The UK Government’s top advisor on community integration has said it is “not OK” for Catholic schools to oppose gay marriage.
During a parliamentary oral evidence session on integration on Monday, Dame Louise Casey, the Government’s ‘integration tsar’, referred to the Trojan Horse case of 2014, when a number of individuals tried to introduce Islamic extremism into schools in Birmingham.
When asked by an MP whether she thought it was a “one-off” or the “tip of the iceberg, Dame Louise answered: “Yes, it is happening elsewhere. Michael Wilshaw and others have talked about this, but we are asking teachers, day in, day out, essentially to be on the frontline of trying to work out when one community leader’s request is reasonable and when another community leader’s request is not reasonable. We ask them to manage that constantly.
“Should a secular school close at 1 o’clock on a Friday for religious reasons? I know what my view is on that, but I know that that head teacher has to have a very difficult set of conversations with the community, which often turns out not to be the parents. That is not everywhere, in every bit of the country, but it is in some communities in some areas and, yes, we found it.”
But she then went on to single out Catholic schools saying: “When does a teacher running a secular school say, ‘No, it’s fine for you not to do theatre,’ or music or those sorts of thing? When is that OK? I do not really have any view on which religion it is that it is promoting those sorts of views, but they are not OK, in the same way that it is not OK for Catholic schools to be homophobic and anti-gay marriage. That is not OK either—it is not how we bring children up in this country.”
She continued: “It is often veiled as religious conservatism, and I have a problem with the expression ‘religious conservatism’, because often it can be anti-equalities. We have got to be careful that people can choose, obviously, to live the lives that they want to live, but that they cannot condemn others for living differently. That is a grey line, and the more we can talk about it the better. That is the most important thing: that people are able to talk about it, and that these head teachers are not left feeling isolated and alone when they are having those conversations.”
Dame Louise has worked in a number of governmental roles throughout her career including director of the national Anti-Social Behaviour Unit (ASBU) in 2003 and director general of the Government scheme, Troubled Families.
Following her comments, Edward Leigh MP for Gainsborough tweeted: “Equalities czar says we ‘can’t condemn others for living differently’ then condemns Catholics for living differently.”