Red carpet rolled out for anti-gay guest at Scottish Parliament
A DECISION to allow the head of an American university to speak at Holyrood, despite his college labelling homosexuality "inappropriate", has been criticised by MSPs.
Cecil Samuelson, president of Brigham Young University, which is owned and run by the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, yesterday delivered the Scottish Parliament's Time For Reflection speech - a slot filled in the past by the Dalai Lama and former MP and writer Tony Benn.
The move, arranged by the parliamentary business minister Brian Adam, himself a practising Mormon, was criticised in the Holyrood chamber for handing a platform to the head of an "institutionally homophobic academic institution".
Brigham Young University bans homosexual relationships between its students, some of whom have previously been allowed to work as interns in the Scottish Parliament. The university's website states that "homosexual behaviour is inappropriate" and violates the Honour Code - a series of religiously influenced rules the university's students must accept.
In his address, Mr Samuelson began by thanking MSPs for providing internships to students from his university, before going on to talk about his faith.
He also told MSPs that his privately run university accepted people from "vastly different backgrounds", but when asked by The Scotsman, he refused to say whether gay or lesbian students were allowed to enrol.
The American went on to praise Aberdeen Donside MSP Mr Adam, who is in charge of the SNP's discipline at Holy-rood, as someone "who deserves special thanks" for arranging the controversial invitation.
He said: "I'm very grateful for the courtesy of the body (the Scottish Parliament]."
Mr Adam, who was appointed as a minister by Alex Salmond just weeks ago, refused to discuss the invitation to Mr Samuelson.
But two senior MSPs raised concerns about Mr Samuelson's presence. Green MSP Patrick Harvie, who is gay, said: "Mr Samuelson should never have been invited to address the parliament, given that he leads an institutionally homophobic academic institution."
He added: "I make this point not in respect to religion, but an academic institution that has a policy that would be utterly illegal and unacceptable here."
Independent MSP Margo MacDonald raised a point of order with Mr Harvie after Mr Samuelson had finished speaking, expressing concern about the university head's views on homosexuality. She said: "In the future, before people proposing this sort of policy are invited, there should be greater discussions."
Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick rejected the concerns and said Time for Reflection guests should be "shown courtesy".A parliament spokeswoman said: "A wide range of faith and non-faith speakers have taken part in Time for Reflection, and every speaker is issued with guidance which makes clear all contributions in the chamber should not include remarks or comments which are discriminatory."
Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). It is the United States' largest religious university.
Its origins can be traced back to the 1860s.
Brigham Young, the then president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, played a key role in its formation.
About 98 per cent of the university's 34,000 students are members of the LDS and a third of its American students come from the state of Utah.
The students are required to follow an honour code, which mandates behaviour in line with LDS teachings, such as adherence to dress and grooming standards, and abstinence from extramarital sex, drugs and alcohol.
The code states that homosexual behaviour is "inappropriate".
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