Western Isles, off the coast of Scotland, just rejected LGBT-inclusive education in favour of Roman Catholic teaching on sex

Stornoway Harbour, Western Isles. (Getty/ Tim Graham)

Councillors in the Western Isles, off the coast of Scotland, have rejected LGBT-inclusive relationships and sex education in favour of Roman Catholic teaching.

The Western Isles council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, overwhelmingly voted this month in favour Roman Catholic teaching materials to be used in lessons on relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP), according to The Guardian. The Catholic church teaches that sex is only acceptable in a heterosexual marriage.

The vote reportedly came after Church of Scotland ministers complained about LGBT-inclusive teaching backed by the Scottish government, which is set to be translated in Gaelic and includes materials on the human body, gender, sexuality, sexual relationships, pornography and safe sex.

Lewis minister Reverend Hugh Stewart lobbied councillors to vote against the government-backed materials, claiming that teaching children about their body parts from the age of three was inappropriate.

The Catholic materials he supported, on the other hand, say that kids should not learn about genitalia until the age of 10.

Stewart also claimed that the official teaching materials would pressure Christian families to “embrace” LGBT+ people.

“It is one thing for a child or young person to be educated and objectively informed,” he said.

“It is another to require them to ’embrace’, which infers a tacit support for, a view that contradicts their own morality or faith position.”

But the council’s education convenor, Angus McCormack, said the anti-LGBT+ vote would do nothing to change policy, and that schools would still be able to use a variety of materials.

“All these councillors are doing are expressing an opinion which is driven by their own personal beliefs,” he said.

“There was a time when [public life] was very largely dominated by the church, but that’s no longer the case.

“I think that teachers will bring a realistic curriculum to their children and make sure that they’ve all the information that the need to live in our present-day world.”

The first-ever LGBT+ Pride march in the Western Isles was held in 2018 in Stornoway, the largest Hebridean town.

One Hebrides Pride activist told The Guardian that although schools would not be required to only use Catholic materials, they still feared that they would have to provide their own LGBT-inclusive education at home.

“I’m now facing the prospect of attempting to provide this education for my children myself at home,” they said.

“I’d much rather my kids be taught the Scottish government-approved RSHP curriculum at school, by a trained and qualified teacher.

“My anxiety over the RSHP decision is not just about how my children will be taught right now, it’s also a long-term concern about how they’ll be taught throughout their school years, both in primary and in secondary.”