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Sex ed harms 'natural sense of shame': bishop

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Sex ed harms 'natural sense of shame': bishop
Bistum Chur/Vitus Huonder
11:44 CET+01:00

Two Swiss Catholic bishops have traded verbal blows after the bishop of Chur, Vitus Huonder, argued that parents should have the right to exempt their children from sex education classes at school.

In a letter written to mark Human Rights Day on December 10th, the bishop from the Alpine town launched a stinging attack on the country's educational establishment.

According to Huonder, “state institutions promote a kind of education that destroys the natural protection of a person's sexuality, namely the sense of shame.”

"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." 

But this view was rejected by the bishop of Basel, Felix Gmür, who said it was imperative for public schools to keep sex education on the curriculum.

"These courses can support and supplement the educational mission of parents," he said in an interview published on Sunday by weekly newspaper SonntagsZeitung.

For Gmür, who belongs to the liberal wing of the Swiss Catholic Church, “teaching about human sexuality is the job of the school."

“It shouldn’t be relinquished,” he added.

The bishop of Basel said he had no problem with sex education as long as conflicting views were given a fair hearing in the classroom.

"When schools outline the various aspects [concerning sexuality], I see no reason to remove children [from class]," Gmür said.

His words ran counter to Huonder’s vision. While noting that the Catholic Church respected the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Chur prelate also stressed that “human rights are always preceded by divine law.”

"The modern state relieves parents of many of the tasks of schooling and education," Huonder wrote.

"But the ultimate decision when it comes to education is always theirs."

The position of the bishop of Chur has been criticized by representatives of other churches.

The president of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, Thomas Wipf, told SonntagsZeitung that: “for the individual, religious values ​​can come first; but for society as a whole, human rights, which are inviolable and universal, take precedence.”

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