London, April 27 (IANS) The Roman Catholic Church has contacted its schools in England and Wales and asked them to encourage pupils to oppose gay marriages and promote traditional heterosexual relationships.
The Catholic Education Service contacted a total of 385 secondary schools, and asked them to circulate a letter defending the traditional definition of marriage, the Telegraph reported.
Schools were also invited to promote a petition by the Coalition For Marriage opposing the government's plans to allow homosexual couples to marry.
Around 470,000 people have signed the petition, backed by the former archbishop of Canterbury.
in March, a letter penned by the archbishops of Westminster and Southwark, defended marriage as a "natural institution" and said that redefining it would be a "profoundly radical" step.
Schools were invited to use the letter in assemblies or distribute copies to parents.
A pupil at a London secondary school wrote on the website PinkNews that they were "appalled" by the way the issue was being presented.
Secularist campaigners warned that schools which read the letter could be breaking equality laws as well as rules against promoting political causes in schools.
"It was an explanation of marriage and a positive affirmation of marriage, celebrating the huge value that it brings to society - we are proud of the fact that these kinds of values are taught in our schools," said Maeve McCormack, policy manager for the Catholic Education Service.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said it was "a clear breach of the authority and privilege that the Catholic Education Service has been given in schools".
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