A Tory MP criticised by the press for stating that Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) would be used to stop teachers, including those in Christian schools, from teaching that gay marriage is wrong, has stood by his comments.
In its report on Monday, the Daily Telegraph quoted from the MP’s letter to a concerned constituent in which he said EDOs “would apply in situations where a teacher was specifically teaching that gay marriage is wrong”.
Sherwood MP Mark Spencer sought to clarify his remarks in a statement on his website, but he simply restated his position.
Freedom of opinion
Spencer said, “I actually said I support any teachers sharing their own opinion on gay marriage in the classroom”.
Adding: “I was in fact supporting freedom of opinion and free speech!”
However, he then went on to say: “What I said was that teachers should not teach that gay marriage is wrong as if that is a fact, when in reality there are a number of different views on it.”
Under current legislation, church schools, or any school with a religious ethos, can continue to teach their beliefs about marriage in line with their legal foundation.
Responding to the letter last week, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute Simon Calvert said Spencer’s remarks reveal that teachers at Christian schools could be targeted by EDOs.
Mr Calvert said: “The Government say we’ve got nothing to worry about from their new extremism laws but here is one of their own MPs writing to a constituent saying EDOs would stop teachers teaching mainstream Christian beliefs.
“Doesn’t he realise the impact this would have on church schools?”
He concluded: “EDOs will be a gross infringement of free speech and undermine the very British values they claim to protect.”
EDOs have been widely criticised for raising the prospect of people falling foul of the law for merely holding unpopular, traditional or challenging views.