The legal charity and social-conservative advocacy group Christian Concern have made the headlines again as they throw another vulnerable family into the dog pit of public scrutiny. But before we throw stones perhaps we should consider how common this advocacy strategy is?
To begin with, the case that Christian Concern have brought against the Church of England primary school is – if reports are accurate – an open and shut case. Clearly absurd.
Their clients claim that their son is being made anxious by the sight of another boy in a dress.
Not only is this silly but it flies in the face of the far right whinge that people are always trying to impose a politically correct agenda on them. It’s clear who is trying to impose their agenda in this narrative. No one is making CCs client where a skirt yet their client wishes to impose trousers on a neighbour.
Even as I write that sentence: “their client wishes to impose trousers”! I could despair. Do CC have nothing better to do?
Of course this is not really about knee coverings or birth names or any such thing. It’s about power. It’s always about power.
Christian Concern lobby using an advocacy model. They take an issue and then use a ‘victim’ to push the issue so that they can either move the framing of the conversation (just having the conversation is a type of framing so in that sense they have won) or even impact on law.
But haven’t so many charities also been guilty of this advocacy model of using this model. A picture of a starving child on a leaflet from Ethiopia? A worker who needs the union to fight on her behalf?
Christian Concern have little choice about their method. They cannot organise masses because most of us think they’re on a different – and very strange – planet.
But on the left an organise self-directed movement is possible and in the end the only thing that will bring about meaningful change.
Jane McAlevey puts it like this: “Advocacy fails to use the only concrete advantage ordinary people have over elites: large numbers.” (McAlevey J. No Shortcuts, OUP, 2017, p. 9).
CC will not stop bringing their absurd fights to the courts an the papers will continue to give them more space than they deserve because they are the circus events that we all love to watch.
But meanwhile lets build relationships with our neighbours and make sure our primary schools are fit to fight the issues that effect all our children whether LGBTQ or straight: educational austerity and class privilege.
This is an opinion piece reflecting the view of the author and does not represent an official UTU position.