Swiss bishops dueling over sex ed in schools
CHUR, Switzerland, December 13, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a statement the bishop of Chur, Switzerland, Vitus Huonder, has argued parents should be given the right to withdraw their children from state-sanctioned sex-ed classes in school. However, the statement has drawn the ire of another Swiss bishop who publicly suggested that to deny sex ed as part of the school curriculum to children is a denial of human rights.
In an open letter written to mark Human Rights Day on December 10, Bishop Huonder said that government-sponsored sex education harms children by promoting “a kind of education that destroys the natural protection of a person’s sexuality, namely the sense of shame.”
Bishop Huonder was highly critical of Switzerland’s educational establishment for not allowing parents the right to have their children exempted from sex education classes in school.
“When children and adolescents have their sense of shame brought into contact with these teachings, it endangers the healthy development of their personalities and risks exposing them to all manner of abuses,” Bishop Huonder wrote.
The Chur prelate said that though “the modern state relieves parents of many of the tasks of schooling and education ... the ultimate decision when it comes to education is always theirs.”
Earlier this year one region in Switzerland, Basel, drew international attention after it was revealed that students in schools would be presented with a “sex box” containing fabric models of human genitalia to teach them that “contacting body parts can be pleasurable.”
“Children should be encouraged to develop and experience their sexuality in a pleasurable way,” Daniel Schneider, a deputy kindergarten rector for Basel who helped develop the sex ed curriculum along with experts, said earlier this year.
However, Bishop Felix Gmür of Basel, who according to Swissinfo.ch is a member of the liberal wing of Switzerland’s Roman Catholic church, rejected Bishop Huonder’s concerns and asserted that sex education courses support and supplement parents’ educational mission.
Bishop Gmür told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper that “teaching about human sexuality is the job of the school. It shouldn’t be relinquished.”
“These courses can support and supplement the educational mission of parents,” he said in an interview published on Sunday by the weekly newspaper. “When schools outline the various aspects (concerning sexuality), I see no reason to remove children (from the classes).”
Other Christian denominations have also criticized Bishop Huonder’s statement.
“For the individual, religious values can come first; but for society as a whole, human rights, which are inviolable and universal, take precedence,” Thomas Wipf, president of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, told SonntagsZeitung.
Bishop Huonder noted in his letter that while the Catholic Church respects the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “human rights are always preceded by divine law.”
Bishop Vitus Huonder
Roman Catholic Diocese of Chur
Mailing Address: Bischofliches Ordinariat, Hof 19, Postfach 133, CH-7002 Chur 2, Schweiz
Phone: (081) 258.60.00
Fax: (081) 258.60.01
Bishop Felix Gmür
Roman Catholic Diocese of Basel
Mailing Address: Bischofliches Ordinariat, Postfach 216, Baselstrasse 58, CH-4501 Solothurn, Schweiz
Phone: (032) 625.58.25/41
Fax: (032) 625.58.45
Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education
Hans Ambühl, General Secretary
Mailing Address: Haus der Kantone
Speichergasse 6, Postfach 660
CH-3000 Bern 7
Phone: +41 (0)31 309 51 11
Fax: +41 (0)31 309 51 50
Email: [email protected]