In 2014, the Government agreed not to introduce a parenting law within the Serious Crime Bill. This could have criminalised parents for raising children according to their religious beliefs.
It was to include a law carrying a maximum prison sentence of ten years for anyone who deliberately harmed a child’s “physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development”. Children’s groups claimed it was needed to protect children, but social workers already had the power to intervene under civil law if a child was being subjected to emotional neglect.
Responding to our campaign, in June 2014, Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green wrote to the Institute to say that the Serious Crime Bill would not criminalise parents who taught their children biblical principles.
In the end, the Bill simply modernised the language of the existing child cruelty offence to use the term ‘psychological suffering’ – without widening its remit.
Simon Calvert made the following statement on behalf of the Institute:
“We are very pleased that the Government saw sense and backed away from this dangerous parenting law.
“We all want to protect children. But if this proposal had gone through, it would have harmed children by breaking up happy families. The state could have intervened at a very low level. Christians in particular would have fallen foul of the law, given the growing climate of hostility to the idea of bringing children up in the Christian faith, a climate fostered by militant secularism.
“Everyone hates cruelty. But hardline atheists believe teaching children that God made the world is intellectually cruel. This sort of law would have played into the hands of those who want to marginalise Christian parents.
“The fact that the Government changed its mind is a victory for common sense. We’re grateful to those who spoke out against these plans and put pressure on the Government to drop them.”
The Serious Crime Act received Royal Assent in 2015.