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Christian group slams UK gov't over school plans

LONDON (AA) – A British Christian organization has attacked the government’s proposals to combat religious extremism in schools by promoting "British values," describing them as “flawed and unlawful."
The Christian Institute said in a press release Tuesday that the new measures - to be imposed on more than 6,000 independent schools in England - would have “serious and perverse consequences.” The proposals come in the wake of Birmingham city council receiving an anonymous letter in March alleging that "Islamists" planned to take over the governing bodies of Muslim majority schools in the UK’s second largest city - which is around 25 percent Muslim - and replace head teachers with those agreeing to a specific Muslim ideology. In the furor that followed, a Department of Education report said that there was no evidence of extremism but "there are a number of people in a position of influence who either espouse, or sympathize with or fail to challenge extremist views."
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has since called for schools to actively promote "fundamental British values."
The Christian Institute - which describes itself as a non-denominational charity that seeks to promote the Christian faith in the UK - claims that the new measures would require teachers to remove "unfashionable" and gender specific terms - such as husband, wife, mother and father - from the curriculum. They say Christian schools could be forced to downgrade festivals such as Christmas, so as not to offend atheists and those of other faiths. It added that it is so concerned about the proposals, it has engaged lawyers and is threatening the Department for Education with a judicial review - a court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body, in this case the Department of Education.
“This is a classic case of the Government overreacting to a perceived problem," said Colin Hart, the institute's chief executive.
"They are shocking in their breadth and range and would destroy the independent sector."
He added that the government was mistakenly advancing political correctness as "British values."
Accordingly, he said that they could be used to punish any school in the independent sector which has a religious ethos, a set of traditional beliefs, or who don’t over promote every minority group’s world view.
“There was clearly a managerial problem in the schools in Birmingham, but is forcing more than 6,000 schools and over three million pupils to submit themselves to every whim of the PC [politically correct] brigade really the best way to tackle it?" added Hart. In response, the Department for Education said Tuesday that the standards are designed to ensure every school prepares children for life in modern Britain.
"We make no apology for demanding high standards and the promotion of tolerance and respect of all faiths and cultures... It is simply untrue to say that the proposed changes — which received 1400 responses in the last six weeks - would prevent teachers using gender-specific terms or require schools to downgrade Christian festivals."
It added that the government had received a letter from the Institute's legal representatives and is considering its response.”
The Anadolu Agency’s own investigation in April revealed a neo-conservative agenda within the Department of Education linked to the then Education Secretary Michael Gove who has since been replaced by Nicky Morgan.

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