NSS tells Scottish Government to keep religious dogma out of sex ed

Posted: Thu, 23rd Nov 2023

NSS: provisions in new guidance on sex education leaves door open for religious ideology, risking children's wellbeing.

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Allowing lessons on sexual health to be taught according to a faith ethos risks children's wellbeing, the National Secular Society has warned.

Responding to a government consultation on the delivery of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) education in Scotland, the NSS said allowing it to be taught as part of Religious and Moral Education (RME) would undermine the promotion of health and wellbeing and threaten LGBT inclusion.

The new guidance allows for RSHP education to be delivered "predominantly" through RME, which the NSS said is "incompatible" with inclusivity.

Many faiths explicitly preach that same-sex relationships are morally wrong. This includes the Catholic Church, which manages the majority of Scotland's 360 denominational schools.

The guidance requires that schools promote a climate in which "children and young people feel safe and secure", but also where RSHP plays a "central role in promoting the ethos of a school".

The NSS said it is "not credible" to claim a safe and secure environment can be created for children whilst RSHP can be delivered through a religious perspective which promotes the idea that same-sex relationships are immoral.

It recommended that RSHP be taught exclusively within a secular health and wellbeing curriculum.

Warning against the requirement that schools "build links with local belief group representatives" in order to help understand "the concerns of members of their community", the NSS said such representatives generally advocate for substantially more regressive and hard-line positions than the religious communities they purport to represent.

The NSS also said that "religious authorities with a role in education" should not be consulted on "additional and complementary guidance on RSHP education for denominational [Catholic] schools", as the guidance recommends.

The Catholic Church officially condemns sex outside marriage, abortion and contraception. It also promotes traditional gender roles which often subordinate women.

The NSS warned that "guidance" from religious authorities would create a difference in standards which would lead to pupils at denominational schools being negatively impacted compared to other Scottish children.

NSS: 'No need for religious doctrine in lessons on sexual health'

Jack Rivington, campaigns officer at the NSS, said: "Education on relationships and sexual health should be objective, comprehensive, inclusive and scientifically accurate.

"Facilitating the embedding of religious dogma within RSHP by allowing it to be taught through a faith perspective threatens all of these vital features. The health and wellbeing of children and young people should be the principal concern, not the propagation of religious ideology.

"Whilst the Scottish government's emphasis on human rights is welcome, it should ensure its new guidance does not allow for practices which undermine this important focus."

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Tags: Faith schools, LGBT, Women