Press Release

Church of England must follow DfE and abandon Mermaids influenced transgender guidance

12 October 2022         Issued by: Christian Concern

The Department for Education has stopped recommending trans charity Mermaids as a mental health and wellbeing resource for schools.

Responding to the news, Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre and former lay member of the Church of England’s general synod, said:

“We are delighted to see this minor but important change. This wouldn’t have been possible without Nigel and Sally Rowe’s brave challenge of the Department for Education’s position, supported by extensive evidence. The government must follow through and end its ‘inclusion at any cost’ policy.

“However, the attention must turn to the Church of England, which still supports Mermaids’ ideology in its ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ guidance.

“The guidance continues to reflect the extreme trans ideology of Mermaids and Stonewall and ignores overwhelming evidence that affirming young children’s gender transitions causes tangible and serious harm.

“The Church of England has over one million children under its care – will senior leaders finally listen and scrap this untenable advice?

“Valuing All God’s Children is increasingly being used in courts of law to hammer Christians who believe what the Bible teaches – that each of us are made male or female, equally valuable but objectively different.

“The Church of England’s failure to speak truthfully and compassionately on this point is hurting Christians and failing to safeguard countless children.”

Parents write to Archbishop following successful legal challenge of government

Last week, Christian parents Nigel and Sally Rowe called on the Church of England (CofE) to urgently abandon transgender guidance which says that children as young as five should be affirmed if they want to identify as the opposite gender.

In an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Nigel Rowe 49, and his wife Sally, 47 called on the CofE to urgently scrap its  ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ (VAGC) guidance which covers 4,700 CofE primary schools.

Their letter came following the Rowes’ legal victory against the Department for Education, which led to a £22,000 settlement for legal costs and a commitment from the government to reform its transgender policies.

Christian Concern has now launched a new petition to the Archbishop of Canterbury, allowing Christians to stand with Nigel and Sally Rowe in calling for the guidance to be withdrawn. A previous petition asking that Mermaids be removed from primary schools has now reached 50,000 signatures.

Parents win settlement over trans-affirming school policies

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Nigel Rowe, 49 and his wife Sally, 47, had taken legal action against the DfE after they and their six-year-old son were labelled ‘transphobic’ by a Church of England primary school for refusing to ‘believe’ in transgender affirming policies.

The Rowes made clear in their letter to the Archbishop, that when they raised concern with the CofE’s Portsmouth Diocesan Board of Education in 2017, the VAGC guidance was used to dismiss and shut down their complaints.

In 2017, VAGC cited Mermaids (p.39) as a reliable source on transgenderism for the one million children under the CofE’s care across the UK. This reference was removed in 2019, but the content of the document still reflected the influence of radical transgender ideology.

Mermaids has recently been rocked by scandal following revelations that they send ‘chest binders’ to children without parental knowledge. A member of their board has also resigned after being linked to endorsing paedophilia.

Furthermore, the letter also cited a speech at the Policy Exchange in August 2022 made by the then Attorney General, Suella Braverman KC. The speech provided clarification and guidance on the law on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in schools with Braverman saying:

“The problem is that many schools and teachers believe – incorrectly – that they are under an absolute legal obligation to treat children who are gender questioning according to their preference, in all ways and all respects, from preferred pronouns to use of facilities and competing in sports. All this is sometimes taking place without informing their parents or taking into account the impact on other children. Anyone who questions such an approach is accused of transphobia. In my view, this approach is not supported by the law.”

Braverman KC added that:

“No child should be made to fear punishment or disadvantage for questioning what they are being taught, or refusing to adopt a preferred pronoun for a gender questioning child, or complaining about a gender questioning child using their toilets or changing rooms, or refusing to take part in activities promoted by Stonewall or other such organisations. The right to freedom of belief, thought, conscience and speech must be protected.”

The Rowes say that this demonstrates that the approach of Church of England schools, and the guidance in Valuing All God’s Children, is not supported by the law.

They conclude by saying:

“We therefore ask you to commit to scrapping the Valuing All God’s Children guidance as a matter of urgency so that staff and children in Church of England schools are properly safeguarded and protected from harmful transgender ideology and practice. We also request a meeting with you to discuss these points and what the Church of England will do about them at your earliest convenience.”

School didn’t require psychological assessment

The Rowes had raised concerns after two boys in their sons’ classes at the age of six were allowed to come to the Isle of Wight school identifying as girls.

The school had stated that they did not “require any formal medical/psychological assessment and reporting when a pupil seeks to be treated as transgendered.”

It added that it was working “at every stage” with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (TPHT) in supporting transitioning children at the school. This year the TPHT has been shut down over safety concerns for thousands of children who have been referred to the clinic.

The Rowes were subsequently given an ‘accept it or leave’ ultimatum by the school after they were told that their son would be demonstrating “transphobic behaviour” if he showed an “inability to believe a transgender person is actually a ‘real’ female or male” or refused to “acknowledge a transgendered person’s true gender e.g. by failing to use their adopted name or using gender inappropriate pronouns.”

The local Church of England diocese backed the school’s position based on its ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ guidance on challenging homophobic, bi-phobic and transphobic bullying.

The guidance covers the CofE’s 4,700 primary schools and says that children as young as five should be affirmed if they want to identify as the opposite gender.

The Rowes were subsequently had no other choice but to home school their two sons as they believed the school’s policies were harmful and in direct opposition to how they wanted to raise their children’s understanding of human identity.

Challenging government-recommended transgender guidelines

In response to their treatment by the school, the Rowes wrote to the DfE calling on the Secretary of State for Education to intervene in their case.

They also called on the DfE to scrap the Cornwall Schools Transgender Guidelines which are being held as best practice by the government.

Since 2015, the guidelines, produced by LGBT activists and driven by Stonewall, provide schools, teachers, and governors, with guidance on how transgender ideology can be embedded into the fabric of a schools’ culture.

The Policy suggests how to implement gender neutral toilets, encourage schools to accept cross-dressing and gender transition without question, and include links to controversial groups such as Mermaids.

The Rowes also presented international expert evidence to the DfE which revealed how trans affirming policies lead to ‘catastrophic outcomes’ for gender-confused children.

However, the government refused to properly assess this evidence and rejected the Rowes’ complaint saying that the school’s treatment of the two primary school children who had chosen to identify as the opposite gender ‘does not constitute education.’

Pursuing a judicial review of these decisions, in February 2022 the Rowes were granted permission by Lord Justice Lane to bring a judicial review for their case to be heard in full at the High Court.

Justice Lane ruled that the DfE’s decisions were judicially reviewable on the grounds that transgender issues in schools are a matter of education and therefore the responsibility of the state.

Rather than facing a full judicial review hearing, the DfE settled the case and awarded the Rowes £22,000 in costs which they intend to donate to the Christian Legal Centre. The government have also committed to reform: ‘guidance for schools on transgender issues is being developed by the Department in conjunction with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with a view to undertaking a public consultation on draft guidance in Autumn 2022, to which the Claimants will have the opportunity to respond.’

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