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Religious Tolerance logo

The Church of Scotland and homosexuality

Clause 28: Teaching about
homosexuality in public schools

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Teaching about homosexuality in Scotland's public schools:

A 1988 law in Great Britain prohibited schools from teaching about homosexuality. It was called "Clause 28", and was part of the Local Government Act (1986). It stated that a local authority:

bullet"...shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or
bullet"...[shall not] promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". 1

Shortly after the clause was passed, there were indications that England and Wales were planning to repeal it. However, in Scotland, some business people and the Roman Catholic Church attempted to keep the ban in place. 2 

The Church of Scotland's education committee supported the repeal of Clause 28. They concluded that school curriculums should:

bullet"Cover the whole range of orientation sensitively through sex education aimed at developing respect for others; self respect and understanding, but always in consultation with parents."
bullet"Involve appreciating each person's rights and needs and the importance of forming good relationships, based on mutual respect and love." 3

John Cairns, a senior official in the Church of Scotland called the existing law "completely useless." He expressed concern that it had created "fear and stigma" against homosexuals. 

Only one case was brought before the courts under Section 28. The Christian Institute sued the Glasgow City Council for funding an AIDS support charity. The Institute claimed that this promoted homosexuality. The Christian Institute lost.

The Church of Scotland's convener, the Rev John J. Laidlaw, commented:

"Young people in our schools are increasingly aware of the variety of sexual orientations and lifestyles, and education must start from where they are. Schools teach about positive relationships and that is the appropriate context in which to include understanding of sexual relationships." 4

A 1999 poll indicated that the citizens of Scotland wanted the law to remain on the books. Results were 2 to 1 in favor of retention. Church official Ann Allen said:

"We are inundated with people in the Church of Scotland who are very dismayed that the church as a whole has not come out against the idea ..." of repealing the law.

Section 28 was finally repealed in mid 2000, by the Scottish parliament with a vote of 99 to 17, with two abstentions. 5

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Local Government Act 1988 (c. 9), Section 28," Office of Public Sector Information, at: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/
  2. ReligionToday news summary for 2000-JAN-21 
  3. Church of Scotland news site at: http://www.cofs.org.uk/Techno.htm
  4. "Scot Sec. 28 Battle Blasts Off," PlanetOut News, 2000-JAN-21, at: http://www.planetout.com/ This appears to be offline.
  5. "Section 28," Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

Copyright © 2000 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-JAN-21
Latest update: 2009-MAY-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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