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Highland clergyman's comments on LGBT young people sparks calls for his resignation

By Emma Crichton

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Clergyman believes that books with same-sex couples should be removed from schools
Clergyman believes that books with same-sex couples should be removed from schools

A clergyman has used his position on a Highland Council education committee to criticize the alleged promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Alexander MacLean, a member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, also suggested that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people are bullied because they are "overt" and attract attention.

The comments were made during a report on the work by Highland Council to reduce bullying of LGBT pupils at school, presented to the education, care and adult services (ECAS) committee yesterday (Thursday).

Mr MacLean is one of three religious representative on the committee who have full voting rights under UK legislation.

But now calls have been made for his removal following the "pernicious and offensive" comments.

Mr MacLean also said books referring to same-sex couples should be removed from Highland schools.

"Are these books really appropriate for young children?" he asked.

"They are promoting LGBT practices. The percentage of LGBT people in UK population is two per cent therefore the number of LGBT children must be very small in our schools.

"Many parents are concerned that their children are being exposed to the teaching of LGBT lifestyles which leave children confused and disturbed.

"Some of these parents do not know what they can do about their concerns so as a representative of this committee I bring this matter before you."

He then went on to suggest LGBT young people attract the attention of bullies with their behaviour.

"LGBT lifestyles are now so overt that they attract attention and sadly one of the reactions against them can be bullying," he said.

"We are certainly against bullying in our schools and elsewhere in our society, whether its against LGBT or any other group or class, but it appears the LGBT lobby is using the bullying of LGBT pupils to bring their agenda into our schools, promoting their lifestyle."

Mr MacLean then added that the words "homophobic" and "transphobic" were removed from a recommendation supporting the work to reduce bullying, so that it referred to all types of bullies, but this was rejected by councillors.

The statement sparked a plea from Lochaber councillor Bren Gormley to teach children to love and respect each other. "Phrases such as "promoting LGBT lifestyle" I find pernicious, offensive and based on a misunderstanding of common human qualities we all share," he said.

"To be comfortable with oneself it’s necessary to be comfortable with others and a key part of that is respect for others.

"We need to support our young people to respect and love each other."

Inverness Ness-side councillor Alasdair Christie said it appropriate for certain groups to be given more focus as they are targeted more by bullies.

"Bullying of all forms is wrong and nasty and should be stamped out," he said.

"However, under the Equalities Act 2010 certain groups are given protection because they are being bullied because of a certain characteristic they have.

"If religious representatives have a problem with that then I suggest they take it up with the government and get the Equality Act repealed."

The comments have re-ignited calls to have the religious figures removed from the committee.

Humanist Society Scotland chief executive Gordon MacRae said if religious views are to be broadcast the representatives should be accountable at the ballot box.

"The attempts to put religious dogma ahead of the needs of bullied gay and trans children is further evidence, if any was needed, as to why it is time to remove religious reps from all local education committees," he said.

"Unelected religious representatives are able to exercise power without any responsibility.

"There is nothing to stop church leaders standing for election and to ask voters to support or reject their attempts to put religious dogma ahead of evidence based policy."

A council spokeswoman said the local authority is working to address bullying in Highland.

"Mr MacLean is an independent member of the education, children and adult services committee and holds one of the places required by legislation for faith representatives.

"His comments were rejected by councillors and by the chairman of the committee, who welcomed the report, and the work being done by Highland schools to promote inclusive practice.

"While we know that LGBT pupils can experience bullying, we are committed to address this, and there are many examples of excellent work in schools across the authority."

Nobody from the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland was available for comment.

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