Schools campaign on homophobia ‘in line’ with Church teaching

Education chief says there is no conflict

A new campaign to stamp out anti-gay bullying being rolled out in faith schools will not be at odds with Catholic teaching, a senior education chief has claimed.

Under the new guidelines set down by the Department of Education, Catholic schools are encouraged to display LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) posters on notice boards as part of a drive to stamp out bullying of pupils based on their sexual orientation.

The Catholic Church teaches that gay people must be respected but also teaches that homosexual acts are not morally licit.

LGBT posters are just one of the initiatives included in the department’s action plan, which encourages schools to come up with “specific education and prevention strategies” to cope with “identity-based bullying”.

According to the guidelines, these must focus on bullying of a “homophobic and transphobic” nature. It also recommends discussion with parents about “specific statements of welcome and respect” for pupils for LGBT students. There should also be included in the teaching of the Social, Personal, Health Education (SPHE) resource, Growing Up LGBT and participating in LGBT “awareness events”.

However, Ferdia Kelly, General Secretary of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), has insisted the new guidelines will be in keeping with Church teaching.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic this week, Mr Kelly said “the dignity of every human person must be respected in every school, regardless of its culture, faith or ethos”.

He warned that faith schools “above all, being based on their particular tradition, must ensure this is the stance they take”. “I don’t see how that runs contrary to any teaching. I see no contradiction there at all,” he said.

“All schools have to promote respect among their students in a positive way and any issues have to be dealt with compassionately.  Faith schools do these things because they are good willed and live out their faith tradition by standing up for the absolute right of the individual to be who they are. I don’t see how that runs contrary to any teaching of the Church,” he said.