Christian parents Izzy and Shane Montague are to appeal their case after the Central London County Court dismissed their claim against their child’s former school, Heavers Farm, for attempting to force him to participate in an LGBT themed Pride Parade.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, the parents brought the claim after a series of events which left them feeling intimidated and discriminated against for challenging the school over the LGBT education of their 4-year-old son, which included mandatory participation in a school run Pride Parade to celebrate Pride Month.
LGBT-themed Pride celebration
Parents were informed about the LGBT themed Pride celebration only days in advance when they received a rainbow-coloured invitation to attend the event. In preparation for the parade, children were taught the popular ‘gay anthems’, ‘We are Family’ and ‘True Colours’, which they had to sing while marching around the school.
The children were also required to create rainbow themed art, which the school’s lesson plan held out as an assignment to show support for the diverse LGBT community. The march also featured several large and conspicuous Pride flags. A number of members of staff were photographed at the event wearing LGBT campaigning themed t-shirts, with one teacher wrapping himself in a Pride flag.
The school told all parents that holding the parade was a legal requirement and even said to one parent it was against the law for their son not to attend.
182 children were withdrawn by their parents on the day of the parade.
Despite all of this, the Country Court ruled that the event was, in fact, not a promotion of LGBT but part of a general programme to promote equality and inclusivity.
Circuit Court Judge Christopher Lethem went so far as to find that there was little in the parade that was inconsistent with the Montague’s Christian beliefs (paragraph 160 of judgment).
Elsewhere in the judgment, the Court found that a Stonewall campaigning poster that was hung in the school and read “Some people are gay. Get over it!” was not only consistent with Christianity, but is what Church teaching advocates (paragraph 145 of judgment).
Despite the Head Teacher admitting these songs included in the parade are gay anthems, Lethem ruled that there was “no evidence that these are gay anthems in the context in which they were deployed”, and that the Rainbow flag was emblematic of everyone being “Proud to be me”.
Agenda driven education
During oral testimony, members of the school’s leadership team, including the school’s head teacher, Susan Papas, and Mr Askey, the Montague’s son’s teacher, all testified that they believed Christian views about homosexual behaviour and relationships was homophobic.
Mr Askey said he considered it homophobic for someone to say that homosexual activity was a sin, likewise Ms Copeman-Papas, the headteacher’s daughter, said that not allowing a man who identifies as a woman to use a woman’s toilet was transphobia.
When asked about the school’s teaching on family structures, none of the school’s leadership team, while under oath, would admit that a mother must be biologically female.
Both the headteacher Ms Papas and her daughter Ms. Copeman-Papas, who also works at the school, when in the witness box, testified that a woman was someone who identified as a woman.
In internal emails provided by the school as part of oral evidence, the school asserted that there was a group of parents at the school who were considered ‘bigots’ for opposing the LGBT education of their primary school aged children.
The headteacher also commented on the views of one parent who objected to their child’s participation in the Parade on religious grounds, stating that it was because of such parents that the Pride parade must be mandatory.
In an email sent to a supporter of the Pride event, the Headteacher also smeared Mrs Montague: “This parent really does have a strange (and offensive) take on the world; we are working hard to make sure that the children in our schools don’t share these views!”
During this time, images also emerged on the school’s website of a year 1 pupil with a placard that she had written after a lesson about Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. It said: “I have a dreem if bois cood go to the saim toilet as gerls.”[Sic]
Heavers Farms ill-treatment of Izzy Montague and her son
After requesting that her son be withdrawn from the parade, Mrs Montague was told that if her son did not attend it would be seen as a behavioural issue. At least one other parent was told that they would be breaking the law if they kept their child at home on the day of the parade.
Despite the vast majority of English schools not having LGBT themed parades, one parent was told that holding the parade was a ‘legal requirement’ and therefore attendance was mandatory.
In her complaint, Mrs Montague said the school had breached the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act. In particular, she asserted that the ‘Pride parade’ was unlawful “discrimination against children who follow their Christian or any other mainstream religion.”
In her legal claim, the Montagues submitted that the school created a ‘hostile’ and ‘intimidating’ atmosphere towards any parents who dissented against the LGBT ideology that was forced on their children.
One example was at a formal meeting between the Montagues and the school hierarchy to discuss the concerns, the head teacher’s daughter, Ms. Copeman-Papas, was wearing a T-shirt upon which had emblazoned across it “Why be Racist, Sexist, Homophobic, Transphobic, when you can just be quiet”.
The judge said that he believed that the wearing of that T-shirt to the meeting with Izzy Montague was not deliberate, but nonetheless it set “entirely wrong tone and it was entirely reasonable for the parents to view this as a hostile message.“ Izzy Montague was warned at the outset of the meeting that should she say anything ‘homophobic’, the meeting would be stopped immediately.
On the day that the school sent its response to Mrs Montague denying any wrongdoing and dismissing her complaints, her son, who had never received a detention before, was given a 2-hour detention. He was also given a further detention the following day.
Ultimately, Mrs Montague was banned from the schoolyard because of her efforts to get answers about the detention; a move which was criticised by the Court as violating its school policies.
Believing she was being bullied and refusing to be silenced, the Montagues faced no alternative but to withdraw their son from the school and launch legal action.
Judging Heavers Farm
The Court found that the school’s focus on LGBT education and the Pride event would have the effect of normalising LGBT issues for the very young children who attended the school. The judgment recognised that the school’s communication was poor and placed too much emphasis on LGBT issues.
The Court also found that the circumstances of the meeting the school had with the Montagues could be interpreted as a hostile injunction labelling them as potentially ‘homophobic’.
The Court criticised the school for not knowing its own policies. The judge also ruled that the manner in which Mrs Montague was banned from the school “could be indicative of a school that was riding roughshod over the parents’ rights because of an animus against the Claimants because of their complaints.”
“This is not over.”
Mrs Montague commented about the ruling: “This judgment bears absolutely no resemblance to the truth of what happened at the school and in the court room.
“This judgment props up a carefully fabricated defence put forward by the school which put the thinnest veneer of what they were doing. It turns black into white and white into black.
“Throughout this ordeal it has felt like I and my Christian beliefs that have been on trial.
“This is not over and we will appeal this perverse judgment which has made the evidence fit with the school’s agenda.
“What are parents like us meant to do? The Court appears to be as ideologically motivated as the school.
“No parent should have to go through what I, and so many other parents at Heavers Farm have, for wanting to protect the innocence of their children and raise them according to their own beliefs. I am a Christian, and I don’t believe there is anything redeeming about forcing a 4-year-old child to march among rainbow flags and sing ‘gay anthems’.”
“I am deeply insulted by the Court’s assertion that there is nothing inconsistent between my Christian beliefs and my 4-year-old being forced to march in a Pride event surrounded by rainbow pride flags and teachers wearing LGBT affirming campaigning shirts.”
Inclusivity unless you are Christian
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said:
“I have known Shane and Izzy Montague and the facts of this case for five years. We have walked alongside them and I can honestly say that the judgment reads like fiction. It bears no resemblance to what actually happened.
“It uses contorted logic and distortion of the facts to fit an ideological outcome it appears the Court was determined to reach.
“Today’s judgment is remarkable for all of the wrong reasons. While the government has recognised the pitfalls of leaving the content of LGBT and sex education to the discretion of schools, and called for a review, this Court has gone the other way. Despite finding that the school put too much emphasis on LGBT issues and normalised them for primary school aged children, it ruled that the Pride event was actually about tolerance and diversity, and not LGBT. The Montagues will appeal, and rightfully so.
“What this entire case stands for is that there are some schools in this country where biblical beliefs and Christians are not welcomed. Today’s judgment has given a green light to ideological headteachers who wish to mould young minds into LGBT advocates, and abuse any parents who dissent.
“There are absolutely no circumstances where it is acceptable to force a 4-year-old Christian child to march in an LGBT themed Pride parade against his parents’ wishes. As a nation with such an esteemed history of liberty and Christian values, we are better than that.”
Find out more about Izzy Montague