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Gove rejects call to ban Catholic booklet from schools

By on Thursday, 23 February 2012

Michael Gove has dismissed a complaint from Brendan Barber, head of the TUC (PA photo)

Michael Gove has dismissed a complaint from Brendan Barber, head of the TUC (PA photo)

The Education Secretary Michael Gove has defended the right of Catholic schools to promote Church teaching on homosexuality following a complaint from Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

Mr Barber had written to Mr Gove complaining that the distribution of “homophobic material” in some classrooms in Lancashire undermined equality laws.

In response, Mr Gove said that the content of a curriculum was not covered by the Equality Act, but added that any berating or harassing of gay pupils would be unlawful.

He said: “The education provisions of the Equality Act which prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their protected characteristics (including their sexual orientation) do not extend to the content of the curriculum. Any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the act.”

Mr Gove added: “If a school conveyed its beliefs in a way that involved haranguing, harassing or berating a gay or lesbian pupil or group of pupils then this would be unacceptable in any circumstances and is likely to constitute unlawful discrimination.”

Mr Barber described Mr Gove’s reaction as “alarming” and said that the distribution of “homophobic material” undermines a school’s legal duty to challenge all forms of prejudice.

He told the Observer: “Having written to the Education Secretary to express our worry about the distribution of homophobic literature in faith schools, his lack of concern is very alarming.”

Mr Barber wrote to the Education Secretary in December expressing objections to the distribution of a booklet on sexuality throughout Catholic schools in Lancashire.

The booklet was provided by Jason Evert, a Catholic apologist who toured schools throughout the Lancaster diocese in 2010, to promote chastity in accordance with Church teaching.

The booklet, entitled Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be, states that “the homosexual act is disordered, much like contraceptive sex between heterosexuals”.

It adds: “Both acts are directed against God’s natural purpose for sex – babies and bonding.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Lancaster declined to comment.

Neil Addison, a Catholic barrister who specialises in religion and equality law, echoed Mr Gove’s response, saying that legislation concerning sexual orientation was not applicable to the school curriculum and dismissing the TUC’s objection as “bunkum”.

“The Equality Act says that nothing in the relevant part of the Act ‘applies to anything done in connection with the content of the curriculum’ so the allegation of a breach of the Equality Act is bunkum,” he said. “Also, what has this got to do with the TUC? Since when did it become the role of the TUC to act as censor for what is taught in schools?

“The TUC and gay rights campaigners should remember that freedom of speech is a two-way process. It means defending the rights of others to express views they may disagree with.”

British pro-life activist Robert Colquhoun accompanied Mr Evert to some of the Catholic schools and said that the TUC had focused too narrowly on a small section of the leaflet. He said: “I visited some schools in Preston with Jason Evert when he toured the country here. His ministry is outstanding in promoting chastity among young people.

“Jason’s work has helped many young people understand and appreciate the great gift of sexuality. All his writings are scientifically, medically and theologically thorough and I am appalled that the TUC has criticised his work.”

He added: “Jason’s work also receives a wonderful response from young people who are big fans of his work. To suggest he is homophobic is just absurd.”

The TUC’s website dedicates a section to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. The section identifies schools and colleges as remaining areas where prejudice is “endemic”.

It states: “The Equality Act 2010 … has achieved full legal equality for LGBT people with all other groups, with a few exceptions on which campaigning will continue.

“The public sector equality duty introduced by the Equality Act, the TUC believes, offers a powerful lever to assist public bodies to challenge continued prejudice and hostility in areas where it remains endemic such as in schools and colleges, and in sports like football.

“The TUC is working with unions and allies such as Schools Out to challenge this unacceptable state of affairs.”

Mr Gove’s response followed an official address from a Cabinet colleague claming that Britain was under threat from “militant secularists”.

Cabinet minister Baroness Warsi said that Britain had “got to the stage where aggressive secularism is being imposed by stealth, leaving us with the ironic situation where, to stave off intolerance against minorities, we end up being intolerant towards religion itself”.

She said that the most worrying part of “this militant secularisation” is that in “its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant”.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has also expressed fears about the marginalisation of Christianity.

  • James H

    What on this blue planet does it have to do with this Trade Union Boss, anyway?

  • Guest H

    Jason Evert has a fantastic ministry! I heard him speak at WYD11 with his wife and they are both doing amazing work for God’s plan for purity and chastity.  His research IS very thorough and backed up by teaching of the Catholic Church, especially the Theology of the Body brought to light by JP2. To say he is homophobic is ridiculous, and they’ve definitely taken it out of context. You can find a talk of his from WYD08 on itunes and xt3.com if you want to hear how he argues it for young people living in a culture that constantly misunderstands freedom of sexuality.

  • John Byrne

    Mr Gove said:
     “If a school conveyed its beliefs in a way that involved haranguing, harassing or berating a gay or lesbian pupil or group of pupils then this would be unacceptable in any circumstances and is likely to constitute unlawful discrimination.”
    Isn’t this exactly what this booklet does? Gay people, as a whole group, are surely indicated by what is written not to be “pure” people; and are thereby indicated by the booklet to be impure or dirty or disgusting people (certainly not as good, pure and nice as heterosexual people). 

    As for James H’s comment: workers whose Union is affiliated to the TUC work in such places as Catholic schools – and some of them (Catholic and non-Catholic) are almost certain to be distressed by the booklet’s comments.

  • Anonymous

    The booklet does not harass or berate any individuals; the Catholic Church’s opposition to homosexuality is purely an ethical objection to an action that homosexuals are, by definition, tempted towards. If the booklet were in any sense “homophobic” then it would be saying that homosexuals are simply worse than heterosexuals by reason of their sexuality, as opposed to what the Church actually says which is that the action and the practise of homosexuality is itself unethical and morally wrong. Disagree with that judgement if you will, but do not just label it as “homophobia.” The Church says nothing about homosexuals being inferior as people, merely that the acts that they are tempted to perform are immoral and are thus condemned.

  • John Byrne

    I didn’t “label” the booklet as “homophobic”, anonymous.

    I said that the booklet, and some of the things said by some Catholics: [label] “Gay people, as a whole group……….. not to be “pure” people………[but] to be impure or dirty or disgusting people (certainly not as good, pure and nice as heterosexual people)”. 

    If you wish instead to use phrases, to describe gay people, such as : “unethical and morally wrong”, and to say that their acts are: ” immoral and are thus condemned”, you are obviously free to select your own form of words, but you are still in effect “involved [in] haranguing, harassing or berating” gay people. I believe that gay people would see it this way too.

    However, despite the fact that many of its clergy are gay, I do think that the Church is homophobic. The Biblical content that makes it so is only too apparent.

  • Anonymous

    I did not describe homosexuals themselves as “unethical and morally wrong,” please do not quote-mine my comments if you really want to discuss this. The description of “unethical and morally wrong” was, as any readers of the comment will see, directed at the actions to which homosexuals were tempted towards; interestingly enough, there is actually no discrimination between sexualities here at all given that the only form of sex that the Catholic Church condones at all (be it between homosexuals or heterosexuals) is reproductive sex, thus any sexual action that is possible to homosexuals, and therefore forbidden of them, is also forbidden for heterosexual couples.

    Once again I repeat my principal objection: the Catholic objection to homosexuality is solely a moral one against an action. You clearly disagree with that judgement and are quite free to do so. I simply leave to the readers of the Herald to notice that the given quote from the booklet describes only “the homosexual act.”

  • John Byrne

    “I see” – you do not object to homosexuals “themselves”, but only to what they do.
    It seems to me that you are also saying that some other (non-homosexuals) are just as bad as them – in doing the (sexual) things that they do.

    Our attitudes, views, opinions etc  to/of people in general, and to/of individuals in particular, are determined in large measure by what they actually do.
    Hitler would not be thought such as bad man if he had not done some of the things which he did.

    I would say that the Church is not only homophobic, but has a great portfolio of phobias linked to sex.

    The disdain (many other words could be used) with which many Catholics view homosexuals is all too evident, and is regrettably maintained by the Church’s dogma on the issue.
    As a person who was married as a Catholic to a Catholic woman, in a church by a Catholic priest and with children and grand-children, I cannot, unfortunately, avoid feeling some of these things myself.
    Intellectually, I think I have raised my level of consciousness above that instilled into me by the Church on this matter – but the subconscious “disdain” still has to be suppressed.

    Every sex act that homosexuals perform as a consequence of their sexual orientation is legal and allowed without criticism by the State.
    We do not live in a theocracy, thank God, and if the Church wishes to retain its absurd ancient phobias and prejudices, it should whisper them quietly so that none might hear.

  • Anonymous

    I have nothing to say on the “disdain” with which any individual may regard homosexuals, all I am concerned with is the actual Church teaching on the matter, which the booklet advocates; there may be individual people with tendencies that may be justly called homophobic within the Catholic Church, but that is none of my concern.

    I hope this will be the last time I shall have to correct you on the Church’s actual teaching regarding homosexuality: the teaching does not involve or advocate “homophobia” in any properly defined sense – a phobia is, by definition, a pathological fear or hatred of something or somebody, whereas the Catholic doctrines with regard to homosexuality are based entirely on scriptural and philosophical grounds. Once again, I have to ask you to desist from wrongly using the word “phobia.”

    One last point: it does not matter at all how old or ancient the Church’s doctrines (which you wrongly term “prejudices”) are; all that matters is whether or not they are true. You clearly believe them false, as is your right, but do not simply dismiss them as prejudices when they are themselves grounded in Christian philosophy and in theology; if you want the Church to provide reasons for its objections to many things (which it does) then at least do the Church the same courtesy.

  • Dave Corrigan

    It might be wise to dispense with labels i.e. Gay, homosexual, religious, booklets, trade unions etc. In simple clinical terms, acts of sodomy are anatomically dangerous in terms of anal sphincter damage. It is even more dangerous in terms of physiological risk because of the pathogenic bacteria that exist in the lower bowel. A combination of anatomical damage and physiological infection is not a pleasant sight to behold. Sadly these practices are all too common in all aspects of human sexuality and not just within a homosexual culture.Sadly, there is no legislation, education, religious or moral authority that can prevent people with these sexual propensities from indulging in unhygienic and clinically dangerous sexual acts. Finally: The one thing that history has taught us is that banning books of any kind will only exacerbate the issue, because doing so generally arouses more interest and curiosity as was the case with “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”.

  • James H

     Your posting just gets more and more fantastically ignorant:

    “great portfolio of phobias linked to sex.” Examples? Setting boundaries to the foundation of civilisation is not a phobia. Overstepping those boundaries is not freedom.

    You’ve “raised your consciousness” above that of the church – really humble and objective of you. Do you thank God that you are not as other men (sinful, homophobic, not wanting sex except with their wives)?

  • David Devinish

    I suppose that is understandable that the Church once had a role in the health of the community, especially within the monastic system. However, because of modern health care facilities, there is no official role for the church in healthcare, other than be concerned for the health of the community. The idea of a deity deciding who should and should not engage in coitus is absurd. It is right and proper that that all aspects of health and sexuality should be questioned whenever thought necessary, but the church (any church, creed, sect or cult) should not and must not be given any special privilege in deciding the outcome of clinical or political decisions. It is within the power of the Pope to give clear direction about same sex relation and same sex marriage, because the fact is, these things exist and it is impossible to put the clock back. I have been helping my granddaughter with a project about the antecedents leading up to the French Revolution. She said; “Granddad, if Pope Pius IV has instructed the French clergy to support the poor instead of the aristocracy, then there would not have been a French Revolution, and world history would be very different”. This is a good example of the perpetual negligence of The Catholic Church. History has filled with such acts of omission (sitting on the fence and hoping that the problem will go away). That is what the Roman Catholic Church are doing now, which is paradoxical, when one considers the role of Roman Catholic Clergy and worldwide Child Sexual Abuse.

  • John Byrne

    Thank you for your reply David (by the way, it seems not possible to “like” your posting, so if you have no “likes”, you know the reason why).

    And yes “James H” it is not difficult to raise one’s consciousness above that of the (“official”) Church. The perpetual negligence of the Church to which David refers, so evident in 1789 France and 1930s Germany as prime examples, shows itself with distressing frequency, and is in full display over the questions raised by homosexuality.

    Those within the Vatican and elsewhere in the Church who must see this are, in my view, (again) failing to speak. In this age however their failure is more dangerous than ever for the Church. They can no longer rely on the ignorance of vast numbers of the laity and the sharp tongues of “hell & damnation” preachers. 

    For a few years before 1963 there seemed to be some hope for the longer-term future. Alas, a false dawn(?).

  • Mark Castilano

    And who the hell are you, with arrogance and temerity to correct anybody while remaining anonymous Mr Byrne has given his name, and I have given my name, so again, who the hell are you to tell anybody what to think or believe. Your understanding of a phobia is not correct, because a fear and a phobia are not the same thing. When I was a boy it was decreed to be a mortal sin to play association football (soccer), rugby, cricket, or any game whereby we might be corrupted by Protestants by our bishop. He also decreed to be a mortal sin to listen to Radio Luxembourg, dance rock, and roll, or watch girls showing their knickers. (which I did). The Catholic Truth Society in Ireland decreed that kissing on the lips was sinful and went on to give a ruling on how to kiss, but only when someone else was present. By today’s standards this could be called a bit kinky. So much so for the teachings of the Holy Roman Catholic Church that are now virtually redundant. The truth of the matter is that very few people of sound reason give little concern for what the Catholic Church teaches, about anything.

  • Christopher J. Moore

    Presumably Mr Barber and his cronies would have the Bible banned in faith schools.

  • John Byrne

    Thank you Mark for your support.
    I decided that I had to let “anonymous” go when he came up with “I hope this will be the last time I shall have to correct you…”; there is really nothing to be said in such a situation.

    Your posting suggests that you may have enjoyed the delights (in your youth) of the Catholic Church in Ireland, whereas I only experienced (despite my name) that which was exported across the Irish Sea. 

    Bear in mind though that the Irish CTS and others of their ilk are only the theological equivalent of the jobsworths who (for example) give a parking ticket to the man who stops to give assistance to the elderly woman who collapses at the roadside. 

    These and some others including the “Catholic Answers” website (a US production to which I saw a link on this ‘site), show perhaps that God has a well-developed sense of humour.

  • David Devinish

    The creed, truth and doctrine that you speak of was fabricated out of thin air by the Emperor Constantine. He did not even invite Pope Silvester to the Council of Nicaea and went on to pontificate and prognosticate doctrine that is now defunct and recognised as myth and fantasy in the same way that Homer’s “The Odyssey” is myth and fantasy. The study of Myth and fantasy is important in terms of where we came from and why people believed in Gods and Devils to explain what now is accepted as normal phenomena i.e, Storms at sea, thunder and lightening, earthquakes and volcanoes, sickness etc,etc . But to think that some people still accept that Gods and Devils exist in a mythical context defies all logic and reason, Such phenomena can easily be explained in terms of the neuro-chemistry and electro-conductivity of the human brain, mainly within the limbic system. Belief systems, spirituality, prayer, power of religious statues, icons and all other religious paraphernalia can be explained in the context of superstition like astrology and other auto suggestive techniques such as palmistry, reading Tarot cards and generalised hocus-pocus.When a person watches and listens to a “hell fire’ gospel preacher and a stage hypnotist, it soon becomes clear that they both have the skill to induce a trance in the audience. Stage hypnotists who used to be ubiquitous are now rarely seen. Many local authorities will no longer grant a licience to such entertainers because of the danger of exploiting the public.It is only a matter of time before church sermons will have to withstand public and legal scrutiny. This scrutiny is already happening within some Mosques, and it will soon happen that all religious preachers will have to substantiate the content and context of their homily. It does not matter one iota what fervent and zealous churchgoers have to say, because the people, especially the vulnerable and susceptible to suggestion, must be protected from threats of hell and damnation. Such threats must be rendered illegal.

  • Mark Castilano

    I supported you because you come across as cogent and sincere, and a person to be taken seriously. But I grow intolerant of loud mouthed windbags who prognosticate second hand or third hand knowledge and give the impression that they have received this knowledge directly from the Holy Ghost in a dream. I am a great respecter of genuine knowledge on any subject, but when a person admonishes another person with “I hope this will be the last time I shall have to correct you”, then such pseudo-sanctity is dangerous to the well being of the Catholic Church, and in the main, it is ‘anonymous people’ like this who are bringing the church down.

  • Cate

    Why aren’t heterosexuals who participate in ‘contraceptive sex’ also up in arms about the booklet… seems that they should also be offended.  Jason Evert is not being discriminatory towards homosexuals because he is also challenging the behaviour of heterosexuals who have sex outside of marriage.  Catholic teaching is not tough on homosexuals… if anything, Catholic teaching is tough on us all…. it challenges us all to express out sexuality in a way that is pure and selfless and focussed on the good of another person.  

  • Claude Gavroche

    It is indeed a sad thing that the contemporary Catholic Church still harbours people with the mentality and sadistic nature of Bernardo Gui the Dominican Order Inquisitor. He took the view that his interpretation of the Church’s doctrine was absolute and anyone (even senior clerics) who thought differently from him was denounced and tortured. Sadly, even thought the Roman Catholic Church is modernised there are a small minority of sick and sad people (as some blog’s depict) who want the restoration of austerity and medieval darkness within the Church. Only recently, I heard an intemperate woman at a teacher- parent evening calling out for corporal punishment to be re-introduced in schools and more chastisement and humiliation for the children. She stated “It didn’t do us any harm” as she advocated causing pain and suffering to children. She proposed that some parents should face public admonishment, and should be ostracised if that did not comply with the rules of the church (her rules). Such people wish to proscribe anything that gives freedom, love and pleasure to the people, they also advocate excommunication for anyone who questions Catholic church doctrine and want absolute authority of the church that must be obeyed without question and with impunity. In France where I come from, this is not a problem, because no church or religion has any special consideration in law. The church would not dare to tell a minister of state how to do his job, and if they did, no one would listen. The clergy and the people are very aware of the legal and professional limitations and the influence of church (any church) and this system seems to work. People seem to attend mass because they want to and not out of fearful flummery and anachronistic edicts of a has-been organisation. What the Catholic church is trying to do now is find a subtle way of winding down without them losing face.Sadly, even thought the Roman Catholic Church is modernised there are a small minority of sick and sad people (as some blog’s depict) who want the restoration of austerity and medieval darkness within the Church. Only recently, I heard an intemperate woman at a teacher- parent evening calling out for corporal punishment to be re-introduced in schools and more chastisement and humiliation for the children. She stated “It didn’t do us any harm” as she advocated causing pain and suffering to children. She proposed that some parents should face public admonishment, and should be ostracised if that did not comply with the rules of the church (her rules). Such people wish to proscribe anything that gives freedom, love and pleasure to the people, they also advocate excommunication for anyone who questions Catholic church doctrine and want absolute authority of the church that must be obeyed without question and with impunity. In France where I come from, this is not a problem, because no church or religion has any special consideration in law. The church would not dare to tell a minister of state how to do his job, and if they did, no one would listen. The clergy and the people are very aware of the legal and professional limitations and the influence of church (any church) and this system seems to work. People seem to attend mass because they want to and not out of fearful flummery and anachronistic edicts of a has-been organisation. What the Catholic church is trying to do now is find a subtle way of winding down without them losing face.

  • Claude Gavroche

    I am puzzled by the repetition of the text in this blog. This is not how I sent it.

  • John Byrne

    Well yes, I’m sure that they (heterosexuals) might be offended but for the fact that they are members of the great vast majority, have not heard of Jason Evert, do not wish to hear about Jason Evert and couldn’t care less about what Jason Evert says or writes.

    Evert’s diatribes are only likely to distress minorities such as the homosexuals in our communities, who suffer abuse partly caused by people who express views similar to his.

    “Catholic teaching” on the matter is (currently, because it is only a matter of time before it changes) most offensive, quite possibly verging on the illegal (or soon will be) and very silly.

    God has not the slightest interest in your or my sexuality, or that of anyone else.

    Be good and kind and try not to be selfish – often difficult because we are primates, and therefore highly competitive creatures – and stop making demons of people whose sexuality differs from that of the majority.

  • John Byrne

    I note in my newspaper today (27 February 2012), in addition to yet another of Christina Odone’s mind-numbing sermons, a news item concerning the group of MPs and Peers called “Christians in Parliament”.

    They observe in a report that the recent spate of court cases brought by “aggrieved” Christians has  fostered “the perception that Christians are homophobic and obsessed with sex”. If this statement were modified to describe only the Catholic Church, this would surely read: has fostered “the very strong perception that the Catholic Church is very homophobic and very obsessed with sex”.

    They finish by saying: “In several of the cases brought to our attention the actions brought Christians into conflict with the Law and appear to us to be unwise”.

  • Anonymous

    I wouldn’t have thought that it particularly mattered who I was with regard to the content of the discussion, sir. If an argument is true it remains true, if not it remains false regardless of whether or not anybody knows who makes the argument. I fail to see why either your’s or Mr. Byrne’s arguments carry any more weight than mine solely because both of you give your names

    As for what your bishop said I fail to see how the teachings of a particular bishop taught when you were a child have any bearing on the discussion now; I can assure you that I am told no such thing by any Catholic clergyman and have never been.

    As to my understanding of phobias the definition that I find in the Oxford English dictionary (which is open in front of me now) is “great or abnormal fear or something.” I admit that perhaps I should have focussed less on the “abnormal” aspect, but I assure you that the omission was unintentional. Either way it makes little difference; the fact remains that the Catholic Church’s teaching, as I have explained already, is simply that the sexual act between two people of the same genders is unethical – any fear or irrational dislike of people because of their sexuality may be an undesireable by-product of such a teaching in the minds of some, but such a mindset is not included in or advocated by the teaching.

    As for my last remark, I would never have made such a comment of such “pseudo sanctity” as you call it, had the hope not been sincere. Mr. Byrne had already repeatedly ( and incorrectly) described the Catholic Church as homophobic, having already corrected this once, I would have thought it just to hope that I should not have to repeat myself.

    One last thing for Mr. Byrne to respond to: you still have a great deal left to say to me, sir, I am sure: explain the faults in my arguments and in the Catholic Church’s teaching and respond to my counter-arguments. There will be no need for any incivility on either side if we were to take such an approach.

  • Anonymous

    One thing which I neglected to mention before: I did not tell anybody what to think or believe, all I did was tell Mr. Byrne repeatedly what the Catholic Church believed after he had misrepresented it. By misrepresented what I said to myself exactly who do you think you are going to convince of anything?

  • Trockfield

    Purity, a theology of the body: replace the word ‘theology’ with ‘technology’ and you have Hitler’s ideology in a nutshell.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/IVRQ37SCK3BU6JPX2ER44G26MQ Alexander

      Who does he think he is? Anyone
    would think he was the Schools Minister. If I was a member of his union I
    would be encouraging him to focus on issues more relevant to his
    membership. He’s well out of his depth on this one.

    For a start, a phobia is an irrational fear. Homophobia is an irrational fear of
    homosexuals. This term ‘homophobia’ gets bandied around far too often. This type of booklet isn’t causing irrational fear of homsosexuals. Therefore it is not homophobic. It is merely stating that same sex relationships are not the Christian way. Surely the kind of lesson that any church school should be teaching.

  • Trockfield

    “In simple clinical terms, acts of sodomy are anatomically dangerous in terms of anal sphincter damage. It is even more dangerous in terms of physiological risk because of the pathogenic bacteria that exist in the lower bowel. A combination of anatomical damage and physiological infection is not a pleasant sight to behold.”  Seen a lot of this sort of thing have you…?

  • Trockfield

    Jason is fantastic yes.  Just look at him in action here: http://chastity.com/node/442
    all those hot and desperate Catholic girls he gets to ‘influence’… 

  • Dave Corrigan

    You go out of your way to be insulting and mock a reasoned proposition. Also you make an obscene suggestion with your filthy allusion in an attempt to be witty, but you are not witty, just an ignoramus. Yes I have seen the most atrocious sights in genito-urinary medicine clinics (what used to be called the VD clinic) as part of my medical training. I would strongly recommend that teenagers learn more about sexually transmitted diseases from clinic specialists and not from schoolteachers.

  • JRMartyn

    I conjecture that the great majority of young people will be sceptical of what Jason Evert says about contraception, and this will incline them to be sceptical of his views on homosexuality. 
    If I am right, homosexuals ought to welcome his activities!

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