Conscientious parents guilty of ‘extremism’

19 July 2019

In the first part of a two-part series, Carys Moseley comments on the recent BBC Panorama documentary, ‘Sex Education: The LGBT debate in schools.’

Last Monday in an interview for BBC Panorama’s documentary ‘Sex Education: The LGBT debate in schools’, Sara Khan, the government-appointed Lead Commissioner for Countering Extremism, attacked the parents in Birmingham who have been protesting LGBT indoctrination in primary schools in England, saying they are guilty of ‘extremism’. Although most of the vocal protesters have been Muslims, she aimed her attack equally at Christian and Jewish parents who have also objected to the new curriculum guidance.

BBC bias all too evident

The first interview clip in the BBC Panorama documentary is of a Muslim woman wearing a burqa, only her eyes being visible. The burqa is well-known as a sign of Islamist extremism. It is hard not to conclude that the BBC have chosen to show her as a visual symbol of the protests precisely because it would then be possible to brand the protesting parents as extremists.

The presenter then says, “although many religious leaders have endorsed it [the new curriculum], some communities aren’t prepared to go along.” Straight away this makes unnamed religious leaders, who do not represent the orthodox teachings of their religions at all, the norm as far as the BBC – and therefore officialdom – is concerned.

LGBT parenting ‘story books’

Andrew Moffatt, the assistant head teacher at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, where most children come from Muslim families, is interviewed. He introduced the ‘No Outsiders’ programme into the school. Moffatt reveals his motivation for doing this, namely that he grew up as ‘a gay child’ in the 1980s, and believes that he would have benefited from having books that told him ‘it was okay to be different.’

The presenter gives the impression that the story books used are normal and beyond question. She holds up a book entitled Elmer, about a multi-coloured elephant who looks different to all the other elephants. Then she holds up My Princess Boy, notorious because it is about a boy who likes to wear girls’ clothes. Lastly, she holds up King and King, about two princes who fall in love. Moffatt claims that ‘No Outsiders’ has been used for four years without any complaints by parents, and that parents have even been involved. At no point does the presenter attempt to verify these assertions through independent means. She simply takes Moffat at his word.

Protests began in February after some parents complained. Children were included in the protests. The presenter then says there were also rumours that the school was teaching children about gay sex. Moffatt then shows the book the school uses in Reception class (4 year olds!) which touches on LGBT issues, entitled Mummy, Mama and Me. Naturally, he says this as if it is completely normal.

Panorama presenter gives Education Secretary an easy ride

Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, is interviewed. He says, “the guidance has changed because the world has changed.” The question the BBC should have asked here is why has ‘the world’ (in reality, only western countries) changed, and what ‘changed’ means. The answer is that MPs like Damian Hinds voted for same-sex ‘marriage’ in Parliament. There was nothing inevitable about the passing of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013; the government had deliberately ignored the fact that most respondents to its prior consultation on marriage did not want it to be redefined. In light of these facts, it really is very bad journalism to allow vague soundbites from government ministers to go unchallenged like this.

Further on in the programme, Damian Hinds says his experience is not that “religious people do not accept LGBT.” He discusses the consultation on RSE and claims most people – “the vast majority” – are happy with things. In fact, back in February it was revealed that most respondents to the consultation on RSE in England opposed these new guidelines in particular teaching on LGBT issues.

Conscientious parents branded as extremists

Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, the head teacher of Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham, where there were protests, is then interviewed. She complains about the parents protesting outside at the end of the day, saying some are ‘screaming’.

The Lead Commissioner for Countering Extremism, Sara Khan is asked for her view about the protesters. She says this:

“I would describe that as a mob. It is a mob that is chanting and shouting and engaging in intimidating and threatening behaviour. And I think we have to recognise that and call it out for what it is. I consider what we are seeing in Birmingham to be extremism. It’s whipping up tension, it’s whipping up fear, it’s whipping up hysteria.” (Emphasis mine)

Khan agrees with the presenter that things could escalate further once the curriculum comes in and says there are also Christian and Jewish groups that are protesting. She says, “it’s predominantly anyone who comes from a very conservative faith background.”There, nailed it: anyone who has ‘conservative’ (i.e. orthodox and mainstream) religious views on RSE is guilty of ‘extremism’. This implies they are to be considered as ‘extremists.’

The problem with all of this is that back in January 2018, a ComRes survey discovered that most British people believe that it is parents, not teachers or politicians, who should decide at what age children learn about sexual orientation and sexual relationships. The protesters’ slogan ‘Our children, Our Choice’ clearly resonates with public opinion. Prior to that, in July 2017 another survey found that most people answered ‘No’ when asked whether the word ‘extreme’ was helpful in discussing social or political opinions. To cap it all, today the Commission for Countering Extremism revealed that 75% of members of the public responding to its Call for Evidence found the current definition of extremism unhelpful.

In light of this evidence, we need to ask, why did Sara Khan generalise about the parents? Why was she allowed to get away with this? And why did no other press outlets criticise her? If anybody has committed a crime, say for example a public order offence, it is right that the police should be called. However, the objection here is unclear given that she attacks all parents with ‘very conservative’ views. In the common law, people are innocent until they are proven guilty. Generalised allegations should not be made in public like this.

Mother calls out dishonest government officials

The head of Ofsted, Amanda Spelman is also interviewed. She says, “it is very important to understand that this is not about sex education.” Not everybody is convinced. Indeed, eventually someone cuts through the deceit in all this. Judith Nemeth, Executive Director of Values Foundation and a campaigning mother, says it is “very naïve” to say “this is just about story books” not about “the mechanics of homosexuality”. This is obviously an important argument, but it isn’t pursued any further.

Sara Khan is interviewed again and says the Department for Education was too slow to respond to the protests. She says that Andrew Moffat’s experience was “really traumatic,”as if the whole controversy was all about him. She pays absolutely no attention whatsoever to the trauma that children are suffering due to confusion from lessons. Is she fit to be Commissioner for Countering Extremism?

All of this begs the question of how on earth did we get here. How could government officials and BBC journalists sink so low?

Read part two

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