‘Christian groups face Ofsted sanctions over marriage views’

Ofsted could in future clamp down on Christian groups teaching children the biblical view of marriage, Conservative MPs have warned.

A consultation on controversial proposals for Ofsted to regulate certain non-school education settings closed yesterday, prompting four MPs to write to The Daily Telegraph setting out their concerns.

Sir Gerald Howarth, Fiona Bruce, David Burrowes and Gary Streeter said the plans could have a “seriously detrimental effect on the freedom of religious organisations”.

‘Sanctions’

The letter said that religious organisations “fear the prospect of an Ofsted inspector observing meetings and then imposing sanctions for the expression of traditional views on matters such as marriage – views which, until very recently, were considered mainstream in Britain”.

“This would be an intolerable but very real possibility given the clear desire of the Department for Education to investigate what it calls ‘prohibitive activities’, such as ‘undesirable teaching… which undermines or is incompatible with fundamental British values’”.

… an intolerable but very real possibilityMPs’ letter

“This could challenge established Christian teaching”, the letter continued.

‘Absurd’

The MPs noted that threats to British values “originate overwhelmingly from certain strains of Islam”.

They concluded: “It is at least disproportionate, if not absurd, to impose intrusive burdens on all other religious groups under the pretence that attempts at radicalisation could be discovered in any organisation.”

The Government’s proposals involve introducing a nationwide registration scheme for any out-of-school setting providing instruction to under 19-year-olds for more than six hours in any week.

Targeted approach

The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart has written to the Education Secretary saying that the proposals risk catching a vast number of moderate religious activities, and could cause real problems for the volunteers involved.

Instead, he argued, the Government needs to take a “targeted, intelligence-led approach” to protecting children in settings where violent Islamist ideology is being promoted.

Ofsted has come under fire for its treatment of Christian and Jewish schools under ‘British values’ rules introduced in autumn 2014.

Christian schools faced hostile inspections, with pupils being asked inappropriate questions about sexuality.

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