Don't throw a red cloak over it;Opinion;News amp; Opinion

12th November 1999 at 00:00
WE APPRECIATE that Cardinal Winning has passionately held views on matters of morality. That must come with the job. But his arguments, and more importantly their tone, against the repeal of section 28 of the Local Government Act will undoubtedly encourage the public to continue regarding homosexuals as a threat to children in a way that heterosexuals are not.

To summarise the Cardinal's article in last week's Scotland on Sunday, he clearly believes that Scottish teachers will set out to encourage their pupils towards a sympathetic view of the "disorder" of homosexuality in a way which will expose them to "predatory" males. Simply to set out such a bizarre scenario serves to illustrate its sheer improbability.

He then rather gives the game away by acknowledging that section 28 was introduced to counteract "subtle homosexual propaganda" which was allegedly widespread in London schools at the time. Quite. The fact is that section 28's legislative shackles have never been an issue in Scotland although they must have made teachers more wary of honest discussion. Despite its provisions, the climate has already been relaxed to the point where courageous figures such as Jim Whannel, a Glasgow primary head, has been able to brave the prevailing elements to emerge as a measured spokesman for the gay community.

Cardinal Winning's intervention will doubtless be used to put at risk that kind of progress. Specifically on the schools front, his cri de coeur is essentially a challenge to the professionalism of Scottish teachers. There is, however, unlikely to be a meeting of minds given the Cardinal's view that homosexuals should be helped to "find joy and peace in living the virtue of chastity".

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