The Scottish Secular Society comments on the Catholic Church’s HIV efforts

Posted by on 7 July, 2016 | 0 comments

This this morning (21st July) it was revealed by the Glasgow Herald that in the late 1980s the Catholic Church in Scotland actively tried to obstruct measures by the Westminster Government to combat the spread of HIV.

According to documents recently declassified by the National Archives, a sex education initiative by the Department of Education led to a ‘strong reaction’ by the Catholic and Free Presbyterian Churches. Specifically, the Catholic Church objected to the inclusion of information about the use of condoms in a sex education film aimed at teenagers. Despite this, the then Scottish Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, insisted that the video was sent to local education authorities.1 Charlie Lynch, Secretary of the Scottish Secular Society commented:

“These latest revelations are disturbing but hardly surprising, given the Catholic Church’s longstanding attitude to sex education, which places doctrine ahead of reality. It is shocking that the hierarchy of the day thought that young people should risk exposure to HIV rather than provide them with access to information about contraception. Thankfully, today debate about sex and relationship education has been transformed, although not without continued opposition. For example, the Time for Inclusive Education Campaign (TIE) have gained widespread support for their campaign for LGBT+ friendly education in Scottish schools.”


There have however been mixed messages from the Catholic Church. Their spokesperson recently claimed that they are working to ‘ensure teachers have adequate training and feel confident in addressing all aspects of relationship educating, including LGBT+ matters in an appropriate and sensitive way’.2 However the director of the Scottish Catholic Education service, Michael McGrath has also recently argued that it is ‘not the job of government to promote homosexual activity’.3 In light of this and what we now know about the Catholic Church in Scotland’s shameful attempt to frustrate the fight against HIV in the 1980s, the Scottish Secular Society reiterates that a secular approach to sex and relationship education is required. Charlie Lynch, Secretary of the Scottish Secular Society, “It is unacceptable that young people should be put at risk by religious prejudices, especially when a religion equates education on a topic with active promotion.”


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