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Why the Church of England's anti-bullying guidelines are unacceptable

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Carys Moseley shows how the Church of England’s anti-bullying guidelines are unloving because they deliberately do not say that all human beings are created male and female. Given that they aim to influence collective worship in schools, and that the Church of England often allows its theology to be shaped by worship, the aim seems to be to influence theology. The guidelines state that disclosing a pupil’s sexual orientation or gender identity to their parents without consent is a breach of confidentiality. Thus they dishonour parents and undermine their authority and rights. They also ignore the evidence that bullying cuts both ways. Any language perceived as transphobic could be classed as bullying, which means potentially the entire Bible and school curriculum, especially Biology and Sex Education, are at risk of censorship. Finally the guidelines place schools in an awkward situation regarding safeguarding single-sex facilities for the majority of pupils.


Over the past ten days much criticism has been made of the Church of England’s guidelines against homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. Rev. Martin Davie among others has produced a particularly insightful critiquethat deserves careful attention. However, there are still some basic features of the guidelines that require scrutiny. It is vital to grasp just how menacing these guidelines really are.


The guidelines ignore Biblical teaching that we are created male and female

The fact that the guidelines say that all people are created in the image of God without stating that we are created male and female is unloving. In our confused society, children and teenagers need to be taught that God created them and loves them as male and female. They need this belief to be manifested by school staff and fellow pupils, and they need to be taught to manifest it themselves to others. It’s obvious that this omission occurred because the report wants to avoid the fundamental truth that human beings cannot actually change their sex; they can only change some aspects of their outward appearance.

Paragraph 7 of the Executive Summary says that collective worship should look at the themes in the guidelines. Thus the aim is in fact to influence theology, for as we know the Church of England produces little real systematic theology but is often said to prefer to allow liturgy to form its theology.


The guidelines undermine parental authority and collude with irresponsible parenting

The following statements are made regarding safeguarding and confidentiality policies detailed in Appendix E:

Make it clear that pupils coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans does not constitute a safeguarding risk and the information should be treated as confidential.

Explicitly state that disclosing someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, whether they are staff or pupils, without their consent is a breach of confidentiality. This includes disclosures to a pupil’s parents or carers.

It is completely unacceptable that not one single Anglican critic has stated publicly that these guidelines undermine parental authority over their children. This dishonours parents and as such constitutes breaking the fifth commandment.

Refusing to treat ‘coming out’ as a matter of safeguarding could be dangerous. Historical clinical evidence shows cross-gender identification in children can be linked to parental desire for a child of the opposite sex being manifested, e.g. by parents treating that child as a member of the opposite sex. In two recentcasesin the family courts in England, individual instances of this have been treated as child abuse, and the mothers concerned lost custody of their children to other family members.


Bullying cuts both ways

By focusing narrowly on HBT bullying, the report ignores the best available evidence, which is that bullying cuts both ways. For three years running now, the Anti-Bullying Survey produced by Ditch the Label has found that whilst transgender pupils are most likely to report being bullying victims, they are also the most likely to bully others. See here, hereand here. For each of the three years, as many as 43% of transgender students admitted to having ever physically attacked somebody, whereas female students scored 14% maximum, and male students 33% maximum. Answering the question Have you ever said something nasty to somebody online?’, transgender students who admitted that they had numbered 48% in 2017. Female students numbered 25% respectively, and male students 38%.

The survey does not give the sex of transgendered students. However the Gender Identity Development Service for children and adolescents in London states that since 2011 more girls than boys have been referred. Given that many of those referred go on to receive puberty suppression treatment, i.e. cross-sex hormones, it is reasonable to ask whether the fact that so many girls are being given testosterone has led to higher rates of aggression and thus the high percentage of transgender teenagers admitting to physically bullying other pupils. At the same time as more and more boys are ‘identifying as girls’ without necessarily having undergone puberty suppression, bullying could be linked to the typically higher rate of male aggression that arises at this time.


The guidelines are an attack on free speech and freedom of religion

Under these guidelines however, for staff or pupils or parents to raise such matters could be deemed ‘transphobic’. On page 7 we read that:

Homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying can be defined as behaviour or language which makes a person feel unwelcome or marginalised because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, whether actual or perceived, or because of their association with people who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (e.g. children of same-sex couples).

This is the most dangerous paragraph in the entire guidelines, because just like with hate crime policies, ‘transphobic language’ is whatever a person who identifies themselves as transgender considers to be ‘transphobic’. By that logic, the entire Bible, most written documents in western civilization and most of the school curriculum, not the least Biology and Sex Education, would be considered ‘transphobic’. Pupils, at times egged on by irresponsible parents and staff, may choose to be disruptive and manipulate schools into silence over basic truths and shut down the ‘discussion’ that the guidelines claim to want to safeguard.

Interestingly, page 13 of the guidelines states that gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 refers to ‘gender identity’. There is no evidence in the Act or its accompanying documents that this is the case. This is precisely why transgender campaigners supported Maria Miller’s private member’s billin December 2016 calling for the Equality Act to be amended so that the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, seen as a process, would be replaced with a declaration of ‘gender identity’. The Church of England anti-bullying guidelines have no business pre-empting a change in the law, which would require a vote in Parliament. Thus the guidelines undermine  democracy and the rule of law.


The guidelines go against the Public Sector Equality Duty

Church of England schools are found both in the state and the private sector. The state schools are subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty, which stipulates that public institutions such as state schools foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. This means that they have a duty to foster good relations between those who consider their sex as a protected characteristic (the vast majority of pupils and staff in Church of England state schools) and those who choose to use gender reassignment as a protected characteristic. How will schools deal with girls who do not want boys who ‘identify as female’ in their toilets, changing rooms, and so on, and vice versa?

These anti-bullying guidelines reproduce the incoherence and unethical biases of current legal and policy trends as they affect adults, but made things worse by dressing them up in Christian language. They will foster a culture of coverup, manipulation, self-censorship, lying, bullying and abuse for which the Church of England will one day have to answer. The Church should put a red line through them and rewrite them asap.



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