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