NHS bosses are pressuring Scottish Ministers into forcing all pupils to learn about gay marriage in sex education even if their parents object on religious grounds. Scotland’s biggest National Health Service (NHS) boards have written to the government objecting to the right of teachers and pupils to opt out on the grounds of conscience, according to the Telegraph.
Major health boards in Scotland argue that allowing children to miss lessons on the grounds of conscience would leave them susceptible to coming under pressure from parents who are opposed to gay marriage.
They also believe it would be “extremely concerning” if teachers were allowed to opt-out of teaching this element of sex education. They believe instead that “alternative arrangements” should be made to ensure children are taught about gay marriage in all circumstances.
Health chiefs believe this would be assisted if pupils had the right to overrule their parents on this subject. There was no specific mention of what would happen if the parents were pro-gay marriage and the child was anti, and therefore wanted to overrule their decision not to allow them to opt-out.
They also complained that guidance recommending that schools teach about “the values of a stable and loving family life”, because this was insensitive to children who do not grow up in that sort of environment. Some of the health bosses even objected to the phrase “both sexes” being used in the guidance as this might upset transgendered or transsexual young people.
NHS Lanarkshire called for changes to the guidance so that “no child is denied the right of access to this education because of the personal beliefs of a professional, a fellow pupil, or the parents of another pupil
In their submission they said: “Where there is a conflict between the views of the child and the parents, the rights of the child should be paramount.”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde suggested that teachers who object to teaching gay marriage as a result of conscience merely need some additional training.
The interventions will make it harder for Scottish Ministers to deliver the protections they promised to those opposed to gay marriage when the bill was passed just three months ago. The group representing religious groups opposed to gay marriage said the guidance already fell “woefully short” of the promises made to them.
The draft guidance is being introduced to take into account the newly introduced Curriculum for Excellence, and the passing of gay marriage in Scotland. It stated “if a teacher, child or young person is asked to do something against his or her conscience, he or she should be able to raise this with the school or local authority.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is currently updating its’ existing guidance on the Conduct of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood Education in Scottish Schools document and as part of that has sought views from various organisations and individuals.
“We are considering carefully the comments we have received and will publish an updated version in due course.”
The Scottish National Party government could do without this headache a few short months before the referendum of independence. The Scottish government only has powers in certain areas so very often controversial topics like nuclear defence are not faced by them.
In this case rules on marriage have always been distinct in Scotland so when Westminster brought in gay marriage for England and Wales they faced a dilemma. They dealt with this by presenting gay marriage as a fait accompli to religious groups, but offered them a series of protections.
These protections included the right to opt-out, which is now being seriously challenged. A failure to deal with this properly will raise questions about the ability of Holyrood to manage an independent country.