British ultra-Orthodox enlist unusual ally to fight forced education on sex and LBGTQ

The Schools Bill would require independent schools to have classes on sex and LGBTQ, which impinge on their religious freedom, say the religious Jews.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The ultra-Orthodox (haredi) public in London has enlisted an unusual ally in its fight against a proposed bill that would require their schools to teach subjects it vociferously objects to, The Jewish Chronicle reported.

The community has released a short hip hop music video that features an unidentified black performer singing, “What you gonna do with them School Bills, we gonna scrap them, I know what’s best for me and mine… School bills gotta go.”

The “Scrap the Schools Bill” campaign also created a series of animated cartoons that are running on YouTube.

The ultra-Orthodox are not known for either listening to hip hop or being fans of social media, but their desire to reach a broader audience for their fight, and especially neophyte Secretary of Education Kit Malthouse in Prime Minister Liz Truss’ new government, is paramount.

The controversial legislation would force the yeshivas to teach some secular subjects, such as sex education that would include explanations about alternative lifestyles. These subjects are never brought up in haredi schools, which concentrate almost exclusively on religious study.

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They have not been required to do so until now because they have not been defined by British law as “schools.” This law would change their status.

The community also brought a few thousand of its members to demonstrate over the summer in front of Parliament against what they deem a heavy-handed attempt to proscribe their religious freedom.

As one protestor told The JC in August, “The Bill would not allow Jews to practice our law in our schools. If this law is passed, Jews will not be able to live here. I am a British patriot, but we cannot accept this.”

The most prominent leaders of the community have been in contact with government officials ever since the threat to traditional yeshiva education emerged in 2019, without much success.

Most recently, after centenarian Rabbi Elyakim Schlesinger appealed to then-British leader Boris Johnson, Under-Secretary of State for the School System Baroness Barran responded that the bill intended only to “protect” children and “is not intended to undermine any group, nor is it driven by a desire to dictate how anybody practices their religion.”

As an alternative, she suggested that the yeshivot operate as an after-school enrichment program instead, with the children attending a “registered school” or being home-schooled, neither of which is an acceptable alternative to the community.

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The new Conservative government may be more amenable to the ultra-Orthodox concerns. The Times reported last month that sources close to the government thought that the bill would either be “diluted” or even dropped altogether, because it was not an issue of extreme importance to the prime minister.