An archdiocese in England prevented a gay author from speaking to students at a Catholic high school, removing the school’s board of governors when they refused to cancel the event.
According to i news, John Fisher School, an all-boys’ Catholic secondary school in London’s Croydon borough, had scheduled a visit from Simon James Green for World Book Day event earlier this month. Green is well known for his young adult books featuring LGBTQ characters.
When the Archdiocese of Southwark, which covers the south part of the city of London, learned of the intended event, they advised the school’s governing leaders not to proceed with the plans because Green’s work “fell ‘outside the scope of what is permissible in a Catholic school.’”
As The Guardian reported, the Archdiocese released a statement that said its schools were required to “deliver a programme of relationships and sex education that is compliant with the Equalities Act 2010 and Magisterium of the Catholic church.”
The school’s governors decided to go ahead with the visit but the diocese canceled the talk and removed the governors. The school’s chaplain emailed parents informing them of the cancellation, writing that the diocese “had no choice but to make a stand against tyranny and to defend truth.”
Another scheduled event hosting the author in another school in the diocese was also canceled.
The diocese’s director of education wrote a letter to the governors telling them of their removal and expressing his disapproval of the event. He wrote:
“For your information, the Archbishop’s office has been bombarded with complaints about the event, many of which convey the very clear message that the intended event is potentially offensive to parents, past pupils and wider members of the Catholic community.”
Meanwhile, parents, staff, and other members of the school community reacted with outrage at the event’s cancellation.
The Guardian reported comments of one parent: “A lot of us are shocked at the intolerant language being used. It sends a terrible message to the children. Who would want to come and teach here or send their children here after this?”
Numerous educational organizations have also spoken out in support of the author.
“[C]hildren, including LGBT children, are missing out on learning that LGBT people should be celebrated, and their relationships should be respected just like those of straight people,” one supporter of the author stated.
Green voiced similar sentiments. PinkNews quoted the author stating that preventing Catholic school students from learning about LGBTQ issues was troubling. “It does make me angry, but to be honest with you what I am most worried about is the message it sends to LGBT kids at that school and in general—that somehow they are wrong and inappropriate and everything they are is kind of sinful and problematic,” he said. “I think that is a terrible thing.”
Young queer people in particular need representation from LGBTQ characters and role models in order to accept and embrace their identities, especially if they have grown up feeling ashamed of who they are. The event that could have enabled more children to find inspiration and see that LGBTQ people are “wonderfully made,” as Psalm 139 says we all are. Nevertheless, the visibility brought to this incident advances the hope that the church will have room for more LGBTQ voices in the future.
—Grace Doerfler (she/her), New Ways Ministry, March 26, 2022