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.”