The education secretary, Conservative MP Michael Gove has been plunged into the middle of a row about equality in the school curriculum.
The education secretary has said that the Equality Act does not apply to the school curriculum, which it is claimed will give faith schools the green light to teach homophobic material in class.
Equality laws in the UK prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. However, Mr Gove has claimed that these legal provisions do not apply to the school curriculum. The Trade Union Congress, a conglomerate of several unions, has now accused Mr Gove of failing in his legal duties.
They complain that this gives mixed signals to the playground, because schools are legally obliged to condemn discrimination on sexual grounds, but must give the green light to religious materials which equality campaigners' claim is homophobic.
The row escalated in December, after the TUC general secretary was made aware of a pamphlet which was distributed to Roman Catholic Schools in Lancashire in 2010. The pamphlet was produced by an American preacher, and discusses how a boy should deal with 'homosexual attractions'.
The pamphlet claimed that such urges usually stem from an "unhealthy relationship with their father, an inability to relate to other guys, or even sexual abuse". The pamphlet prompted a letter to Mr Gove to clarify the Government's position on such publications.
In response, Mr Gove wrote: "The education provisions of the Equality Act 2010 prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their protected characteristics including their sexual orientation. They do not extend to the content of the curriculum. Any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the act."
In response, the TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "Having written to the education secretary to express our worry about the distribution of homophobic literature in faith schools, his lack of concern is very alarming."
The row comes at a time when the law and religion are increasingly at odds. The Quality and Human Rights Commission have clashed with senior peers over the freedom of religion and clashes with the law.
Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury warned that Christianity is being marginalised. Meanwhile, the Christian owners of a bed and breakfast have lost their appeal against a restriction barring gay couples from staying in their accommodation.
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