06 June 2019, The Tablet

Respect the voice of muslim parents


The 2010 Equality Act was one of the last Labour government’s most important achievements. But the row in Birmingham between parents and the primary schools they send their children to suggests it is not quite the last word. The act sets up nine “protected categories” which have a right to be defended against discrimination. One of them is sexual orientation; another is religion. But sometimes these rights collide – as appears to have happened in Birmingham, where parents have withdrawn their children in protest at aspects of the sex education they have received.

Experience has shown that gay rights tend to win over religious rights. The right to believe is protected, but not the right to act on that belief when it contradicts secular norms. Clearly there are limits, when harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation or forced marriage are said – almost always falsely – to be based on religious beliefs. But attitudes to gay sex are not in that class.

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