Christian parents and two members of The Church of England's General Synod are urging the Archbishop of Canterbury to put an end to the denomination's guidance for its 4,700 primary schools that allows students to self-identify as the opposite sex.
The CofE's "Valuing All God's Children" guidance provides its primary schools with policies on how to respond to alleged "homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying," and it affects tens of thousands of pupils, says a petition signed by nearly 15,700 people and General Synod members Rebecca Hunt and Benjamin John.
"Unfortunately, the Valuing All God's Children document is a trojan horse for the promotion of radical gender identity ideology in schools," said Hunt, who also serves on the Diocesan Board of Education for Portsmouth Diocese, in a statement shared by the advocacy group Christian Concern. "It is being used to justify suggesting to primary school children that they may be 'born in the wrong body' and the use of material that is pure indoctrination.
John, who serves on the denomination's Mission & Public Affairs Council, believes the guidance exposes "young children to a harmful and destructive ideology."
The petition, which urges Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to protect children by withdrawing the policy "as a matter of urgency," refers to the case of Christian parents Nigel and Sally Rowe.
Years ago, the Rowes raised concerns about indoctrination after two 6-year-old boys in their sons' classes at an Isle of Wight school were allowed to identify as girls.
In 2017, Church of England officials told the Rowes that the school did not require any evaluation when a student requests to be affirmed as a member of the opposite sex. The family was then given an ultimatum to accept the policy or take their sons out of the school. When the Rowes' complaint to the Department of Education was rejected, they took legal action in 2021 against the department.
In September, the Rowes were awarded over $23,900 in legal costs and a commitment from the British government to reform trans-affirming policies in schools.
The Rowes also wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, urging the Church of Englad to withdraw the guidance.
"They cite evidence that policies can have 'catastrophic outcomes' for gender confused children as well as a recent speech by former Attorney General Suella Braverman KC demonstrating how schools may be breaking the law by failing to safeguard gender-confused children properly," the petition says.
In August, Braverman said in a speech: "The problem is that many schools and teachers believe — incorrectly — that they are under an absolute legal obligation to treat children who are gender questioning according to their preference, in all ways and all respects, from preferred pronouns to use of facilities and competing in sports."
"All this is sometimes taking place without informing their parents or taking into account the impact on other children," Braverman added. "Anyone who questions such an approach is accused of transphobia. In my view, this approach is not supported by the law."
Braverman stressed that no student "should be made to fear punishment or disadvantage for questioning what they are being taught, or refusing to adopt a preferred pronoun for a gender questioning child, or complaining about a gender questioning child using their toilets or changing rooms, or refusing to take part in activities promoted by Stonewall or other such organizations."
The U.K.-based advocacy group Christian Concern contends that the school guidance has also been repeatedly used by authorities and groups, such as the transgender lobby group Mermaids, to "justify" the "silencing and sacking Christians who believe transgender ideology is harmful and a clear departure from Christian beliefs on human sexuality."
Last month, the Church of England defended the guidance, refuting claims that the guidance allows students as young as 5 to self-identify as the opposite sex.
"This is simply false," read a statement issued by the denomination in response to Christian Concern's complaint that the guidance tells schools to affirm students' chosen gender identity as young as 5.
According to the Anglican denomination, the guidance was first published in 2014 in response to research showing that "homophobic bullying was something which needed particular attention in Church schools." The document was rewritten in 2017 and updated again in 2019.
"Valuing All God's Children does not say that children as young as five should be affirmed if they want to identify as the opposite gender. It doesn't use the language of affirmation at all, anywhere," the denomination's statement reads. "This is a misrepresentation of a resource which is designed to help schools ensure all children are treated with the dignity they deserve."
In response, Christian Concern contends that a paragraph in the guidance states that children should be "supported to accept their own gender identity or sexual
orientation and that of others." It also states that transgender issues "may be mentioned as a fact in some people's lives."
The next paragraph states: "Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision."
"This section cannot be read as anything other than advocating for affirming children as young as five if they wish to identify as the opposite gender," Christian Concern argues.