th Apr '12 - 10:07am


    I am happy that we are discussing question (b), and that it is recognized that I am not advocating any of the nasty techniques that you mention.

    If we don’t design the built environment of our cities, we end up with areas of derelict tenements and absent social amenities. These are physical environments which damage the people living there, not only their physical well-being, but also their emotions including morale and self-worth. We have a responsibility to design the physical environment in a way that suits people and encourages people away from some choices [such as a choice to be a truant, vandalize a neighbourhood, mug someone, drink to excess] and towards others [such as to help and repair].

    In a similar manner, social environments affect people, and as respeonsible citizens we have choices to make about how we design those environments. Many people on this forum argue that bullying is something that should not be tolerated in our social environment. How do we design against bullying? Well, we might try to reduce stress in chldren generally, so that bullies are not driven. We should avoid providing some spurious ethic or religious justification for it. Another way is through discipline,. One of our possible strategies might be to encourage bullies to feel guilt. Some might argue that this strategy is unethical, others not.

    The book “Lord of the Flies” by W.Golding tells of what happens when we leave children alone to design their own social environments – we end up with some derelict ones. It seems to me that religions generally, and perhaps faith-base schools in particular, have recognized this and recognized that they have responsibilities to design social environments. This recognition seems to be to be a good aspect of what they do, and is something that can be built on when we try to change some of the bad aspects of some of the ways some of them may implement these responsibilities.

    If we recognize that environments affect people’s choices, then we might also recognize that they can affect people’s decisions about sexual preferences.. My first argument is that it perfectly reasonable to consider this. My question are – what kinds of social environments do we want, and what kinds of strategies should we use to achieve what kinds of social aims?

  • Richard Dean 27th Apr '12 - 10:09am

    @Simon. May I ask why it is worth mentioning? Thanks in advance for your help on this point.

  • “If we recognize that environments affect people’s choices, then we might also recognize that they can affect people’s decisions about sexual preferences.”

    You must have missed my question, so I’ll ask again. Did you really make a “decision” about whether to be heterosexual or homosexual? If so, how old were you?

    To be honest, this concept of children “choosing” whether to be gay or straight is an alien one to me, and it provokes all sorts of questions. For example, what factors influenced you? How long did it take you to make up your mind? Do you feel you could have changed your mind later on? In fact, do you feel you could change your mind now?

  • Paul Pettinger 27th Apr '12 - 12:14pm

    We must not find scapegoats – homophobia is rife within the school system, and is an issue for all schools. There are faith schools that lead the way in tackling homophobic bullying (see: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6142301), and the Government should take a strong lead in challenging homophobic bullying, as it said it was going to.

    However, if a non-religious organisation involved in the provision of state schools attempted to undermine lesbian, gay and bisexual equality then they should be roundly slated, by those of all faiths and none, but at the moment there are not any. As is perfectly clear to many, this is not an issue between the religious and non-religious, but an issue for the whole of society about the treatment and dignity of, among others, our young people verses, in this instance, how we think faith based homophobia should be manifested. We should all feel entitled to hold a view on this, regardless of our religious or philosophical beliefs. We should also recognise those Catholics who descent from their Church’s current teaching.

    The homophobic agenda has gone (in just a few decades) from being backed up by law, to being a minority view. Although those who support LGBT equality must never be complacent, we should be mindful of the (stunning) revolution that has taken place, and can afford generosity of spirit. But we must not be timid in exposing flawed defensive arguments and the victim narrative put forward by parts of anti LGBT equality lobby.

    I find a certain irony in being painted as displaying an anti-Catholic bias, rather than a pro-LGBT equality one, when I am only able to contribute to this debate due to the official Catholic attitude to abortion!

    The Welsh Government are already being seem to be take this issue seriously, and I hope the UK can take a cue (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-17861000). At the moment Wales is putting the Union to shame. The Party already has some great form in this area (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/feb/23/ed-balls-faith-schools-sex-education). We and our Ministers should not feel timid now.

  • Helen Tedcastle 27th Apr '12 - 7:27pm

    I concur with the opinions of Jim, Simon Mcgrath and Paul Pettinger.

    It is very sad and somewhat disturbing that Liberal Democrat policy on Gay marriage and dissent from it by the Catholic Education Service and Catholic Church, is denounced as homophobic and prejudiced by the writer of Opinion.

    Liberal Democrats have a proud track record of welcoming religious diversity and freedom of expression. The Catholic Church was allowed to set up schools in the nineteenth century after centuries of persecution in this country. Why is it a surprise to anyone that Catholic schools teach the Catholic understanding of Marriage. As I taught in a catholic school for over a decade, relationship issues were discussed and and reflected upon by pupils, including a variety of lifestyle choices but the pupils did learn about the Catholic stance on the family. They were not coerced into believing it after studying it. If anything, they could make a more informed choice because of the depth of their studies.

    Whatever, the feelings of people about the Church’ s teachings, Catholics have the right to practise their religion and teach their religious faith free from hints of imposing an anti- Catholic curriculum by those who do not understand their faith.

  • Helen Tedcastle 27th Apr '12 - 7:32pm

    Er…just re-read Paul pettinger’s post and realised I may have misunderstood, on first reading, the thrust of his argument as a whole! Therefore, regrettably, I have to withdraw my agreement with his post.

  • Richard Dean 27th Apr '12 - 8:06pm


    Ads work. They change people’s consumer choices. Mostly subconciously. That’s the way most choices are probably made. Bodies develop. Around puberty, people start making new choices, some concious, some not, and it would seem rather strange to suppose that these choices are unaffected by the environment. Bodies develop more, and tend to stop changing. So those choices subsequently become more or less fixed.

    You have invited me to continue breaking the forum rules and become personal. Ok, I’ve learned not to care too much about rules. There is a saying “there but for the grace of God go I”. It’s an expression of humility, not of criticism. It means that the speaker is recognizing that he or she could have been blown many different places by the environmental wind …

    Yes, I made a decison. It wasn’t a concious one, but it was conditioned by my environment. Then someone induced guilt for my decision. That was one of the strategies adults used (and maybe still do) to prevent teenage boys getting teenage girls pregnant. Being young, I got confused, and wasted a lot of time sorting it out. In doing so, I learned that my environment had had a role in guiding my original choice.

  • Richard Dean 27th Apr '12 - 8:42pm

    I should perhaps add that the kinds of choices and decisions I am writing about are nor flip/flop yes/no decisions. They take form gradually over time, and are made up by a long sequence of many smaller experiences and ruminations which gradually support and reinforce each other to eventually form a particular choice. Unpicking such a sequence becomes more and more difficult and painful the longer it grows.

    Before the sequence gets started, the choosers may not have been predisposed to any of the eventual choices. So, at that early stage, there is no unethicality in seeking to guide. Human problems, and so ethical issues, really only arise later, once the sequence gets going and someone wants to change its direction.

    I am reminded of the old Jesuit saying “Give me the child for seven years and I will give you the man ” . It’s a simple recognition of the power of the environment (in this case one shaped by Jesuits) in determining impressionable people’s choices and beliefs .

  • Richard Dean 27th Apr '12 - 8:46pm

    “nor” should be “not” in the first line. They are NOT flip/flop yes/no choices. A typo that is not in the same category as the one mentioned in the first comment!

  • Richard

    There’s nothing in the rules about not being “personal” – only about not being abusive.

    Frankly I find it difficult to interpret the process you’re describing as anything that would normally be described by the words “choice” or “decision.” From what you say, you weren’t conscious of any decision – it just happened.

    That being the case, I can’t help wondering why you are so insistent on talking about people “choosing” or “deciding” their sexuality. I think for most people there is a big difference between things people choose or decide to do, and things that just happen to them through no volition of their own.

  • The other thing that is slightly frustrating is that when someone asked you above to produce evidence about the influence of environment above, you were quick to say you hadn’t made any assertion about this, but only asked a question.

    Yet in your latest comments you make a number of assertions about the power of the environment to influence people’s sexuality – assertions which, by your own admission, you have no evidence for.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Apr '12 - 11:30pm

    The problem with this issue, as with the abortion issue, is that both sides tend to make no attempt to understand and argue against the position of the other side. So, among anti-abortion people you will find lines such as suggesting that the main thing that motivates people who support abortion is a delight in seeing babies being killed and a contempt for human life. Now, that is nonsense and it disregards the true liberal case for abortion.

    This article similarly disregards the actual point the Catholic bishops were making. If one wishes to argue against it, I think it would help first to see what it is, rather than draw the conclusion it is just about prejudice. As a liberal, I have always believed in trying to understand both sides of any argument, trying to find the true motivation of those on both sides, rather than just drawing conclusions and assuming those who don’t agree with me are just bad people.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Apr '12 - 11:49pm

    On homophobic bullying, I remember when I was at school, many decades now, ANY boy who was quiet or sensitive would be liable to have jokes made about him using terms linked to homosexuality – but this had nothing to do with whether the boy was actually gay. From what I hear now, it is even worse – any young person who does not act in an extreme stereotypical manner, who is not interested in the latest fashions and so on, gets accused by his or her fellows of being “gay”.

    To suggest that anyone who is bullied in this way IS gay, which Stonewall tends to do, is itself damaging. I was a quiet sensitive boy when young, with no interest in sport or aggression, but I am not gay. It would have been INCREDIBLY offputting to me if I had felt that if I had reported being bullied over this I would be taken away and given some sort of counselling on the basis that I was gay. In fact I would have felt such counselling to be an extension of the bullying.

  • Alex Sabine 28th Apr '12 - 1:22am

    Richard is clearly right to say that society, and the particular cultural and institutional environment we grow up in, affects us in all sorts of ways through our childhood, adolescence and indeed later life.

    But the point Tim makes is crucial. As I see it, in terms of public policy it should be immaterial for liberal-minded people whether sexuality is determined by genetics or the environment, whether it is a given thing or a (conscious or subconscious) choice. This is an interesting and contentious question; I tend to believe it is determined either by genetics or at such an early stage in life that it isn’t meaningful to talk of it being a choice.

    But this is essentially a sociological question, not a political or legal one. The liberal, humane case for equality and against discrimination is based on a normative belief in the essential dignity and individuality of all human beings: that everyone should be treated equally by the law and be afforded equal protection by the law. It is not affected by whether sexuality is a choice or not.

    And rights and freedoms for gay people, religious minorities, ethnic minorities or anyone else should not rest on specious and illiberal notions of particular ‘group rights’ or ‘community rights’, but on the indivisibility of individual rights. Hence why proposals to allow gay marriage are more correctly described as equal marriage. (If we attach importance to marriage as a social institution, we also need to combat the bogus argument that extending marriage rights somehow threatens or destabilises heterosexual marriage.*)

    I do agree that tolerance cuts both ways. Religious freedom and freedom of conscience matter just as much as any other liberties. It would be quite wrong to try to police the sphere of thought and belief in order to force conformity with progressive and welcome social changes (in a different context this was the problem with the last government’s authoritarian religious hatred law).

    * As the campaigning lawyer Elizabeth Birch said when arguing with the three-times-married conservative representative Bob Barr in 1990: ‘Which marriage are you defending? Your first, your second or your third?’

  • Richard Dean 28th Apr '12 - 8:54am

    The progress of the human race from cave dwellers to moon walkers has only been made possible by our control of our physical and social environments. We learn how to do physics and how to interact better. The bullying that people complain of is a result of an absence of proper guidance. Is it liberal to continue to allow it to happen? Should we really equate liberalism to the ducking of responsibilities? I hope not.

  • @RIchard Dean Apr 26 5.10pm

    Richard, I think you may be basically conflating up two things:

    1. Sexual orientation – i.e a person’s anatomical reactions to stimulae
    2. Sexual and social behaviour

    Number 1 is not a choice. I doubt whether there is any real evidence to show that it is a choice.
    Number 2 is not so clear. There is an inter-play with society and environment, it seems.

    “People used to recognize that the environment of a single-sex public boarding school tended to do that to people.”

    I am really dubious about this. OK, so there’s that film with Rupert Everett in it and “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” and the film “If” directed by Lindsay Anderson, and countless jokes and nudge, nudge, wink, wink insinuations.

    I went to a boys-only public boarding school which had the added novelty of being 600 feet above sea level on a moor, six miles from the nearest nubile girl/woman. Apart from rather exaggerated male machismo behaviour and a rather dysfunctional approach to girls/women, there was nothing “going on” which wouldn’t happen in any other school. I very, very much doubt that the school environment had any impact on the sexual orientation of pupils.

  • “Before the sequence gets started, the choosers may not have been predisposed to any of the eventual choices. So, at that early stage, there is no unethicality in seeking to guide. Human problems, and so ethical issues, really only arise later, once the sequence gets going and someone wants to change its direction.”

    Let me put another case to you.

    Suppose a rather extreme LGBT group decided that the world would be a better place if as many people as possible were gay, and suppose they believed that they could somehow influence children so that they became gay. Actually, just for the sake of argument, suppose they _could_ cause children to grow up gay, and suppose they had a 100% success rate.

    Would there be anything unethical about doing that?

  • Richard Dean 28th Apr '12 - 12:46pm

    @Paul. I wonder if I might have played rugby against your public school! 🙂 ?

    I do recognize the differences between 1 and 2. I am mainly talking about 2, see the second sentence of my Apr 26 5.10 pm comment where I essentially explain that I am not talking about 1. Sexual behaviour is mainly about an individual interplaying with individual(s) in/from his or her social environment, so my thinking is that the social environment certainly affects behaviour.

    I also believe the social environment affects bullies – their behaviours are mostly of type 2, and our responsibility is to design the environment to address this, by mixtures of supervison, regulation, and healing of the bullied and of the bullies and of the environments.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 28th Apr '12 - 2:08pm

    Richard, you may have done if you went to Blundells, Shebbear, Grenville College, Barnstaple Grammar, Haberdasher’s Askes, Taunton Grammar etc etc. I most certainly was not in a team you played! West Buckland School is where I went. A fine school.

  • Paul Pettinger 29th Apr '12 - 12:59am

    Matthew Huntbach – “This article similarly disregards the actual point the Catholic bishops were making. If one wishes to argue against it, I think it would help first to see what it is, rather than draw the conclusion it is just about prejudice.”

    How would allowing same sex civil marriages undermine heterosexual marriage – indeed, how might it be considered “the most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good today” [Pope Benedict XVI: http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-05-13-pope-abortion-gays_N.htm%5D? I have not disregarded the arguements put forward by the Bishops, but rejected them. If you are against sex marriage, then don’t have one. You have completely ignored those religious groups who support same sex marriage and would like to perform them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Apr '12 - 9:20pm

    Paul, what you have written is illogical. You say I have “completely ignored those religious groups who support same sex marriage and would like to perform them”, yes, well I have completely ignored a lot of things. I did not write in my message that all religious groups opposed gay marriage. I wrote specifically about the Catholic Church because that was the religious group you attacked. You say you have rejected their argument, well, that’s fine if by “reject” you mean you think it so worthless it isn’t worth making a counter-argument. I am just pointing out that you haven’t made a counter argument to the points they were making. I shall not answer your question because I do not want to get trapped into making someone else’s points, particularly from someone like yourself who has already made clear he does not want to listen to them late alone rationally argue against them. I am myself able to see both sides of most arguments, which often lands me in trouble when I find myself in the situation where everyone is arguing one side and I think, for the sake of fairness I would like to explain the other. I wold not want to be attacked by soemone who lacks a sebse of liogic and fairness and so could not see the difference netween arguing a case and personally supporting it.

    Oh, and your argument “if you don’t agree with X, don’t do X” is very illogical. Try substituting “beating your wife” for X, and using it as an argument against making violence between married partners illegal.

  • Richard Dean 29th Apr '12 - 9:27pm

    Chris. I believe you have understood my thinking. We have the power to make an ethically neutral choice.

  • Richard

    I’m afraid I don’t really understand your thinking at all – that’s why I asked the question.

    And I still think your use of the word “choice” is quite inappropriate, considering (some of) what you’ve written above.

  • The essential problem of the Roman Catholic Church is that it has transformed its leader, the Pope, into an infallible being, who, through the College of Cardinals whom he appoints and who choose his successor, is able to perpetuate his own views on religious matters, and in particular sexuality. Roman Catholic bishops and priests are merely commissars whose duty is to transmit the message emanating from Rome. They cannot challenge or debate the message. Catholic theologians who do challenge the opinions of the Pope are dealt with, albeit metaphorically, in the same way as those who challenged Stalin. The same broadly applies to those who teach in Catholic schools. The key question therefore is to what extent should a secular state acquiesce in promulgating a message that homosexuality is “wrong”, “unnatural”, “perverted”, “a choice”, etc. To my mind it is irrelevant whether the a person engages in homosexual practices because of orientation, choice, or social environment. Those who argue that the social environment can affect behaviour may well be right (though I am not sure whether falling in love is that easy to control) but supporting an environment which discourages homosexual behaviour can only be justified if you believe such behaviour to be “wrong”, “unnatural”, “perverted”, a second rate life style, or generally undesirable. It is this notion which I firmly reject, and why I therefore think it totally unacceptable for the Roman Catholic Church to be able to use state funding to propagate its authoritarian views on sexuality, and gay marriage.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Apr '12 - 9:40pm


    The essential problem of the Roman Catholic Church is that it has transformed its leader, the Pope, into an infallible being

    No, the RC position on “infallibility” is NOT that everything that every Pope says has to be accepted as RC doctrine and canot be questioned. Since this position was established at the first Vatican council, there have only been TWO statements ever made by any Pope which are officialy “infallible”.

    The key question therefore is to what extent should a secular state acquiesce in promulgating a message that homosexuality is “wrong”, “unnatural”, “perverted”, “a choice”, etc.

    The letter on marriage sent out by the President and Vice-president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales says none of these things..

    Now you can see why I find it impossible to debate these things rationally and in a way I would regard as truly liberal, because of the huge amount of prejudice there is in this area which results in jumping to judgement without consideration of what is really being said – and it is not all on one side.

  • Paul Pettinger 8th May '12 - 4:14pm

    The Welsh Government takes action – “Catholic schools must give ‘balanced perspective’ over gay marriage”:

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