Dame Louise Casey said she was not suggesting any change in the law regarding Catholic schools

A government adviser who suggested Catholic schools should accept gay marriage has defended her remarks in a letter to the Catholic Herald.

Dame Louise Casey, the Government’s “integration tsar”, told MPs last month that it was “not OK” for Catholic schools to be “homophobic and anti-gay marriage”.

She was explaining that head teachers had a difficult task in deciding how far to respond to the concerns of religious groups.

She also said she had a “problem with the expression of ‘religious conservatism’ because I think often it can be anti-equalities”. Her remarks were criticised by Edward Leigh MP in an article for the Herald. Sir Edward argued that “linking opposition to same-sex civil marriage to homophobia is profoundly philosophically ignorant”, adding: “She seems to imply that a matter of legitimate civil and political dispute – deepening the legal constructs regarding same-sex relationships – is no longer an item for debate.”

But in her letter, Dame Louise said she was a “fan” of Catholic schools and supported ending the 50 per cent cap on faith-based admissions for free schools.

On her comments about same-sex marriage, she said: “I was not suggesting that the law should go any further than the existing requirement that teaching is conducted in an appropriate, factual, reasonable, professional and sensitive way.”

She said she was arguing that it was “not OK” for schools to disregard “equalities duties”.

Dame Louise Casey’s letter

SIR – I would like to make my position clear in response to concerns about my views on Catholic schools and gay marriage (Report and comment, January 20). I am a fan of Catholic schools. Both for their high values-based standards and their proud history of serving diverse communities. That is why I supported ending the 50 per cent cap on faith-based admissions for new free schools. It was not helping to reduce segregation but was acting as a barrier to new Catholic schools from opening.

In Parliament, I was asked about the Trojan Horse episode in Birmingham, which resulted in inappropriate behaviours, unequal treatment and segregation in state-funded secular schools. In response, my point was that it is not acceptable for Muslim or any other children in Britain to be educated in such environments, in the same way it would not be okay for Catholic (or any other) schools to disregard their equalities duties under the law. I was not suggesting that the law should go any further than the existing requirement that teaching is conducted in an appropriate, factual, reasonable, professional and sensitive way.

While I personally support the right to gay marriage, I do respect the Catholic Church’s long-held view, just as I appreciate its doctrine that gay men and women must be accepted with compassion. I am certainly not threatening the right of the Church or individuals of faith to hold their views. Our diversity, tolerance and freedoms are among the many things that make this country such a great place to live in. I hope we can all unite around that.

Yours faithfully,

Dame Louise Casey CB