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Pupils at Hunterhouse College in Belfast quizzed on religious views of homosexuality

By Harriet Crawford

A Belfast school has apologised for questions pupils had to answer about religious views on homosexuality as part of their homework.

A father of one student made a complaint 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Hunterhouse College in Belfast, a cross-community voluntary grammar school for girls, has apologised and withdrawn the worksheet from use.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 religious studies homework given to Year 12 pupils, relating to 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11.

The text taken from the worksheet contained: "Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves - none of these will possess God's Kingdom."

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?"

Principal Andrew Gibson admitted that the school "got it wrong" by allowing the worksheet to be sent home, removed from the context of the class.

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 had "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 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."

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