Ultra-Orthodox Jews in England are fuming because schools will be teaching students about homosexual relationships and gender reassignment.
Haredi Judaism is the term used to refer to Jews who adhere to very strict, traditional forms of Judaism. They are actually a diverse set of groups, rather than a single sect, but what they share in common is the rejection of modern, progressive ideals and culture.
The government in the UK is advising schools to educate students on sexuality and gender issues, including homosexual relationships and gender reassignment. This has angered many Haredi Jewish parents who are against this kind of education.
The Department for Education has drafted advice to schools which indicates that students in secondary schools should know about "protected characteristics." 2010's Equality Act declares what these protected characteristics are, and the Department for Education has written that students should be “aware of the ways in which people can be different and be respectful of those differences."
Among the outraged parents is Shraga Stern, who has clashed with officials before. Lawyers for Stern sent a letter to Damian Hinds, the secretary of state for eduction. In the letter, Stern's lawyers state, "Many members of the community would choose to leave the United Kingdom for a more hospitable jurisdiction rather than comply with such an obligation to mention homosexuality or gender reassignment in a positive context at school."
Stern, who unfortunately has seven children, said that if the Department for Education formally issues its previously drafted advice, then he will have to file a legal challenge, leave the country, "go underground," home school his brood, or hope that his children's schools do not comply with the government's instructions.
Stern told reporters that he believes sex education is a “private matter” within families and it is inappropriate to teach “innocent children” about it. “We teach our children, at home and in school, to respect every person, but we will not teach them about LGBT issues,” he said.
The advice is expected to be formally issued later this year, and the Department for Education, as well as inspectors for the Office for Standards in Education, will take the advice into account when they evaluate schools.
Someone speaking for the Office for Standards in Education told reporters that "most faith schools, state and independent, see no contradiction between teaching the tenets of their faith and the legal requirement to promote British values, including respect for democracy and the rule of law or to encourage respect for people with different characteristics such as those of a different faith, sexual orientation, or race."
"However, for the small minority who will not comply with the law, it is Ofsted's duty to report those failings so that action can be taken to improve or close these schools."
I hope that the government sticks to its plan and does not back down. This kind of religious bullying should not be indulged. We need to resist the hyper-sensitivity of the religious.