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Sunday, November 7, 1999 Published at 02:12 GMT

UK: Scotland

Anger at gay discrimination comments

Cardinal Winning says sexual orientation is an issue in some jobs

Gay rights groups have reacted angrily to comments by the leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics that it was not unjust to discriminate against homosexuals taking certain jobs.

Alex Deary, convener of Outright Scotland, said Cardinal Thomas Winning's comments were "ill-considered".

He added: "We feel his comments are out of step - but equally the Catholic Church is out of step with other issues as well."

[ image: Cardinal Winning ...'public fears have not gone away']
Cardinal Winning ...'public fears have not gone away'
Cardinal Winning said it was not unfair to take sexual orientation into account when recruiting people for certain jobs.

He also indicated he would not oppose plans to remove the controversial 'Section 28,' but only if the intention was to end "a climate of fear and abuse".

Section 2a of the 1988 Local Government Act in Scotland - commonly known as Section 28 because of its position in English and Welsh legislation - bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Critics say the legislation has prevented teachers from providing proper sex education, and has only added to the fears of young gay men and lesbians as they come to terms with their sexuality.

Scotland's First Minister, Donald Dewar, has called the legislation a "badge of shame," and the Scottish Executive is planning to abolish the measure. Labour has indicated a similar move to scrap Section 28 will follow in England.

Donald Dewar: "Section 28 is a badge of shame"
Writing in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, the cardinal warned repealing laws which ban the promotion of homosexuality in schools could expose children to "predatory and abusive" relationships.

"While denouncing homosexual activity, the Church also defends homosexual persons from those forms of discrimination which are unjust and seeks to help them find joy and peace living in the joy of chastity," the cardinal said.

"However there are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account - for example in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or sports coaches and in military recruitment.

"So if, by the repeal of Section 28, the Scottish Executive wishes only to end the climate of fear and abuse, the Catholic Church will offer its full support.

'Political correctness'

"But our warning is this: any repeal must not leave the way open to a new form of valueless political correctness which would impose an `anything goes' morality in our children."

Referring to homosexuality as a "disorder" - though not a sin - the cardinal voiced fears that it would be placed on the same footing at marriage and the family.

"It may well be that Section 28 was a blunt instrument. But it nevertheless should be recognised that it was introduced in response to public fears. Those fears have not gone away."

The cardinal said now was the time for reflection, not knee-jerk reactions.

'Old prejudice'

"As the Church we will make a strong case for suitable safeguards to be introduced to protect our children from any attempt at homosexual proselytism."

Cardinal Winning's statement has been met with fury from equal rights campaigners.

Tim Hopkins, spokesman for the Equality Network, an ethnic, gay, bisexual and transgender equality campaign, said: "These are, in this day and age, quite frankly ridiculous things to say.

"Its outrageous to say that gay people are a danger to young people.

"This is an old prejudice that was debunked decades ago.

"It really is very disappointing to see the Catholic Church resurrecting these things.

"All the studies that have been done show that the majority of child abuse, which is a terrible thing, is done by heterosexual people.

"There is no evidence, because it is simply not true, that gay people represent a danger to young people."

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