The vajra: cutting through to the truth

The Department of Education’s Enquiry

Departnment for Education and Employment
Sanctuary Buildings
Great Smith Street
Westminster
London
SW1P 3BT

Telephone 0870 0012 345

Email dfee.ministers@dfee.gov.uk

Charles Clarke MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State

Vishvapani
FWBO Communications Office
St Marks Studios
Chillingworth Road
London
N7 8SJ

31st March 1999

Dear Vishvapani,

I am writing to inform you of the outcomes of the Department’s investigation into allegations made on The FWBO Files website.

We have not been able to go beyond the allegations that relate to education, namely that:

• The FWBO, through Manchester’s locally agreed syllabus are covertly encouraging teenagers to experiment with homosexuality: The syllabus states one of the principles of Buddhism as avoiding over-identifying with one’s sexuality. It is claimed that this is clearly the first stage of overcoming one’s ‘conditioned fear’ of homosexuality, and that this is consistent with the FWBO’s promotion of homosexual activity as a route to enlightenment;

• The phrase avoiding over-identifying with one’s sexuality was inserted in the draft syllabus by the FWBO, despite some Buddhist representatives objecting to the wording. The FWBO Files allege, therefore, that the correct procedures for drawing up syllabuses were not followed and that the FWBO had an improper influence on the content of the syllabus; and

• The relationship between the FWBO and Manchester LEA’s RE adviser was improperly close.

Manchester LEA strongly deny that their agreed syllabus in any way promotes homosexuality. It is their view, and one which the Department considers to be a reasonable interpretation, that avoiding over-identifying with one’s sexuality means that, although sex is part of life, not too much emphasis should placed on its importance, and that sexuality should be balanced with other aspects of life. I know that you share this view. I am, however, concerned that some schools may find the phrase a little ambiguous and have therefore written to Manchester LEA asking that they ensure that the meaning of the phrase is clarifled with schools as necessary.

In addition, I have suggested to Manchester LEA that the use of the contentious phrase is considered carefully when the syllabus is next reviewed in 2001. I have also invited the authority to consider whether there is any evidence to support the wider allegations expressed in The FWBO Files when considering Buddhist representation on future conferences.

The Department has not been presented with any evidence to persuade us that the FWBO were approached about the wording of the contentious phrase during the drawing up of the syllabus. The Department received only one reply in response to our approach to the other Buddhist representatives. That organisation reported that it had raised queries with FWBO representatives about those parts of the syllabus for which they were the primary authors, and that the contentious phrase may have been amongst these. It was made clear, however, that these discussions took place informally and were not minuted.

Although Manchester LEA’s RE adviser did support and promote a training event for teachers run by the FWBO, this does not, in our view, indicate an improperly close relationship between the adviser and the FWBO. No other evidence was presented to substantiate this allegation.

In summary, we have concluded that although the contentious phrase is somewhat ambiguous, it is more likely to be interpreted by teachers in the way intended by the FWBO and Manchester LEA, and that there is no evidence to support either the claim that the conference proceedings were not correctly followed, or that there was an improperly close relationship between the RE adviser and the FWBO.

As you know, my officials also looked into Lord Avebury’s concerns about the suitability and accuracy of educational materials produced by the Clear Vision Trust. I understand that you would be happy to enter into discussions with the Buddhist community to ensure an accurate representation of Buddhism in their publications.

Since our investigation was limited to those allegations which fell within its remit, namely those concerning religious education, I recently wrote to the Home Office to draw its attention to the wider allegations on The FWBO Files. Some of those concern criminal behaviour and could, therefore, only be investigated if reported to the police. The Home Office are not aware of police involvement at any stage. I have advised Lord Avebury and the author of The FWBO Files to approach the Home Office direct about the wider allegations.

I have written in similar terms to Lord Avebury, Don Foster MP, the author of The FWBO Files and Manchester LEA.

Charles Clarke

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