Orthodox Christian teachers are on the chopping block

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After 13 years under five Conservative Prime Ministers, orthodox Christian teachers in UK schools could surely be forgiven for thinking that their situation could not get any worse if Labour wins the 2024 General Election.

But according to the General Secretary of the Free Speech Union (FSU), Toby Young, the challenges Christian teachers are already facing could loom considerably larger under Labour. 

The present Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has called for a review of sex education, is showing signs of pushing back against neo-Marxist political correctness in schools.

The Sun newspaper has been briefed that new government guidance is about to be issued banning schools from allowing pupils to "socially transition" by changing their names, pronouns or uniform without parental consent.

But Young believes Labour would impose compelled trans speech if it won power.

He told Christian Today: "I think it's likely Labour will bring forward a Hate Crime and Public Order (England and Wales) Bill, which will be very similar to the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act. It will increase the number of protected groups you can be prosecuted for 'stirring up' hatred against to include trans-identifying people and that will make it a criminal offence to misgender or deadname trans individuals.

"It will also scrap the 'dwelling exemption' whereby you cannot be prosecuted for stirring up hatred in the privacy of your own home – so in theory a father telling his daughter that 'transwomen aren't women' over the dinner table could be sent to prison, with his daughter being summoned as a witness for the prosecution."

Young warned: "If the Conservative government doesn't pass a Gender Conversion (Prohibition) Bill, the next Labour government will and, in all likelihood, that will make it a criminal offence for a church congregation to pray for someone who is wrestling with their sexuality, as well as a criminal offence for a parent to try to talk their trans-identifying child out of embarking on a medical pathway which will be irreversible."

He added: "I wouldn't be surprised if Labour makes it illegal for faith schools to give preference to applicants of a particular faith in their admissions arrangements, something many Labour activists have been agitating for a long time."

In May, secondary school Maths teacher Joshua Sutcliffe was banned by the Teaching Regulation Agency for refusing to use a trans pupil's preferred pronoun. 

Mail on Sunday columnist, Peter Hitchens, an Anglican Christian, commented on the Sutcliffe case: "In the past few years it has become clear that the schools of this country, state and private, have been invaded by Left-wing dogmas, dogmas it is dangerous to challenge. For they are enforced, hard, with the backing of a supposedly Conservative government.

"For example, you do not need to like or agree with the former Oxford state school teacher Joshua Sutcliffe. I think he may be a bit of a pain. Brave people often are a pain. But every civilised person must be scared by the fact that he is now forbidden to teach at all – by a body called the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA), which ought not to exist in a free country."

And there has been another case of an orthodox Christian teacher getting into trouble, this time in a primary school. After being sacked for opposing her school's trans policy, the teacher, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has just been refused a judicial review by the High Court. 

She remains under investigation by the TRA and cannot work as a teacher until it reaches its verdict. "Unable to teach, she has taken up work in a sandwich shop. If found guilty of professional misconduct by the TRA, she faces a lifelong ban from teaching," CT reported.

Since its launch in 2020, the FSU has been working hard to protect academic freedom to debate and pursue truth in schools and universities.

"Young said: "When it comes to cases, we've come to the defence of approximately 400 students and academics in the past three years – about 20% of our overall case load – and won approximately 70% of them. I think this has put universities on notice that if they do breach the speech rights of students or academics, they'll have to deal with us."

Young said the union's main policy achievements have been helping to persuade the Department for Education to "issue new guidance about the teaching of politically contentious ideas in schools, which reminded schools of their obligations under section 407 of the Education Act 1996, and helping to get the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023 on to the statute books".

Young concluded: "In general, I think a Labour government will mean orthodox Christians becoming a demonised minority with fewer rights than other minorities. They won't be fed to the lions, but they will find themselves increasingly unwelcome in polite society."

Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Lancashire. He is the author of Christians in the Community of the Dome, published by Evangelical Press in 2017.