Parents permanently banned from protesting LGBT lessons outside school

Parents who are angry that their children are being taught about LGBT equality have been permanently banned from protesting outside their school, a judge has ruled.

Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham has been the scene of repeated demonstrations this year, with those involved attempting to argue that the lessons on same-sex relationships contradict their religious beliefs.

The protesters, who are Muslim, have lined up with banners, placards and loudspeakers to get their point across, prompting angry exchanges with supporters of the school including Labour's Jess Phillips.

Headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson told Sky News earlier this year the demonstrations were "homophobic" and revealed some members of staff have had to receive counselling.

An exclusion zone to stop the protests was implemented via an interim injunction back in June, amid safety fears about increasingly large groups often featuring people with no direct connection to the school or the local area.

Birmingham City Council sought a court order to further protect the school and extend the ban, which has now been granted by High Court judge Mr Justice Warby.

He made his decision following a five-day hearing held last month, which will anger opponents who had described the council application as a "super-injunction".

The judge ruled the injunction "does not amount to unlawful discrimination against the protesters".

He added that the protesters had "misunderstood and misrepresented that is being taught at the school", and that the lessons did not feature sex education and were not "promoting homosexuality".

The ruling has been welcomed by Birmingham City Council and the trade union NAHT, which represents leaders in the majority of schools and has supported those affected by the protests.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, said: "These protests have been widely and rightly condemned and they should now be brought to an end with immediate effect."

He added: "We will continue to support schools where disagreements persist because diversity and equality are a matter of fact and a matter of law and learning about equality and diversity is not optional."

Dr Tim O'Neill, director of education at the council, said he was "really pleased for the pupils, staff, parents and wider community" and condemned the protests for attracting "fringe elements" who stoke "division and hatred".

Protesters unhappy that their children have been taught that it is "okay to be gay" have argued that such lessons contradict their religious beliefs, although some of those involved do not have children at the school.

One such person is Shakeel Afsar, one of the ringleaders of the demonstrations, who has previously told Sky News that his "people are being pushed into a corner".

Another Birmingham primary school, Parkfield Community School, pulled its LGBT teaching programme to consult with parents after similar demonstrations and a death threat sent to headteacher Andrew Moffat.

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson has been adamant that nothing will change at her school and told the hearing last month that protesters were "inciting hatred".

She told Birmingham's Civil Justice Centre: "I have seen many tweets and texts and video messages by the protesters that shows they are not interested in consultation.

"There are many things that I have seen and heard over the past nine months, particularly posted by some of the defendants, that are inciting hatred."

Despite the controversy in Birmingham, the government has maintained that parents will not get a veto when compulsory relationship lessons begin as planned from September 2020.