CHURCH leaders last night urged the Scottish Government to show more respect for Christmas as ministers are poised to launch a festive safe sex message titled the "Sexmas Survival Guide".
The government is set to approve an official sexual health website that substitutes the word "Christ" with "sex" when issuing advice to young people on how to avoid risky behaviour.
But the 100,000 promotion's corruption of the word Christmas has angered senior church figures, who also disapprove of the website's innuendo-laden approach to discussing sex.
"The advice should be more respectful," said John Deighan, the parliamentary officer for the Catholic Church.
"Using the word Christmas like that is symptomatic of a whole philosophy that undermines their safe sex strategy. They don't show enough delicacy of language and they don't show enough respect."
Rev Alan Falconer of the Church of Scotland's St Machar's Cathedral in Aberdeen said: "This would not be appropriate at all. This detracts from the festival for it to be classified in this way."
The Sexmas Survival Guide will advise young people on how to deal with festive social occasions such as the "After Work Do" when inhibitions are relaxed and office workers have to negotiate "the unexpected rise", and encounters with the "employee of the year", who is "ready for anything".
For such situations, the guide advises: "Slip a few condoms into your bag or pocket."
The same advice applies to the "Hogmanay All-nighter" and "Big nights Oot" where partygoers may run in to some of Scotland's "talent".
According to the guide, another hazard is the "end of night ride". On that particular topic, the Sexmas guide tells users to "stop tittering. We're talking about how you're going to get home!"
Getting home safely, it says, is best achieved by keeping a spare 20 note and some taxi numbers handy so that a cab can be taken at the end of the night.
Deighan said: "This sort of approach trivialises sex and turns it into just another pastime when we should have a humanised vision of sex - that it is part of love and an intimate part of human relationships. The result of this sort of approach seems to be that things just get worse. The more you trivialise sex the more reckless people become."
But the "Sexmas" approach to the festivities was defended by the government, which first introduced the Sexmas Survival Guide last year. A Scottish Government spokeswoman indicated that the guide would be rolled out again this year as part of efforts to promote good sexual health.
The spokeswoman said: "I wouldn't be surprised if we did (use sexmas], but I am not 100 per cent definite yet. But this is all about engaging with our target market.What is the point in spending money on something that doesn't deliver results? We are targeting people in their early 20s and late teens, who could be engaging in risky sexual behaviour.
"We have marketing professionals, who know how to do this and this is what the professionals tell us that we have to do in order to engage with young people. If we went out and had a fairly staid campaign, it would not deliver results. What is the point in spending money on something that doesn't get results?"
Given the economic conditions, the government has only allocated 100,000 to spreading the safe sex message this festive season compared with 627,046 last year.
The spokeswoman added: "There is a continuing need to raise awareness about sexual health issues and to do so in a way which is ready accessible to the target audience. That is why we intend, this year, to simply refresh and enhance existing online activity, including for the 'at risk' audience over the festive period."