Sinn Féin Senator Fintan Warfield has criticised the new sex education guidance for Catholic primary schools and spoke in the Seanad on Monday about his own experiences dealing with the “shame” of being gay brought on Church teachings.
Flourish is the new relationships and sexuality guidance for junior infants through to sixth class. It was developed through the Irish Bishop’s Council. In the programme it says that “Sex is a gift from God… Puberty is a gift from God. We are perfectly designed by God to procreate with him.” While it does acknowledge LGBTQ+ families, it does not give any guidance, support or education on LGBTQ+ people and says that “the Church’s teaching in relation to marriage between a man and a woman cannot be omitted.”
The programme also says that “sexual love belongs within a committed relationship. Marriage as a sacrament of commitment” and advises senior infant children to say the “Angel of God” prayer in a lesson on safety and protection.
Speaking in the Seanad, Senator Warfield shared, “I prayed for years that I would not be gay. I did so because of shame, much of which I can place blame for at the door of the Church.”
“Prayer and religious ideology does nothing to protect children or young people,” Warfield continued. “Prayer and ideology does nothing to protect kids against sexually transmitted infections or HIV.”
Warfield also asked for other politicians to stand up and be allies to the LGBTQ+ community on this issue, saying how he knows “through making this statement alone, that there will be abuse, that I will be called a degenerate online.”
Warfield has faced massive amounts of homophobic abuse online during his time in politics, which led to an incident in person last summer which was reported to the gardaí. He has also become less active on social media because of the abuse and locked his Twitter account after giving this speech in the Seanad.
Other politicians have come out to condemn the new sex education guidance. Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Mick Barry said sex education needs to be factual and objective and urged the passing of his party’s objective sex education bill which would guarantee students receive factual and objective relationships and sexuality education.
Gary Gannon, a Social Democrat TD and their spokesperson for Education said in a statement: “Do we really want LGBT+ children in schools, who may be struggling with their sexual orientation, to be taught that their relationships are any less worthy, meaningful or loving than their heterosexual peers? Because, that is the inference of this programme.”
A Department of Education spokesperson told GCN last week “that the ethos of the school should never preclude learners from acquiring the knowledge about the issues, but ethos may influence how that content is treated.”
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