The moderator-elect of the Free Church of Scotland has called for LGBTI equality workers in schools to be vetted in the same way as chaplains.
Commenting in The Herald, Rev David Robertson, the minister of St. Peter’s Free Church in Dundee, suggested groups such as Stonewall should be subjected to the same rigorous checks as chaplaincy staff.
His comments follow South Lanarkshire Council’s decision to introduce new rules for non-denominational schools to protect children after it emerged a minister of US-based West Mains Church of Christ – which believes in a literal six-day creation, denies evolution and is opposed to same-sex relationships – had been invited to become a chaplain at East Kilbride’s Kirktonholme School without any checks having been made to his suitability.
The local authority has come under intense scrutiny for allowing the church to promote its evangelical agenda within a primary school. The new rules ensure that teachings promoting homophobia, or which argue a creationist perspective, will not form part of educational lessons. They also require all chaplains to undergo a criminal records check and a teacher to be present during visits by representatives of religious organisations.
Mr Robertson said: “Parents should be informed of all organisations, not just religious groups, that come into schools seeking to promote their views. No such organisations should be allowed to sell, or distribute their literature, without the prior agreement of the headteacher, who must inform parents.”
The future moderator added: “In many schools it appears that Stonewall have been given carte blanche to distribute their propaganda. This should not happen without parental consent. Whilst we welcome South Lanarkshire Council’s commitment to the legal right of parents to withdraw their children from religious observance, we hope they will show the same diligence in informing parents of their right to withdraw from any sex education that goes against the values and morals of the parents.”
Stonewall insist their work within Scotland’s education does not involve “distributing propaganda” but instead centres on training and equipping school staff to recognise and prevent homophobic bullying. They also have confirmed that none of this actually takes place in schools.
Colin Macfarlane, the director of Stonewall Scotland, said: “At Stonewall Scotland we fundamentally believe that our schools should be safe learning environments and any process that ensures the safety of our children and young people is welcome. Mr Robertson appears to be slightly confused about the work Stonewall Scotland does in our schools and we welcome the opportunity to clarify. Teachers across Scotland consistently tell us that homophobic bullying is one of the most common forms of bullying in our schools.”