Two recent incidents say a lot about Britain today, and the Soviet-cum-Kafka style convolutions of the soft totalitarianism which is increasingly a feature of the enforcement of political correctness.
Last October a protestant Christian couple, Vincent and Pauline Matherick, who over the years had taken in 28 foster children, were forced by local authorities from Somerset County Council to give up being foster parents after they refused to promote homosexuality to the children in their care.
Officials told them that if children “expressed an interest” in homosexuality, they would have to take them to gay support group meetings.
The couple, who are both church ministers, said that they would neither condemn nor condone homosexuality, but they could not actively promote it because of their religious beliefs.
Facing removal from the carers’ register, they decided to stop fostering. An 11-year-old boy in their care was therefore taken from them and placed in a children’s unit.
Mr Matherick, who is also a primary school governor, said: “We have never discriminated against anybody but I cannot promote homosexuality when I believe it is against the Word of God. It’s terrible that we’ve been forced into this corner.
“They were saying that we had to be prepared to talk about sexuality with 11-year-olds, which I don’t think is appropriate anyway, but not only that, to be prepared to explain how gay people date.” One can certainly see his point: “talking about sexuality to 11-year-olds” could easily be fraught with the most dire civil and criminal legal consequences.
A spokesman for Somerset County Council was quoted as saying that the council was obliged to implement the government’s sexual orientation regulations, which came in earlier last year, and that: “I am not suggesting that it is not very difficult for some people, but there is still an obligation under the law.”
David Davies, the Tory MP for the area, said: “It’s absolutely horrendous that Christian men and women doing their bit for the community are being discriminated against because of their beliefs.
“I’m quite certain that social services would never dare to ask a member of any other established religion to agree to such a stance on homosexuality.”
Mr Davies’ words were tested in the second incident: about 90 Muslim parents protested when two primary schools in Bristol with predominantly Muslim pupils were found to be giving out books promoting homosexual relationships to five-year-olds.
One of these stories, titled King and King, is a fairy-tale described as featuring, as its hero, a prince who turns down three princesses before, in a happy ending, marrying one of their brothers.
I have not read the book but from this fairly bare description it sounds as if its literary qualities do not exactly compare with those of Narnia or Lord of The Rings.
Another work, And Tango Makes Three, is the story of two male homosexual penguins in the New York Zoo, who fall in love and adopt.
There was also a book and DVD titled That’s a Family! which teaches children about different gay or lesbian parents. Parents at the schools had apparently not been informed about this material being used. Bristol City Council said the schools had been using the books to ensure they complied with the regulations.
However, faced with Muslim parents’ protests, unlike the case of the Mathericks, the authorities beat a hasty retreat and these materials were withdrawn.
Members of the Bristol Muslim Cultural Society were quoted as saying that Muslim parents were upset at the lack of consultation over the use of the materials. Farooq Siddique, the community development officer for the society and a school governor, said there were also concerns about whether the stories were appropriate for children of such a young age.
He was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying: “There was a total lack of consultation. The schools refused to deal with the parents, and were completely authoritarian.
“The agenda was to reduce homophobic bullying and all the parents said they were not against that side of it, but families were saying to us ‘our child is coming home and talking about same-sex relationships, when we haven’t even talked about heterosexual relationships with them yet’.
“They don’t do sex education until Year Six and at least there you have got the option of withdrawing the children.
“But here you don’t have that option apparently. You can’t withdraw because it is no particular lesson they are used in.”
“In Islam homosexual relationships are not acceptable, as they are not in Christianity and many other religions but the main issue is that they didn’t bother to consult with parents.
“The issue should have been, how do we stop bullying in general, and teaching about homosexuality can be a part of that. This was completely one-sided. Homosexuality is not a priority to parents but academic achievement is. This just makes parents think ‘What the heck is my child being taught at school?’”