Friday, November 29, 2019

British Court Enjoins Protests Against School's LGBT Curriculum

In Birmingham City Council v. Afsar, (EWHC, Nov. 26, 2019), a trial judge in the High Court in the British city of Birmingham held that an injunction should be issued limiting the manner in which demonstrators can protest an elementary school's curriculum on LGBT issues. According to the court:
The case has been pleaded and argued in various ways, but at its heart is the argument that the School’s teaching policy – described by the defendants as “the teaching of LGBT issues (ie teaching equalities)” – represents or involves unlawful discrimination against British Pakistani Muslim children at the School, and those with parental responsibility for them ... on grounds of race and/or religion. It is submitted that the core religious, philosophical and cultural values of this group “are centred on heterosexual relationships in marriage; this state of belief does not encompass same sex relationships”. ....
The court held that the Equality Act 2010 excludes from its coverage anything done in connection with the content of curriculum. In any event, the court concluded:
The teaching has been misunderstood and misinterpreted by the defendants, and misrepresented, sometimes grossly misrepresented, in the course of the protests. The matters that have actually been taught are limited, and lawful. 
The court went on:
The evidence – including but not limited to the expert evidence - persuades me that the levels of noise generated by this way of protesting is clearly excessive, amounting to an intrusion into the lives of those at the School and its neighbours that goes well beyond anything that could be justified as proportionate to the aims of persuasion. 
The court held, however, that an earlier injunction banning the use of social media by protesters should be lifted, saying in part:
The speech with which I am here concerned has been expressed in the context of a private, or limited, WhatsApp group. It was not aimed at the teachers, in the sense that they were intended to read it. It has come to their attention only as a result of disclosures made by one or more members of that group. The scale, frequency, nature and impact of the abuse to date, given its context, do not give rise to a sufficiently compelling case for interference.
The court also issued a summary of the decision. The British publication Conservative Women published an article highly critical of the decision.