Memo to Holyrood re School Chaplains

Dear Members of the Scottish Parliament

Yesterday, one of Scotland’s schools sacked its school chaplain. It is a school very close to me and the reason that the Rev Donald MacInnes was sacked from the chaplaincy of Glasgow’s Gaelic School is close to me too. Mr MacInnes was sacked because parents in the school had it reported to them that he used inflamatory and homophobic language in a semi-public place. He is reported to have said on facebook that being gay was a perversion and that such a life was disordered.

First of all, I’m sure you will all be queuing up behind me to give three cheers to the head of the Gaelic School for taking this decision. (You will, won’t you?)

You see, this incident has given you a brilliant opportunity to demonstrate the difference between being opposed to gay people being able to get married and being homophobic. And with the last stages of the same-sex marriage bill just a few weeks away, there has been increasing unease amongst gay people that ministers of the Scottish Government might bow to far-right religious views and put new guidelines and restrictions in place particularly around education which would turn the clock back in schools.

The sad case of Mr MacInnes allows us all to illustrate the point rather well.

It is clear isn’t it?

You can be against same-sex marriage and still retain your job as a school chaplain.

You can say you are against same-sex marriage and still retain your job as a school chaplain.

However, you can’t refer to gay people as disordered or as perverts and expect to retain your job as a school chaplain.

Indeed, you can’t say things like that and expect to be treated as a decent member of society. Not any more. And that is partly thanks to the progress that has been made in society and not least in Scotland by the Scottish Parliament. So, this sacking is partly down to you and hurrah for that! You all need to hold your heads up high and feel rightly very proud.

You see, some of those kids are gay. And all of them know gay people. They need, and every schoolchild needs to grow up in an environment which treats them well. Every child needs role models and every child needs good pastoral care. It isn’t just the gay kids whom Mr MacInnes was a poor role model for – it was all the kids.

So, tell all the local councillors that you know that it is time they started checking on who is going in as school chaplains. (Well, that’s if you want schools to have chaplains at all – I’m never entirely convinced that it is a good idea myself but some people seem to think it is worthwhile). If I were you, I’d give the hint to local govenment that they need to make sure that anyone who goes into a school needs to have signed up to a robust equality and diversity policy. No sign up – no access. And then tell them that unless they sort this out locally, publicly and proudly then you’ll get on and legislate to make it happen.

You’ll have lots of support. No-one wants children to be growing up in an environment where prejudice is protected. We want kids to be safe in schools. We want gay kids to be safe from bullying in schools. Oh, and we want gay teachers also to feel that they can be just as open about their own relationships in school as straight teachers can. This is how homophobic bullying, one of the scandals of modern education, will be tackled.

And you’ll keep that in mind when thinking about education regulations over the next few weeks, won’t you?

All good wishes for the next stages of the debate


  1. Augur Pearce says

    Now that word ‘disordered’, which you say decent members of society can’t use of gay people, appears in the Roman Catholic Church’s catechism at para 2357. It is used there of ‘homosexual acts’, not people; but your report says that Mr MacInnes used it of a gay ‘life’, which isn’t greatly different.

    What do we say, then, of the RCC catechism? Is it something that should not be taught in Britain? We already take steps against those who preach a call to jihad, although that is some Muslims’ interpretation of the Islamic message. Is there any reason why some Christians’ (or at least Karol Wojtyła’s) interpretation of the Christian message should be privileged? The view of the Roman hierarchy certainly hasn’t been the _official_ interpretation in either Scotland or England since the 1570s.

    But if we say that some elements of RC belief cannot be taught here, are we giving Britain’s RCs in effect the choice between adopting a ‘decent’ British version of Catholicism or emigrating to a RC country where they can be as indecent as they please? I suspect we are, when push comes to shove. And my point is not rhetorical: I am really undecided in my own mind whether we should be saying just that.

  2. Clearly, I don’t believe everything in the RC Catechism.

    I’m encouraged to find that a great number of Roman Catholics, at least when it comes to the question of whether or not gay people are disordered, don’t either. It is interesting that there is some attempt by the Vatican currently underway to understand what local populations make of this teaching.

    I have no doubt that increasingly, the view that gay people are disordered is becoming one that is regarded as a view that reasonable, decent people cannot, by definition, hold.

  3. Margaret says

    It seems to be a world-wide phenomenon that school chaplaincies are the repository of those clergy whom no one else can put up with. In the few schools where there have been switched on, enthusiastic, ministry-driven chaplains, the work done has been wonderful and far-reaching, long after the largely un-churched children have left school. But so many chaplains are at best unsuited to working with youngsters, and at worst, are totally destructive to all that church is supposed to mean, and I wonder at the short-sightedness of those who either apply or are sent to the most obvious missionary area in the western world. (and this is not meant as a criticism of you or any particular denomination – merely an observation. I have been both teacher and priest, and know both sides of the story).

  4. Excellent stuff dear Provost!

  5. Excellent piece. You describe the line between what is acceptable and what is not perfectly. I also agree with your thoughts on equality and diversity policies for volunteers and workers in schools.

  6. I don’t know which part of the world you inhabit, Margaret, and I am genuinely sorry for your experience which has led you to comment as you did, but I am quite astonished by what you say about school chaplains. In my now reasonably wide experience of being a chaplain in schools of different sorts, I must say I have never met a ‘bad’ one, let alone one who fails to connect with the pupils in his or her care as you suggest. Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places?

  7. I had direct experience of this sort of thing at a school I was teaching at a few years ago. The School chaplain involved (from a local evangelical outfit who appear to specialise in sucking up school chaplaincies) made the Adam and Steve comment.
    I wrote about it recently

    I guess the real reason why I was so angry about this was the potential effect on the self esteem of the young LGBT kids sitting in the hall that day. That they still come up to me at Pride even now demonstrates how important it is that we start to look much more closely at this area of education work.

    And actually, any contractor who works in the public sector, such as a local authority premises like a school is expected to follow equality and diversity and other behaviour guidelines applicable to other employees and users.

  8. Poor Europeans ponder upon what you are doing to yourself. Killing yourself and give to kill yourselves, calling it euthanasia. Constantly yank your pussy, calling it a homo-trans-inter-what-damn-that sexuality. Drink and inject yourselves, calling it relaxation. Ask for advice from the blinds, being blind too, and fall into the pit together, but calling it psychoanalysis. Rejoicing on what should burn the ears and cheeks glow. Let the house of thieves and murderers, and call it the rights of migrants. Look at yourself from the outside, you’re lying in agony, and your bodies eaten by cannibals. Why do you always choose death?

Speak Your Mind