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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Peers attack Christian Institute for lies about sex education proposals

Two peers have condemned a “cruel” and “vicious” campaign against them by the Christian Institute which claimed they wanted to make personal, social and health education (PSHE) compulsory for five-year-olds. This includes education about sex and relationships.

NSS honorary associate Baroness Massey of Darwen put forward an amendment to the Education Bill calling for school inspectors to consider the wellbeing of children and report on issues such as policies on bullying and the delivery of sex education. Baroness Walmsley was not proposing an amendment at all, contrary to the Institute’s accusations.

The Christian Institute issued misleading and inaccurate information in an attempt to derail the amendment. This included writing to members of the House of Lords, trying to manipulate the Bill debates.

During the debate, Lady Massey said: “Never in my time in this House have I known such a sinister and vicious campaign that has sought to misinform others. Noble Lords will have received hundreds if not thousands of letters, sent to your lordships taking up your time and energy and I find this deeply regrettable.”

Lady Walmsley added that: “The Christian Institute recently sent out a letter in which they claimed that I would be laying an amendment to make PSHE compulsory. As your lordships can see, this is not true. They also claimed in a subsequent letter that my fictional amendment and Lady Massey‘s amendment would force schools to teach five-year-olds about sex. Also not true.

“There have been wicked insinuations that we would want to do something that would harm children and their innocence. … So we had a so-called Christian organisation telling lies and being both uncharitable and cruel.”

The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds subsequently apologised for the behaviour of the Christian Institute during the debate on Lady Massey’s amendment. Bishop Packer said: “While I have no responsibility for the Christian Institute, I want to apologise for any errors or false accusations made in the name of Christianity. I also want to affirm, as clearly as I possibly can, the enormous contributions made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Massey and Lady Walmsley, to the interests of children in successive debates within this House. I am grateful for all that they have done in the cause of children here.”

The Institute itself has not responded or issued any kind of apology.

Following assurances from the Government, Lady Massey withdrew her amendment without a vote.

The Christian Institute’s report on PSHE called Too Much Too Young can be read here and a response from the Sex Education Forum setting out why their allegations are false is here.

The Government is currently running a consultation on PSHE. The NSS will be submitting a response to the consultation and you can read our response to the 2010 consultation on Sex and Relationships Education guidance here.

Published Fri, 11 Nov 2011