Page 5, 23rd January 1987

23rd January 1987
Page 5
Page 5, 23rd January 1987 — Where tolerance breeds intolerance

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Locations: Manchester, London


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Where tolerance breeds intolerance

The Vatican has urged greater understanding of homosexuals. However, Rachel Tingle feels that certain public bodies are taking things too far.

LAST October, the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, reaffirmed the traditional Catholic teaching on homosexuality which it described as a "disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent."

Such a view is in sharp contrast to the policies which are beginning to be adopted by an increasing number of Labourcontrolled local authorities which have adopted "equal opportunities" policies which in practice go far beyond simple tolerance of homosexuals. Increasingly, homosexuality is presented as "positive" whilst the view that heterosexuality is normal is referred to as "heterosexism" which, according to the GLC Women's Committee, is: "plainly and simply and oppression. Like other oppressions, it is perpetrated by a dominant and powerful group, in this case heterosexuals... Unless you see that heterosexuality is the propagandised sexuality, and that other possibilities were forbidden to you, you have heterosexist attitudes."

Accordingly, some councils are now encouraging or even requiring their employees to attend "heterosexismawareness" courses designed to make them conscious of their own heterosexism and that of society generally.

The Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), for instance, has a "relationship and sexuality project" which holds courses for teachers and librarians designed to "examine how through the curriculum, existing materials promote heterosexism"; Lewisham, Lambeth and Islington have all appointed officers to give council personnel heterosexism awareness training and Brent has made a similar policy commitment; whilst Ealing is at present considering a policy to be adopted in schools to "foster the acceptance of different lifestyles including homosexual relationships as being equally valid" and already requiring all secondary schools in the borough to provide information and telephone numbers • about lesbian and gay groups on notice-boards.

Nor are such practices confined only to London. To take just one example, last year Manchester City Council gave a total of £43,000 to Lesbian Link and the gay centre and now plans to spend £250,000 on building a centre for lesbians.

A particularly worrying aspect of this campaign is its attempt to implant the idea in the minds of the young that homosexuality is normal and widespread by the use of dangerously misleading information in schools. Last

year, for instance, ILEA published Positive Images, an 18-page guide to resource

material considered suitable for use right across the curriculum in teaching about homosexuality in secondary schools, colleges and the youth service.

Most of the books mentioned make the completely inaccurate claim that at least 10 per cent of boys and girls are homosexual — moreover, in a sex education questionairre issued to all pupils over the age of 12 in a school in the Manchester area it was suggested that at least 50 per cent of both boys/men and girls/women had homosexual sex at some time in their lives.

Other material being promoted is frankly pornographic. One book included in the ILEA resource guide is a teenage novel called The Milkman's on His Way which includes a voyeuristic description of underage anal intercourse. This book is now openly available in Haringey children's library.

Indeed Haringey leads the way in the introduction of this "postive images" policy and is viewed by the Labour Left as the "test case for the future of lesbian and gay rights across the country." The borough now has a Lesbian and Gay Unit with a staff of six on salaries of £17,000 each, two of whom are working full-time developing heterosexism awareness training courses for all employees and members on Haringey council particularly those involved in education and the youth service.

In June last year, all schools in the borough received a letter from the new Labour council stating that the council was establishing a fund "for curriculum projects from nursery through to further education which are specifically designed to promote positive images of lesbians and gays." This policy was confirmed at October's council meeting and the pressure is now on head teachers and boards of governors to fall into line.

When Haringey parents first learnt of this policy in June they were outraged and formed a Parents' Action Group with about 100 active members, many of whom are Catholics, to oppose it. Their treatment since speaks volumes about the socalled "tolerance" of equal opportunities policies. They have met with consistent discourtesy, .abuse and gross intimidation.

For instance, when a deputation from the PAG protested to the deputy leader of the council that the policy was discriminatory against their religious beliefs, he told one Moslem that the Koran needed updating and a Catholic that the Bible should be re-written and that "people have been known to die for their religious beliefs...".

Similarly, a member of the gay and lesbian sub-committee told the group that "parents do not know what is in the best interests of their children...we do". And when they have attempted to put their case before meetings of the education committee or the council they have been prevented from speaking, spat at, urinated upon, and punched by gay rights activists and members of farLeft groups bussed into the meetings from all over London. Recently, an anonymous phonecaller issued a death threat to the leader of the group and her young daughter.

Teachers who object to those policies are also beginning to suffer intimidation. When an evangelical Christian teacher wrote to the ILEA newspaper Contact recently protesting about being expected to portray homosexuality as normal, the

Equal Opportunities Director of Education replied with the veiled threat, "ILEA expects its staff to implement ILEA polices".

Other ILEA teachers contacted her privately expressing support, but too nervous about their jobs to state these views publicly. Such fears are not groundless.

Meanwhile Christians are fighting back with their own particular weapons. In midDecember, Muswell Hill Baptist Church held a packed threehour meeting to pray specifically about the education policies of Haringey council and the minister of another Baptist church in the area, David Rushworth-Smith, started a fast on New Year's Day that Haringey should reverse its "positive images" policy.

Christian peers were also prominent in the House of Lords debate just before Christmas of Lord Halsbury's bill designed to outlaw the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities. Although the bill was given an unopposed second reading it needs Government support to stand a chance of becoming law. This will probably only be forthcoming if enough people who feel concerned about this issue contact either their local MP or the Education Secretary.

Rachel Tingle is the author of "Gay Lessons: How Public Funds are used to promote Homosexuality among Children and Young People", available from PO Box 925, London W2 1FA, price £2.25.

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