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Last Updated: Monday, 30 August, 2004, 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK
Sex education plan angers faiths
Cardinal Keith O'Brien
Cardinal Keith O'Brien said the issue was of huge importance
The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) has joined the Catholic Church in condemning new sex education proposals for Scottish schools.

It follows a warning from Cardinal Keith O'Brien that the Scottish Executive faces a massive revolt over the strategy.

He claimed it would mean detailed sex education for nursery pupils and wider access to contraception.

First Minister Jack McConnell said that no such plans have been put in place.

But the MAB said it shared the same concerns as the cardinal.

Osama Saeed, the association's Scottish spokesperson, said: "There is a feeling that morals have been eroded unchecked for too many years and it is welcome that a proper debate be had about what is healthy in regards to the education of our children and how our future generations will be shaped.

"We look forward to supporting Cardinal O'Brien in his efforts to defeat these proposals in the coming period."

Mr McConnell said: "There is no suggestion that there should be sex education for very young children in Scotland and it is wrong to suggest that is the case."

He also said there was no truth in the claims that the executive would hand out the morning after pill in Scotland's schools.

The cardinal has appealed to the executive to reject any approach which targets primary and pre-school children and he said any strategy which does, amounts to "child abuse".

A consultation by the executive on sex education plans ends next month.

The cardinal suggests that we are going to have sex education for under fives which I can absolutely guarantee any parent that is simply not going to happen
Jack McConnell
First Minister
A sexual health strategy will then be drawn up by Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm.

In the Sunday Times newspaper, the cardinal said that if sex education plans were introduced to nursery and primary children, parents in the Roman Catholic Church would revolt.

He warned that the issue could become bigger than the Section 28 debate over the issue of teaching about homosexuality in schools.

He told the newspaper: "The Section 28 debate could become a mere flicker compared to the protests of parents determined to preserve their children's innocence and protect their childhood.

"Parents are rightly appalled at the idea of pre-pubescent, far less pre-school children, being provided with graphic and intimate sexual instruction.

"Should such material be used it would amount to the state sponsored sexual abuse of minors."

The church is already in discussion with other religious bodies to present a united front against the proposals.

And the cardinal will be asking Catholic head teachers to oppose the strategy as well as ask the public to write to their MSPs.

'Great ambassador'

Mr McConnell said: "I want to reassure everybody that any policy that is introduced in Scotland will be based firmly, fundamentally at its very core on respect between young boys and girls, on teaching youngsters to respect each other.

"It will encourage them to have decent relationships and teach them that it is not necessary in order to have a good relationship as a teenager to get involved in sexual activity."

He added: "I have a great respect for Cardinal O'Brien, I think he is a great ambassador for Scotland and he is a great leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics.

"He mentions the morning after pill being given to teenagers. But we have made it absolutely clear that must not happen in schools to those who are under that age of 16 and that is a policy that is being properly administered across Scotland.

"He also suggests that we are going to have sex education for under fives which I can absolutely guarantee any parent that is simply not going to happen."

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