Christian parents call for Church of England transgender schools guidance to be dropped

Nigel and Sally Rowe(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

Christian parents who successfully challenged the Department for Education on transgender guidelines for schools are now asking the Church of England to scrap its own policy document.

Nigel and Sally Rowe say that the Church of England's guidance, Valuing All God's Children, was used to shut down concerns about an affirming approach at the school previously attended by their sons. 

They withdrew their children from the Church of England school in 2017 after it refused to change its policy of allowing a biologically male pupil to come to school as a girl without requiring any psychological assessment or reporting. 

The Rowes have said they were told by the school in a letter that failure to address the pupil as a girl would be "transphobic".

The couple took legal action against the Department for Education after it refused to intervene in their case and were granted a judicial review by the High Court earlier this year. In light of the High Court's decision, the government last month agreed to pay £22,000 in costs to the Rowes and reform current guidelines. 

Valuing All God's Children is the Church of England's policy for schools to prevent homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. It covers the Church of England's 4,700 primary schools.

In their letter to the Archbishop, the Rowes say that the policy is "not supported by the law". 

They cite comments by Home Secretary Suella Braverman in August, when she was still Attorney General.  

"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," said Ms Braverman.

"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."

Ms Braverman added: "Further, 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 have asked to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury to discuss their concerns directly.

They are calling for Valuing All God's Children to be withdrawn "as a matter of urgency for the sake of protecting the children".

"It is plain that the Valuing All God's Children entirely fails to address the important steps that are required in order to safeguard children as outlined by the Attorney-General," the Rowes said.

"Therefore, Church of England schools, such as the one our sons attended, are violating the clear guidance from the then Attorney General in forcing children to affirm the acquired gender of fellow pupils and failing to require basic steps to be taken to keep children safe."

They added, "It is clear that Valuing All God's Children should be scrapped. The position of Church of England schools in affirming gender transition of young pupils and forcing pupils to comply with this is now untenable."

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported the Rowes in their case, said: "The Church of England must urgently act to end 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."

In his response to the letter from the Rowes, the Church of England's Chief Education Officer, Nigel Genders, said: "While we are not party to the outcome of your case, we welcome the Government's indication that updated guidance will be issued on transgender matters. All our policies are reviewed regularly, and in light of updated legislation and Government guidance."