Christian parents Nigel and Sally Rowe are calling 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.
Open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury
In an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Nigel Rowe 49, and his wife Sally, 47 have called on the CofE to urgently revise its ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ (VAGC) guidance which covers 4,700 CofE primary schools.
The letter comes 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. Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, Nigel and Sally Rowe 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 make 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.
CofE cites Mermaids as ‘reliable source’
In 2017, VAGC cited Mermaids as a reliable source on transgenderism for the one million children under the CofE’s care across the UK. Mermaids have been rocked by scandal this week 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 cites 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 writing:
“We therefore ask you to withdraw the Valuing All God’s Children guidance as a matter of urgency for the sake of protecting the children. 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.”
CofE guidance ‘must be scrapped’
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre and former lay member of the CofE’s general synod, said: “The Church of England must urgently act to revise this deeply damaging guidance.
“Schools, local authorities, and the Church of England have believed and enforced Mermaids’ and Stonewall’s lie that if you question an affirmative approach to gender-confusion you could be breaking the law.
“The Church of England, who have over one million children under their care, backed the approach of the school in the Rowes’ case. ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ must now be scrapped in light of this outcome and the overwhelming evidence that the Church is supporting harm.”
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 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 has now settled the case and have 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.”
Find out more about The Rowes