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Hunterhouse College withdraws religious worksheet that 'almost branded all homosexuals as perverts'

By Harriet Crawford

A Belfast school has apologised after parents complained about a worksheet handed out on the Bible and homosexuality.

The father of one student made a complaint to the BBC about the questions, which he considered did not allow for debate and almost branded all homosexuals as perverts.

Hunterhouse College in Belfast, a cross-community voluntary grammar school for girls, has apologised and withdrawn the worksheet from use.

The three questions were from a Religious Studies worksheet that Year12 students were given for homework relating to 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11.

The questions were set by teaching staff and included:

  • What do these verses tell us about homosexuals?
  • Who else is included with homosexuals?
  • What hope is there for all these people?

School Principal Andrew Gibson admitted that the school “got it wrong” by allowing the worksheet to be sent home and removed from the rest of the class’s context.

The worksheet was apparently part of a broader debate about sexuality within the teenage pupils’ religious education.

Mr Gibson told the BBC: “This is in the introduction to Christian ethics centred around personal and family issues. As part of this, pupils are encouraged to consider a variety of attitudes to homosexuality.

“The questions were set in house but they were in the context of the CCEA specifications.

“We have a very strong pastoral care system at the school and deal with issues around sexuality with great sensitivity.”

The parents “appreciated” the way the school had dealt with the situation, Mr Gibson told the Belfast Telegraph.

He said: “That worksheet won’t be used again. We will be doing some ongoing work with staff and pupils in the coming days and weeks.

The school has been in touch with the charity the Rainbow Project since September to consult on a number of pastoral care issues relating to sexuality.

Gavin Boyd of the Rainbow Project said blamed the incident on a “blind spot” in dealing with sexual orientation issues in Northern Ireland’s schools, rather than an individual teacher.

He said that while the teacher “meant no ill intent”, “no one considered for one second that there could be a gay child in the class, and how they would feel.”

“I think the worksheet did a poor job of educating young people about sexual orientation in the bible,” he added.

Peter Lynas, director of Evangelic Alliance Northern Ireland, however, considered the questions “fair”.

He said: “They were simply asking questions about the orthodox Christian position. If you can’t do that in a religious ethics class, then you are in danger of pushing religion out of the public square.”

Dr Richard O’Leary, Chair of the Church of Ireland pro-gay group Changing Attitude Ireland welcomed the school’s apology. He said: “I was surprised at the Bible translation the school used, which is not one of the accepted translations.”

Further reading:

School uniform row: Why this headmistress is one who deserves a real dressing-down 

Gay cake: DUP MPs launch petition in support of Ashers bakery in Newtownabbey 

Christians are the world's most persecuted people, so why doesn't anybody hear our cry?

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