Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Conservative Christian prejudices challenged again
What is to be done with Christians who hold what they claim to be ‘Biblical’ views on homosexuality, and how society should therefore act towards lesbian and gay people? Another case has come to light, that of Kwabena Peat, a history teacher at Park View Academy in Tottenham North London. Mr Peat was one of several Christian staff who walked out of an In-Service Education and Training day during which staff were required to attend a session on child protection issues.
A presentation was given by Sue Sanders, co-founder of Schools Out, an organisation which campaigns for gay equality in education. According to Mr Peat, Ms Sanders said that staff who did not accept that being gay was normal had ‘issues’ they had to deal with. Mr Peat said he had expected her merely to provide information to help teachers handle homophobic bullying, but she had gone much further.
‘She started promoting homosexual lifestyles and suggesting those who had objections should sort out their prejudices. She said, “What makes you all think that to be heterosexual is natural?” It was at that point I walked out.’
Mr Peat wrote privately to the three staff members who organised the session, complaining about Ms Sanders’ ‘aggressive’ presentation. In the letter he cited the Bible and warned that practising homosexuals risked God’s ‘wrath’. The staff to whom he wrote complained to the school’s principal that they felt ‘harassed and intimidated’ by the letter.
Mr Peat said he was very supportive of ‘equality and diversity’ programmes but was upset that people who disagreed on religious grounds had no chance to respond. ‘I am very disappointed, although not shocked. I am the one who has been harassed and intimidated – for expressing my religious views.’
Conservative Christians, with the help of the Christian Legal Centre, are conducting an organised campaign against the legal reforms intended to provide equality in society for LGBT people. The many Christian conservative groups refuse to accept the legitimacy of these reforms.
Christians such as Kwabena Peat reveal the attitudes lying behind this denial of reality. Anyone who says that for a minority to be lesbian or gay rather than heterosexual is accused of making an aggressive presentation.
He quotes the Bible to claim that practising homosexuals risk God’s wrath. To quote and use the Bible publicly in this way is homophobic and fuels prejudice. Conservatives think their Christian preaching and teaching rights are being inhibited. They are being curtailed, on this particular issue, thank God. The Christian Legal Centre has mostly lost the cases it has supported. They are helping to demonstrate the effectiveness of the new law and at the same time, the need for it.
Conservatives argue reverse discrimination – it is now Christians who are being harassed and intimidated for expressing religious views. They are blind to their own prejudices, unable to see, as in Mr Peat’s case, the effect of his letter on his colleagues.
Mr Peat had the chance to respond appropriately at the training session, but walked out instead. How can he claim to be supportive of equality and diversity programmes and hold the views he does about homosexuality?
This engagement between conservative Christians and society is set to continue, but society has already decided the outcome.