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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Catholic agency commissioned to give advice on contraception and abortion in Richmond schools

In a move that almost defies parody, the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames has awarded a contract worth £89,000 to the Catholic Children’s Society to “help and support students in the borough’s schools.”

Councillor Stephen Knight, leader of Richmond’s Liberal Democrat group, was quick to point out at a meeting on Tuesday that pupils who want advice on issues such as homosexuality or sexual health may be reluctant to ask a group that “requires counsellors to uphold the Catholic ethos”.

Councillor Christine Percival, cabinet member for education, youth and children’s services at Richmond Council, said Catholic Children’s Society staff were accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and its application for the job was “way better than anyone else’s”. She added: “I have no concerns that they will not carry out an excellent job.”

But Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “What on earth was the council thinking about in appointing such a partisan and dogmatic organisation to provide counselling and support services? The Catholic Children’s Society went so far as to dump its adoption service because of the Government’s insistence that they consider gay couples as adopters. So what kind of reception would a gay child get if it came to one of their counsellors for advice? What sort of advice would a specifically Catholic agency with an instruction to uphold Catholic teaching tell a girl who came to them for contraceptive advice? Surely the council could have found a non-sectarian service that wouldn’t pose these sorts of problems?”

Mr Sanderson said the Council should think again about this decision and ask why it was made in the first place.

Published Fri, 15 Apr 2011