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Dear Christine Blower…

Dear Christine Blower,

I was very disappointed to read your letter to the Guardian, dated Sunday 29th April. Your decision to sign the letter in your capacity of General Secretary of the NUT is of particular concern.

To begin, the legislative basis upon which you base your objection to the actions of certain Roman Catholic schools lacks serious credibility. Indeed, that you should need to resort to the claim that Roman Catholic schools had breached ‘the spirit of the Equality Act’ really ought to have been enough to give you serious pause for thought. In short, no law has been broken. Further, no school is, by law, required to conform to the ‘spirit’ of the Equality Act, as opposed to its precise legislative demands, not least because that very notion is itself transient and shifting. That you should choose, therefore, to link the decision of some Roman Catholic schools to inform their students of the C4M petition with incidents of homophobic bullying is little more than unfounded slur intended to enforce conformity through semantic (emotional) blackmail; those NUT members who work within Roman Catholic schools, and who can recognise your intervention for the prejudice-riven ignorance that it is, have every right to be concerned.

Put simply, Roman Catholic schools are very often beacons of equality and diversity – it is in our DNA – and to suggest we neglect to teach human rights or an understanding of one another is deeply offensive. There are, naturally, areas of disagreement, though do not please assume that you have a monopoly on either ethics or morals, or that your own interjections carry with them the quality of moral infallibility – one can disagree with your political, social and moral pronouncements without thereby being cast off as either reactionary or unpleasant. Indeed, the intentions and tone of your letter does little to suggest that your own worldview is one of inclusivity and tolerance.

Clearly, you have chosen to present your personal views as synonymous with your professional role, no doubt with the intention of adding authority to your pronouncements. This is inappropriate. You may well, of course, think the settled law of the land is homophobic or fuels homophobia. You may, indeed, think that marriage as legally, culturally, socially and historically understood is homophobic and fuels homophobia. You may also, clearly, believe that anyone who wishes to preserve the existing legal situation, by espousing the perfectly mainstream view that marriage is between one man and one woman, is homophobic or fuelling homophobia, or indeed polygamyphobic and fuelling polygamyphobia. All that is fine, and should you wish to pursue these views further then you do of course have every right to do so. What you absolutely do not have the right to do is to use your position as head of a national union to add any sort of professional imprimatur to these views, especially when the attack (for that is what this is) falls on the heads of so many of your members, whose hard work and membership fees are vital for the continuing success of your union.

Should you wish to complain about the role of Roman Catholic schools in informing their students about the C4M petition, which contradicts absolutely no law, then please do so in your capacity as Christine Blower. To do so in the name of the union you lead is a gross distortion of your role as union leader, and a gross abandonment of those whom you are morally obliged to represent.

As things stand, I see no reason why Roman Catholic members of the NUT, nor indeed those who work in and are committed to Roman Catholic education, nor indeed anyone else of all faiths or none who happen to find the current law on marriage perfectly sufficient, should continue to support any union, the General Secretary of which can cease to represent them and their interests, and indeed should seek to attack them directly on the basis of little more than slur and ignorance.

As such, I shall be reconsidering my membership of your union. Should I choose to stay, it shall be due to my unending admiration for the hard work and commitment of those in the lower tiers of the NUT hierarchy, rather than for any support or loyalty for those currently sitting at the top.

Yours,
Michael Merrick

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