February 15, 2000
volume 11, no. 32
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Direct slap in the face of Scotland's Cardinal Winning

    EDINBURGH (CWNews.com) - Two days after the British House of Lords voted to retain Section 28 which bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools, the Scottish Parliament yesterday voted to scrap the legislation north of the border.

    The Scottish Executive argued Section 28 prevents teachers from preventing homophobic bullying and MSPs backed the repeal by 88 votes to 18, with three abstentions.

    MSP Michael Matheson told the BBC: "Some of our people are gay. Some of our children will be gay. Whether as a parent or as a concerned citizen, it is our duty to care for, to nourish, and to support all our nation's children."

    But Anne Allen, convenor of the Church of Scotland's Board of Social Responsibility, said statutory safeguards were vital. "In 12 years since this act was in place we don't appear to have had any problems, any worried parents or any issues, simply because there has been a sanction and there has been legislation in place," she said. "If you remove that legislation what are you left with -- guidelines that are going to be toothless?"

    The Scottish Executive has announced a working party to review what pupils can be taught about homosexuality. The group comprises representatives of parents, churches and teachers and includes John O'Keane, head teacher of Cardinal Newman Catholic High School, North Lanarkshire, and John Oates, representing the Catholic Education Commission.

    Meanwhile in London, Britain's Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of reducing the age of consent for homosexuals from 18 to 16. The legislation was passed in the House of Commons by 263 votes to 102.

    The bill now goes to the House of Lords, where it is bound to be opposed but the government has signaled that is is ready to use special powers to force the change through Parliament.

    The sexual offenses (amendment) bill will end the anomaly that heterosexuals and lesbians can consent to sex at 16 while homosexuals have to wait until 18.

    Opening the debate, Home Secretary Jack Straw said lowering the age would create a more tolerant society. "For me the issue raised in this bill is one of equality," he said, "of seeking to create a society which is free from prejudice, of one where our relationships with others, including with strangers, are based upon respect and not upon fear."

    But Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe, a Catholic, described the bill as "a dangerous move," sending the wrong signals to teachers, parents and young people. "It is wrong that a young person of 16 should be free in law to embark on a course of action that might lead to a lifestyle which would separate him, maybe permanently, from the mainstream life of marriage and family," she said.

    The government is introducing the move after a ruling that the existing law was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The House of Lords has twice rejected the proposal since 1997.


February 15, 2000
volume 11, no. 32

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