Ms Le Mesurier said the poster campaign was not about promoting homosexuality. “Indeed there is no evidence that talking about homosexuality encourages young heterosexual people to experiment with it. What there is evidence of, however, is that our schools tend not to be safe places for those youth who are not heterosexual.
“Non-heterosexual youth are over-represented as victims of bullying, in truancy, and in mental health issues including drug and alcohol abuse and suicide. An analysis of the Youth 2000 survey in New Zealand and the latest findings from Dr David Fergusson’s longitudinal study (Christchurch School of Medicine) confirms this. This is not because of some inherent nature of homosexuality, but because non-heterosexual youth grow up experiencing thousands of negative messages about who and what they are – messages exactly like those delivered by the Hawthorndale Community Church’s advertisement.
“Dr David Plummer, a researcher with the University of New England in New South Wales, Australia, says that the average high school student hears 25 anti-gay messages a day. How do you stay well and positive and feel affirmed when that is the environment you’re growing up in?”
Ms Le Mesurier said the church’s advertisement made a veiled attempt to suggest that the youth suicide rate was linked to what it saw as immorality in society promoted by the last Government.
“This emotive argument does not stand up, however, under the clear light of good scientific research, which suggests that the moves like the Homosexual Law Reform Act and the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Human Rights Act have helped create environments where individual health is promoted, challenges to mental health reduced, and public health enhanced by reducing at-risk behaviour (such as unsafe sex) among marginalised groups.
“Hawthorndale Community Church is entitled to express its views on homosexuality as a religious issue, which are matters of belief, but it plays a dangerous game with young people’s lives when it marginalises human rights and public health initiatives and seeks to impose its views on schools which are obliged, under statute, to create environments in which all people enjoy the protection of the law and are enabled to flourish, whatever their religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.”