A religious studies teacher in Venice has attracted the attention of the Italian media after a handout on sexuality from his class was posted on Facebook.

The handwritten sheet said that being gay was a choice that could be “cured”, and that if “public space” was given to homosexuality it would also be given to paedophilia.

Enrico Pavanello, 49, gave the sheet to his class of 14-16-year-olds at the Liceo Foscarini, after they requested a lesson on sexuality.

Mr Pavanello made a number of statements on the handout, including: “Being gay is a choice and so people can be cured. This is an addiction and, fortunately, there are some places where this addiction can be eradicated.”

The handout asserted that the Kinsey Reports, which challenged preconceptions about sexuality in the 1940s and 1950s by reporting the prevalence of same-sex experiences, had been debunked as hoaxes.

Mr Pavanello’s handout also defined homosexuality as separate from a “gay lifestyle”, and asked whether people who experienced same-sex attraction should “identify with gay ideology?”

A student scanned the handout and posted it on Facebook, where it attracted the attention of other students and then the Italian media at large. The Italian website of the Huffington Post conducted an interview with Mr Pavanello, in which he defended himself by saying he was prompting his students to reflect on LGBT issues.

He denied having equated homosexuality to paedophilia, but said that questioning the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman could lead to the “recognition” of paedophilia, “as happened in Holland”.

He confirmed that he thought being gay was a choice and said that if any of his students were questioning their sexuality, he would advise them to seek gay cure therapy.

Venetian councillor for education Gianfranco Bettin said in response to Mr Pavanello’s handout: “This is discrimination and the Venice council is acting against it.

“The discrimination is [common] among the students, but some teachers are ignorant as well.”

In a press statement Mr Pavanello said: “The text given to the students is a summary of various lectures, reviews, articles, that do not express my thinking.  My intention was to furnish materials for the students to stimulate a debate regarding a topic that was requested by the students themselves.”