Catholic schools in Britain must not be allowed to be “homophobic” and oppose gay marriage, the government’s top advisor on community integration has said.
Speaking to MPs on Monday, Dame Louise Casey hit out at “religious conservativism”, which she called “anti-equalities”, likening conservative Christianity to extreme Islam.
In a discussion on her recent report – in which she highlighted the great social divisions between different immigrant religious groups within British society – Dame Louise said that just it was not acceptable for Muslim schools to segregate boys and girls, it was also not acceptable for Catholic schools to be “homophobic”.
Referring to the Trojan Horse scandal, in which Islamists infiltrated and took control of secular schools in Birmingham, Dame Louise said extremism may be present in other schools across Britain.
“Now, Trojan Horse is a set of issues – they go from girls being split off from boys, through teachers essentially teaching extremism,” she said.
“I’m not sure I’m saying that end is everywhere but do I think some of the dynamics that happened in Trojan Horse are at play in other areas of the country, yes I do.”
It was at this point that she brought Catholic schools into the discussion, and denounced “religious conservatism” in general.
“More importantly when does a teacher running a secular school say it’s fine for you not to do theatre or music or those sorts of things? When is that OK?” she said.
“I don’t really have a view on which religion it is that’s promoting those sorts of views but it is not OK, the same way it is not OK for Catholic schools to be homophobic and anti gay marriage.
“That’s not how we bring children up in this country. It’s often veiled as religious conservativism.
“I have a problem with the expression of religious conservatism because I think often it can be anti-equalities.”
These words from a senior government advisor will raise fears that ministers and school inspectors may try to crackdown on traditional Christianity alongside Islamic extremism so as not to appear racist.
Catholicism, along with most other Christian denominations, opposes gay marriage and calls on homosexuals to live chastely. However, the Church also teaches that gay people “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” and that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
In November, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury said British government officials know so little about religion that they think Evangelical Christians are no different to Islamic extremists.
Speaking to a conference of Church of England teachers, Justin Welby said: “Our Government generally is desperately trying to catch up, to understand a world in which they have no grip on what it is to be religious at all; where religious illiteracy is prevalent and extremely destructive of understanding and where they can’t see really the difference between an extremist Muslim group like the Muslim Brotherhood and a sort of conservative evangelical group in a Church of England church.”