NEW measures to stamp out anti-gay bullying in church schools have been announced.
The Archbishop of Canterbury described homophobia as “absolutely anathema to Christian practice”.
Most Rev Justin Welby said the new guidelines should eradicate the “victimisation and diminishment of young people through homophobic language or behaviour”, and help ensure that Church of England schools offer “a safe and welcoming place for all God’s children”.
Launching the guidance yesterday at Trinity Church of England school in Lewisham, south-east London, the archbishop said: "Church schools begin from the belief that every child is loved by God.
“This guidance aims to help schools express God's love by ensuring that they offer a safe and welcoming place for all God's children.
"This is a task we are called to share and I know it is one our schools take immensely seriously. I commend this guidance as a contribution to that work."
The guidelines, which are being sent to all church schools, warns that “schools can be the most homophobic social spaces” and makes clear that teachers should never allow the Bible to be used to justify homophobia.
It lists 10 recommendations for C of E schools to help them deal with homophobic bullying, including ensuring that all staff are trained to recognise and deal with all types of bullying.
Alistair Macnaughton, headteacher at the King’s School, in Gloucester, said: "No self-respecting school tolerates bullying in any form and I am very glad that the Archbishop of Canterbury, among others, is taking a strong stand on those who are victimised because of their sexual preferences.
“Although our society has moved forward in many ways, homophobia is still a problem and will remain so if people believe that the Bible justifies it.
“To believe that it does is to misunderstand the essence of the Christian message, which is surely about accepting – and even relishing – the differences between people."
The new document, Valuing All God's Children, acknowledges that within the Anglican community there is a wide range of beliefs about homosexuality and that it is a "very divisive issue" for the church.
But it adds that the purpose of schools is to educate and they should be a safe and welcoming place for all children.
It says: "Schools should ensure that their behaviour policies include clear expectations that homophobic behaviour and language will not be tolerated and that there can be no justification for this negative behaviour based on the Christian faith or the Bible."
The guidance says that children and young people are living in a "multimedia global age" and many of the celebrities they admire, such as DJs, TV presenters, chatshow hosts, singers, actors and sports stars, may be homosexual.
It adds: "In their families it is possible that someone will be homosexual, amongst their extended family's friendship network there might be same-sex-attracted people, and they may live next door to a gay couple who may be parents of their own school friends.
The guidance also says that within schools there may be staff members or parents who are in same-sex relationships, while a minority of pupils are likely to come out as homosexual when they are still at school.