Proud of South Norwood primary that stood up to bigotry

In his latest exclusive column for Inside Croydon, proud dad ANDREW FISHER, pictured left, reports on the outcome of a legal case which has upheld the law on education, equality and inclusivity

This week I got a message from my son’s school relating to a legal case brought against them that began five years ago. The notice informed parents and guardians that “a judgement was delivered in court yesterday which saw the claim dismissed in its entirety”.

Test case: Heavers Farm primary has spent five years fighting a legal challenge

It was Friday June 29, 2018, and I walked my then-Year 1 son to school wearing a T-shirt he had made in class which read, “Let your true colours shine”.

To coincide with LGBT History Month, his school had organised a Pride Parade. Year 1 pupils were asked to write down “what makes you proud to be you?”

Children were taught – accurately – about family composition. How some children have two parents, some have one. How some have two parents of different genders, some have parents of the same gender.

As headteacher Susan Papas said at the time, “We thought we would celebrate Pride month so those children from LGBT families would feel included and to show the kids that children come from different families.”

Parents were invited to watch their children parade that afternoon to “celebrate the differences that make them and their family special”. I was disappointed that work commitments meant I was unable to attend.

MP’s support: Steve Reed tweeted after attended the primary school event

As it happened, I need not have worried. The parade was cancelled because a tiny number of parents planned to protest. Can you imagine? Parents of children were actually going to disrupt five-year-old kids marching about why they were proud to be themselves – and they were planning to do so in the name of Christianity.

If God exists, he/she should sue these buffoons for defamation.

Inside Croydon reported the incident. At the time, headteacher Papas said, “We have had so many messages of support from many parents who are quite cross about this minority who they feel are spreading hateful messages.”

To his credit, Steve Reed, the local MP, did attend.

The school sits just inside the current boundary of Reed’s Croydon North constituency. After the event, Reed tweeted, “With the wonderful staff and children at Heavers Farm for their Pride celebration — very proud of them for standing up for equality and diversity.”

The school teaches children about the central tenets of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism, among others as part of religious education. There have also been visits to local places of worship, including churches. I’m solidly atheistic, but I also want my children to learn about other cultures and communities because they live in society. Ignorance is not bliss.

Homophobia is not at the core of any religion. What all of them preach at their core – in theory if not always in practice by their adherents – is love and peace.

I grew up in a Christian household with adults who attended the Salvation Army, Church of England and Baptist denominations. I attended two Sunday schools. One of the morals I was taught was “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. Variations of this theme are found throughout the Bible: “Judge not lest ye be judged” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

One thing that was never emphasised was that being a Christian meant I should discriminate against LGBT people or label others as “sinful”. Over the last few decades many Christian churches and denominations have moved away from regarding homosexuality as a sin. Some ordain openly LGBT priests and some host same-sex marriages.

Homophobia is now a fringe belief. In 1987, when I was in primary school, only 11per cent of people believed that same-sex relationships were “not at all wrong”. Thirty-one years later, when Heavers Farm held its Pride Parade, the British Social Attitudes Survey found that had risen to 68per cent.

Wear it with pride: Andrew Fisher’s son’s T-shirt

However, an obscure body called Christian Concern, which runs the Christian Legal Centre, believes differently. It is run by a barrister, Angela Williams, who in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary openly confirmed she believes homosexuality is a sin, abortion should be illegal and the world is 4,000 years old.

People can believe what they want to believe. But state-funded schools have to teach facts and to educate within the laws of the country.

Bigoted beliefs, even if using the cover of religion, do not override the duties of schools to teach equality and inclusivity.

And when it was published this week, that is what the Central London County Court found.

In a detailed 89-page judgement, His Honour Judge Lethem described some of the parents as being “hostile, intemperate and confrontational” as well as “threatening” towards school staff – which doesn’t sound particularly Christian to me.

The parents, backed by the Christian Legal Centre, attempted to sue the school on the grounds of direct and indirect discrimination, victimisation and breach of statutory duty under the Education Act 1996 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

After a hearing in February, the case was dismissed in its entirety. The parents and the Christian Legal Centre have said they will appeal the judgement.

As a parent, I take pride in my son’s school for standing up to bigotry… and winning.

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5 Responses to Proud of South Norwood primary that stood up to bigotry

  1. Have costs been awarded against the professional bigots of Christian Legal Centre Limited? They’re carrying on a business (badly, running at a loss), employing five staff with the main intention of harassing people whose views and lifestyles they disagree with. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for their lawfare.

    Their Wikipedia page makes grim reading (the CEO is best mates with Nadine Dorries), but it could do with an update following Heavers Farm’s victory, which obviously was God’s intention. Hallelujah!

  2. Edward (Ted) LL Gush says:

    I am in agreement with Andrew that God should consider these people buffoons guilty of falsely representing his teachings and crusade of love and tolerance.

    For many years now many buffoons have claimed God to be on their side in various wars and disagreements, this has always been unattractive to any intelligent person of any faith.

    Sadly an ever increasing section of American Evangelicals have doubled down on this buffoonery including Trump’s most recent followers of ‘God Guns and Trump’ all presented with a straight face as true ‘Christian’ values. In Trump’s own language this should be considered “fake Christianity” as it is so wide of the truth to be risible.

    I was once informed by a senior and greatly respected Anglican Priest and published theologian that these kind of churches were ‘sort of OK as long as you left your brains in the porch when you went there’.

    He was in many ways right but it has now passed the point where it is effectively an ‘evil’ and as such ‘good men’ must not ‘do nothing’ rather it should be called out for what it is bigotry, hatred and false witness.

    Well done anyone with the backbone to speak out against it. God bless you!

  3. Ashley Dickenson says:

    If Christian teaching on sexual ethics is now being described as ‘bigotry’ when Christian teaching has formed (and still continues to) this country’s DNA, then something, somewhere is very, very wrong. Just 1.5 of the country identifies as LGBT – and our children must be exposed to this? Surely they should be taught that the rainbow is a sign of God’s mercy that He would never wipe us out despite the evil that’s in the world. Our children need to know of God’s mercy also , despite our sin.

    Yet the rainbow is now shamelessly paraded as a sign to celebrate behaviour that is prohibited in the Bible.

    • There’s another word for those who attempt to impose their beliefs on all others, who dogmatically claim to be right and all others wrong.

      All the snide, nasty trigger words are there in this comment: “exposed”, “evil”, “sin”, “shamelessly”.

      Having read the court judgement, the only people involved in this case who have behaved shamefully are the obnoxious types who made false claims against others to try to further their own cause and marginal interests. All the while at the expense of young children’s proper and lawful education.

    • Andrew Fisher says:

      Hi Ashley,

      You confuse Christian teaching with biblical injunctions, and the Bible barely mentions homosexuality.

      Some other things the Bible instructs is “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material” (Leviticus); that “Wives should obey their husbands in everything” (Ephesians); or that as Deuteronomy commands, “When brothers dwell together and one of them dies without a son, the widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother is to take her as his wife.”

      It appears to me that Christians are rightly quite selective about which bits of the Bible they follow, and rightly so.

      Oh, and the 2021 Census finds nearly 3% identify as LGBT and it’s rising each generation as prejudice is tackled and we become a more tolerant society.

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