Gay hiking

Archdiocese blasted by Croydon and Sutton leaders after banning gay author from Catholic school

South London politicians ‘deplore’ the Archdiocese of Southwark’s decision to ban a gay author’s visit to a Catholic boys’ school. Author Simon James Green was due to visit John Fisher School in Purley last week to talk about his novel, Noah Can’t Even, which features a gay character. But the archdiocese pushed the school to cancel the event.

It is a voluntary school, meaning it is partly funded by Sutton Council, while the Archdiocese of Southwark contributes to construction costs and has substantial influence over the running of the school . A number of governors were sacked for supporting the author’s visit, which has since led to more than 2,000 people signing a petition started by relatives to have them reinstated.

Sutton Council leader Ruth Dombey said she was “shocked” by the incident in an open letter to the church and the author. She said: “I am deeply concerned about the actions of the Archdiocese and the manner in which it has conducted itself, both in relation to the visitation and to the governing body. It is very important that all of our pupils receive a inclusive and open education.

Councilor Dombey then invited the author to visit the Sutton library and other schools in the borough. She added: “I am deeply sorry that this letter has become necessary and I hope you can visit my borough so that I can meet you in person.”

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Although the Catholic school is in the borough of Sutton, it borders Croydon, meaning that many pupils are Croydon residents. The Cabinet Member of Croydon Council for Children, Young People and Learning said: ‘We regret the decision to cancel a visit by Simon James Green to John Fisher School, located in the nearby town of Sutton and frequented by young people from our borough. Croydon is committed to an inclusive, fair and equal society – there is no place for discrimination of any kind in our communities, nor in schools with Croydon pupils.

“We are also very concerned to learn that some members of the school’s board of directors have been dismissed. We will be working with our counterparts in Sutton to understand from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark what happened and to seek assurances about the welfare of our students within the school.

The diocese would not comment further on the incident but last week issued a statement which read: “Any impression that the John Fisher School is anything other than an inclusive learning center that allows young people to flourish is deeply regrettable. The Archdiocese acted to ensure that the material put in front of the children was appropriate for their age. We continue to work with John Fisher School moving forward.