Parents urge Justin Welby to scrap CofE guidance for gender-questioning children

30 January 2024

Following the publication of the government’s draft transgender guidance for schools, Christian parents Nigel and Sally Rowe have urged the Church of England (CofE) to scrap its own policies which currently affirm children in the belief that they can change their gender.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, the Rowes have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, calling on him to urgently pull the CofE’s own policy on these issues, ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ (VAGC).

In 2017, the Rowes were the first parents to expose the rise of trans ideology in UK schools.

They took legal action after being told by a CofE primary school on the Isle of Wight that they and their six-year-old son would be ‘transphobic’ bullies if they did not comply with a policy of transgender affirmation at the school.

The school, backed by the local diocese, used VAGC to silence and dismiss the parents’ concerns.

Undeterred, the Rowes presented international expert evidence to the Department for Education (DfE) which revealed how trans affirming policies lead to ‘catastrophic outcomes’ for gender-confused children.

Backed by the evidence, the Rowes said that formal psychological diagnosis should only be made before any social transitioning should take place. They said the issues faced by gender-distressed children should be dealt with in a professional setting rather than affirmed and integrated in school classrooms.

After the government failed to intervene in their case or review the expert evidence, the Rowes pursued a judicial review.

Before the case was heard, however, the government settled the case in September 2022 and committed to reviewing the guidance it had in place that had been predominantly shaped by Stonewall.

Mermaids influence

The Rowes then called on the CofE to scrap VAGC policy for the one million children in its care that advises schools to affirm gender distressed children.

In 2017, VAGC cited extreme transgender group, Mermaids, (p.39) as a reliable source on how to approach these issues in schools. This reference was removed in 2019, but the content of the document still reflected the influence of the group.

Mermaids has been discredited by scandal in recent years 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.

After highlighting these concerns, however, the Rowes were told by the CofE’s Chief Education Officer, Nigel Genders, that the policies would only be reviewed after the government had published its guidance.

Government guidance

Now published in December, the government’s draft guidance on gender questioning children says that schools and colleges have specific legal duties that are framed by a child’s biological sex, and that there is no general duty to allow a child to ‘social transition’.

The new guidance states: “We have not used the term transgender to describe children. Under UK law children cannot obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate and therefore cannot change their legal sex.”

It adds that: “Primary school aged children should not have different pronouns to their sex-based pronouns used about them”. It adds that: “A child who is gender questioning should, in general, be held to the same uniform standards as other children of their sex at their school and schools may set clear rules to this effect.”

Furthermore, it says that: “Other pupils, parents and teachers may hold protected religious or other beliefs that conflict with the decision that the school or college has made, these are legitimate views that must be respected.

Letter to Archbishop

In a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury this week, the Rowes say that VAGC now clearly contradicts the government’s guidance, for example, by stating that: “indirect discrimination could include an inflexible uniform policy that creates a particular difficulty for trans pupils.”

They say that VAGC also persists in harmfully referring to “trans pupils” and wrongly states that “transgender issues may be mentioned as a fact in some people’s lives.”

The Rowes conclude their letter saying: “The new government guidance demonstrates that we were right to challenge our sons’ Church of England school and to object to it allowing six-year-olds to socially transition. We feel vindicated by the government’s response.

“Regardless of what the government says, the Church of England should be upholding biblical teaching about the differences between men and women and the scientific fact that people cannot change their biological sex. Sadly, the Church of England has failed to uphold these truths and continues to persist in upholding guidance that directly contradicts biblical truth and is harmful for children.

“Once again, we urge you to withdraw 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.”

‘Generation of children let down’

In a joint statement Mr and Mrs Rowe said: “Valuing All God’s Children recognises an ideology that should have no place in primary schools.

“It has been very disappointing that the CofE has been so influenced by radical LGBT groups and the secular government, rather than aligning with the Bible, its own teaching on these issues and the real and genuine concerns and direct experiences of Christian parents. 

“As the evidence we presented to the government and the CofE showed, the issues faced by gender confused children are complex and cannot be appropriately dealt with in a classroom setting without harming the confused child and their peers.

“Social transitioning nearly always leads to persistent gender distress. In the vast majority of cases, gender distress goes away if a false identity isn’t affirmed.

“The vast majority of parents who send their children to a CofE school would also expect approaches to these issues to align with Christian beliefs that we are born male and female.

“The Church’s guidance, however, has for many years now given an official foot in the door to a dangerous ideology that is incompatible with Christian beliefs and must be withdrawn urgently.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “The CofE now has an opportunity to end the social contagion of harm and confusion in its schools. A generation of children have been let down while VAGC has been in place and promoted by CofE schools and local dioceses.

“The CofE’s guidelines need to be rooted in biological reality and biblical truth, sadly they are not, and therefore not only lack integrity and credibility, but encourage and allow harm.

“A braver approach is now needed by the CofE to end the influence of transgender ideology in the classroom with clear guidance provided on how gender distressed children can be compassionately supported outside of the learning environment.

“In 2017 the Christian Legal Centre and the Rowes were the first to raise alarm bells over transgender ideology which was capturing schools and the CofE. They were treated shamefully for doing so and have never received an apology.

“Only now has the government and wider public woken up to the danger’s extreme transgender ideology and sex education pose in UK schools. Now it is time for the CofE to do the same.”

Legal cases

The Christian Legal Centre has been at the forefront of high-profile legal challenges involving teachers and parents and the influence of transgender ideology in education.  In each case, the CofE’s ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ policy has been used to silence and help justify sacking Christians who have dared to question it transgender affirming approaches in schools.

In October 2022, Hannah was sacked by a school where she had worked without any issues for seven years. Pursuing the correct channels, Hannah had raised serious safeguarding concerns regarding an 8-year-old who was being advised through gender transitioning by Stonewall and Mermaids with support from the local authority.

Hannah said she could not affirm the child through the transition as she believed by doing so, she would be harming them. For pursuing legal action against the school and local authority, Hannah was sacked and reported to the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA). She is now taking the school to an employment tribunal next year.

In a first case of its kind, maths teacher, Joshua Sutcliffe, was banned from the profession indefinitely by TRA in May for ‘misgendering’ in the classroom.

In 2017, Mr Sutcliffe was forced out of an Oxfordshire school for saying ‘well done, girls’ to a group of girls that included a child who self-identified as a boy. He was then pursued by the TRA and banned for not showing the pupil ‘dignity and respect’ by using their preferred pronouns.

The Christian Legal Centre has also supported the high-profile case of Kristie Higgs – school pastoral assistant who lost her job for sharing concerns on Facebook about transgender ideology and gender indoctrination in Relationships and Sex Education (RSE).

In 2019, Christian Concern, helped Rev. John Parker expose extreme transgender lobby group, Mermaids, in the media. During a staff inset day at a Church of England primary school, representatives of Mermaids were revealed telling staff it would be illegal to deny anyone the use of the toilets or changing rooms for the gender they identify as, and warned using the wrong pronoun for a transgender child would be a ‘hate crime’.

Since this story, the activities of Mermaids in UK schools have been repeatedly rocked by scandal with 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.

Expert evidence

During these cases, the Christian Legal Centre, has presented expert evidence to the government, schools and local authorities demonstrating how trans affirmation policies are harmful.

Dr Graham Rogers, a consultant psychologist with 30 years’ experience in the field of psychology, reported on the dangers transgender affirming policies have on young children.

Reporting on previous guidelines for transgender issues in school which were produced by activists and held up as best practice by the government, Mr Rogers described them as ‘equalities legislation,’ and said “research and the needs of young people were ignored. The policy showed little or no appreciation for the safety and welfare of children and adolescent or their developmental needs. The approach of the guidance was ‘as if’ the children were fully mature adults.”

The report also stated that the guidance contained “no warnings of the effects of transgender medication, many of which were understood at the time the document was produced and additional ones that are now accepted, even by the NHS.”

He added that the previous guidance “shows no understanding of the effects of puberty or the process of adolescent development, or its role in this change’, and that it ‘appears to miss the role of child and adolescent development, the normal variations in gender and sexual development or the concept of ‘safeguarding.’”

Psychiatric expert, Dr Paul Rodney McHugh, Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US, reported on the long-term physical consequences that can occur because of an overly affirming approach to transgenderism, such as is set out in the Cornwall Guidelines.
Dr McHugh concluded his report stating that:

Policies which affirm a child in their gender confusion without requiring psychological evidence are highly damaging to the children involved.”

He added that, “Leading experts in the area of psychiatry and paediatrics argue that abundant scientific evidence exists showing that transgender-affirming policies do none of the children they are meant to serve any real or lasting good; that it harms the vast majority of them; and that it leads to catastrophic outcomes for many such afflicted children.

“There is no other area in medicine where we unconditionally allow children to choose their own diagnosis.”

Dr McHugh in his expert witness statement in the case of the Rowes studies which show that gender confusion can persist as a result of family and peer dynamics including parental and school reinforcement of cross gender behaviour; not as a result of actual gender dysphoria.

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