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Catholic Education Service defends marriage petition in schools

The Catholic Education Service of England and Wales has defended its decision to circulate the archbishops’ letter on marriage to almost 400 schools.

The CESEW responded after one pupil complained that pupils were being encouraged to sign the Coalition for Marriage’s petition against Government plans to legalise same-sex marriage.

In a statement they said: “The letter is a positive affirmation of marriage, as is the Coalition for Marriage’s online petition. As the letter says, Catholics believe that ‘marriage is a high and noble vocation’.

“We reject the suggestion that Catholic schools have acted illegally. The Equality Act 2010 applies to all schools and we are fully supportive of the Act. It is central to Catholic teaching that all individuals should be treated with respect and dignity.”

The Church was defending itself against accusations that it had used “political indoctrination” by promoting the letter, penned by Archbishops Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Peter Smith of Southwark, which defended traditional marriages. Secularist groups said the schools and the CES may have been breaking equality laws.

But the CES said: “Catholic state schools have always been permitted by law to teach matters relating to sex and relationships education, including the importance of marriage, in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church’s view on the importance of marriage is a religious view, not a political one.

“The online petition itself makes it clear that people under the age of 16 cannot sign it. We will issue new guidance for our schools to ensure that they are aware of this.

Over 470,000 people have now signed the Coalition for Marriage petition.