The United Kingdom’s Office of Standard in Education has censured a ḥasidic girls’ school three times for its refusal to teach its students—who range in age from three to eight—the latest ideas about homosexuality and “gender reassignment.” Now the school is threatened with closure, as Elliot Kaufman explains:
Even though it appears to excel at teaching secular subjects—a challenge for many Orthodox schools—the school [according to the official report] does not “teach explicitly about issues such as sexual orientation” and thereby “restricts pupils’ spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development and does not promote equality of opportunity in ways that take account of differing lifestyles.” Consequently, the inspectors conclude, “pupils are not able to gain a full understanding of fundamental British values.” It is important to remember that they are writing about girls under the age of eight.
This is nothing short of the imposition of secular dogma. The government’s arrogance is astounding; how exactly do they presume to know what is necessary for the “spiritual” and “moral” development of these Orthodox girls? In that realm, bureaucrats are simply out of their depth and unfit to dictate rules to parents who know well enough how to raise their own children. Indeed, why should we presume that the bureaucrats’ fashionable dogmas about “lifestyles” are any wiser than the dogmas of the rabbinic or Christian traditions?
Simply put, religious liberty is an empty promise if it does not extend to the education of children. That is the issue here. Orthodox children will be fine, productive members of society even if they do not approve of gender reassignment. Far more important than crushing all dissent on issues of sexuality and gender is preserving the bedrock right peaceably to express one’s religion. Is this any less a “fundamental British value” than teaching about gender reassignment to prepubescent children?