Education Newspaper/Magazine Articles Sex and sexuality

Stonewall should have Schools Workers Checked as Well – Article in The Herald

This article appeared in the Herald today…

A FUTURE church leader has become embroiled in a row over a gay and lesbian equality group’s role in schools after calling for its workers to be vetted in the same way as chaplaincy visitors.
The next Free Church of Scotland Moderator Rev David Robertson said organisations like Stonewall Scotland should have the same checks as chaplains in the wake of new rules being set by South Lanarkshire Council.
The local authority is currently at the centre of a controversy over the promotion of young earth creationism in a primary school.
Stonewall Scotland said its work is mainly related to training teachers to help prevent homophobic bullying and not carried out in schools.
The new clash comes after the council became the first to adopt a raft of new rules for non-denominational schools including criminal records checks for chaplains and the insistence that teachers should be present during visits by religious groups.
The council has also drawn up guidance to ensure homophobic or creationist teaching is barred and parents are to be told who is talking to their children in school.
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 Scottish church leader continued: “For example, 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.”
He added: “We want all parents to know exactly who is teaching our children and what.”
Colin Macfarlane, Director, 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.”
South Lanarkshire has previously said that a review took place regarding chaplains and chaplaincy teams in non denominational schools.
It added that it is seeking the advice and support of a number of stakeholders, including headteachers, parents councils and church representatives along with the curriculum and quality improvement service.

Article in the Herald – 26th January 2015

Comment: You will note that Colin Macfarlane welcomes the opportunity it clarify and then does not do so. Simply stating that there is a homophobic bullying says nothing about the issue of Stonewall workers and material being vetted.

My original article on which this report was based can be found here: https://theweeflea.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/response-to-guidelines-issued-by-south-lanarkshire-council-on-chaplains-and-religious-observance/

And here is a similar report in the Dundee Courier –

Moderator Designate speaks out on school checks
The Courier & Advertiser 26 Jan 2015

ORGANISATIONS LIKE gay rights group Stonewall Scotland should be subject to the same checks and guidelines as chaplaincy visitors, the next moderator of the Free Church of Scotland has said.

The Rev David Robertson, from Dundee, said parents did not want their children to be taught sex education at school “the opposite of what they are taught at home”.

Last week South Lanarkshire Council’s education resources committee approved new guidelines, which Mr Robertson welcomed as “common sense”.

There are now tougher procedures on school chaplaincy teams in nondenominational schools in the council area.

Mr Robertson said: “While 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 their values and morals.

“In the interests of equality the Free Church is now urging the council to enforce the same rules and regulations for all school visitors and not just those under the chaplaincy department.

“It goes without saying that any outside volunteer should be PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) checked and also that no outside organisation should be given unrestricted access to our children.

“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.

“For example, in many schools it appears that Stonewall have been given carte blanche to distribute their propaganda.

“This should not happen without parental consent.”

The church leader added: “We would encourage parents everywhere to question their school and find out who is having contact with our children, how often and what views they are conveying.

“We want all parents to know exactly who is teaching our children and what.”

5 comments

  1. I sincerely hope that the committee members are sufficiently well read on the issues that played out so publicly in the United States, most notably in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case. Assuming that this is the case, there can be no doubt in their collective minds that separate creation, young earth doctrines and (with regard to Kitzmiller) Intelligent Design (ID) are in no way viable alternatives to the mechanisms science currently proposes.

    Separate creationism and young earth doctrines fly in the face of common sense as well as attempting to undermine the entire corpus of human knowledge and our understanding of reality. In simple terms, these views are those of charlatans or simpletons.

    They should also be aware that ID is a cynically remarketed version of creationism albeit with the designer remaining unnamed. An often cited quip is that Intelligent Design is “nothing more than creationism in a cheap tuxedo”.

    This indeed, was what Judge John Jones III in the Kitzmiller case surmised when he stated that:-

    “we conclude that the religious nature of ID would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child. “

    “A significant aspect of the IDM [intelligent design movement] is that despite Defendants’ protestations to the contrary, it describes ID as a religious argument. In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity.”

    “The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism.”

    “The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory. “

    In his ruling, Jones also found that ID failed on a number of different levels, any one of which would have been sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science or a viable alternative explanation to current theories.

    Firstly, Jones said that ID breaches the fundamental methodological naturalism inherent in the pursuit of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation. Secondly, that the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employed the same flawed and illogical contrivances that doomed creation science in the 1980s. Thirdly, that ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been extensively refuted by the scientific community.

    He also pointed out that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, that it had not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor had it been the subject of testing and research.

    For my own part, I would add that Intelligent Design (and for that matter separate creation) offers no plausible mechanism as an alternative. Indeed it does not offer ANY mechanism, far less a plausible one. It merely says – this looks designed, therefore it was designed and this implies the existence of a designer. Crucially, Jones found that Intelligent Design amounted to a pretext for the real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom.

    Indeed this is what the Scottish Secular Society also perceives to be the case in the various appearances (or possibility thereof) of creationism and ID in the Scottish Classroom.

    This petition has been raised of course because the office of Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning has consistently refused to rule on the matter, stating rather that such decisions be left to the discretion of a Head Teacher. Such a lack of concern and inactivity on the matter beggars belief given the furore which erupted over the issuing of creationist material at Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride. This incident clearly demonstrated that head teachers could NOT be depended upon to prevent such material reaching children. The issue was dealt with quite simply south of the border by Michael Gove MP and there is no rational explanation why Scotland could not have followed suit.

    One can only speculate on this refusal to act. Could it be that, despite Kirktonholme, the Cabinet Secretary really believes that the discretion of head teachers is to be trusted or is it that he doesn’t wish to upset religious supporters? Can he really view this as an isolated incident when organisations like C4ID, People With A Mission Ministries (PWAMM) and the increasingly bizarre future Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, Reverend David Robertson are waiting in the wings to foist these stultifying beliefs upon children?

    The views of charlatans or simpletons are bad enough but tacit acceptance of the status quo by government in full knowledge of the potential consequences is intellectually indefensible and a blatant dereliction of duty of care to the nation’s children.

    Recent events in South Lanarkshire Council have shown that official bodies can listen to the very obvious concerns of parents and equality pressure groups. SLC have shown a willingness to put in place very obvious safeguards.

    Given the action that SLC has taken, a simple approach would be for the PPC not only to immediately pass this matter to the Education and Culture Committee without reservation but to commend the activity of SLC as called for in Parliamentary Motion S4M-12148.

    If the Public Petition’s Committee is to retain any credibility it must make very plain to government that it can no longer ignore the elephant in the room. It must have the gumption to speak plainly against such stupidity. It must address this issue now and rule clearly that promotion of some religious views as being as equally valid as science, in any classroom, is unacceptable. I hope that tomorrow they do just that.

    1. Mark – why are you so keen to introduce US style culture wars here? The examples you cite have nothing to do with Scotland and are in a different context altogether – where there is a strict separation of church and state. Not the case here. SLC have put in place very obvious safeguards which should be there anyway – and are in most schools – not just to prevent creationists (whatever they are!) but also other ‘extremists’ such as militant atheists seeking to use the state education system to further their own agenda.

    2. The biblical doctrines of creation and the fall predict the same sort of observable biosphere as we actually can and do observe, as does any godless hypothesis. It is therefore impossible to devise a scientific experiment that will enable us to discard either hypothesis empirically.

      The only evidence that persuades some to believe in creation rather than anything else, is therefore anecdotal, the testimony of believers of apparent interaction with the creator, when they practise their beliefs.

      Personally, I do not think that many schools are teaching the *science* of evolution, just asserting the narrative.

  2. Most school children do not yet possess (to stretch the meaning of the term, by using it as as a metaphor) the necessary “Gillick competence” to have the capacity choose for themselves a “sexual orientation”, or and “assigned gender” different from their birth gender, or any other Equality Act protected characteristic that is chosen, in order for it to be possible for them to be the targets of so-called “homophobic bullying”. The whole idea of it is (as many a child would put it), like, “well gay”!

  3. @ mgordon “Separate creationism and young earth doctrines fly in the face of common sense as well as attempting to undermine the entire corpus of human knowledge and our understanding of reality. In simple terms, these views are those of charlatans or simpletons.”
    When was ‘nothing made everything out of nothing’ and ‘molecules-to-man’ doctrines, based largely on sheer speculation, ever based on common sense? Our children are presently being brainwashed with claptrap. So who are the charlatans and simpletons?

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