THE faith agenda must be “seized back from the bigots and the haters” opposed to LGBTI inclusion, a Church of Scotland minister has said.

Highland minister Reverend John Nugent spoke out as he declared his support for the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign, which is pressing for Scottish schools to overhaul the classroom approach to LGBT issues and wipe out bullying based on sexuality and gender identity.

Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar and actress Emma Thompson are amongst high-profile backers.

Now Nugent, who leads worship at the Saint Fergus Church in Wick, has become the latest faith leader to come out in support of the push.

Claiming the current approach breaches children’s rights and that religious groups should embrace young LGBTI people, Nugent said failure to act leaves religion to “bigots”.

He said: “Inclusivity lies in the DNA of faith. The founders of the great faith traditions left the door open to all, and it is this ancient path that must be reclaimed and promoted; the faith agenda then being seized back from the bigots and the haters.”

A recent report by TIE found 90 per cent of LGBT Scots experience homophobia while at school, with persecution leading more than one quarter to attempt to take their own lives.

Nugent said: “I believe that all inhabitants of our planet have rights that go along with being human. One of those rights grants an education which will further the individual’s development so that she or he can grow into full personhood. Denial of that right is therefore unconscionable.

“Inclusive education is crucial to the full development of the individual and denying access to inclusion is tantamount to a denial of human rights. Schools and other places of education, faith centres and youth organisations are the appropriate loci for this. If our young people grow in an inclusive atmosphere then gradually bigotry, prejudice and bullying will end.

“In this sense the LGBTI community has led the way ahead of faith communities – which should be inclusive, but sadly aren’t.”

Nugent is the latest faith leader to support the campaign, following Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth of the Scottish Episcopal Church and Islamic scholar Amanullah De Sondy.

Last night, the Church of Scotland said: “The Church has a range of voices and Reverend John Nugent is speaking in a personal capacity as a parish minister. The Church welcomes people regardless of their sexual orientation. The Church continues to discuss issues of human sexuality and any decisions on this matter would be openly debated at a future General Assembly.”

Campaigners from TIE met with Education Secretary John Swinney last October to discuss their proposals, which include featuring same-sex families and the history of the LGBTI rights movement in lessons and specialist instruction for teachers on how to address the topics.

Responding to Nugent’s statement, a Holyrood spokesperson said: “Local authorities and schools decide how to deliver the curriculum based on local needs and circumstances. History is an area of the curriculum which provides opportunities to study a wide range of people and historical events, and diversity is important within that, ensuring that pupils develop a nuanced, balanced, informed understanding of past people and events.

“Teachers use their professional judgement to select which historical periods and people to study.”