Author Archives: Johanna

ESS call for the City of Edinburgh to clarify the status of Mortonhall Crematorium

Lately (July 2018) the Society has called for the City of Edinburgh to clarify the status of Mortonhall Crematorium. Despite the looming presence of a cross on the end wall of each chapel, the Crematorium’s website makes no declaration that it is a Christian building, dedicated only to Christian funerals. However, the Wikipedia website declares that it is ‘multi-denominational’. This description appears to derive from the brief the architects, Spence, Glover and Ferguson, were given by the City in 1960.

It is not clear if the City intended this term to cover all religions, but in fact it can only cover all Christian denominations (sects). It would exclude all other religions and of course those of no religion. If the City intended the term to imply that the building was to be secular or non-religious, that was a mistake.

ESS wants the Crematorium to be declared a secular building, open to all, regardless of religion. Consequently we have called for the crosses to be removed from the chapels and the Crematorium website changed.

The main chapel showing the cross.

Almost three-quarters of Scots are “not religious”


Responding to new figures which show that almost three-quarter of Scots are “not religious” the Catholic Church has rather desperately claimed that “not religious” doesn’t mean “no religion.” If religiosity is not a binary yes/no position then it is equally true that those who tick the Christian box for cultural reasons are in no real sense practicing /believing Christians. I still have my granny’s rosary beads but that doesn’t mean that an increasingly minority religious belief system should  continue to have privileged access to government and schools.

Neil Barber – Edinburgh Secular Society – Edinburgh Evening News – 21 September 2017

ESS letter: Gay cake” ruling puts spotlight on equality

After much soul searching which divided even liberals, the Christian owners of Northern Ireland bakery Ashers have lost their appeal against a ruling that their refusal to make a “gay cake” was discriminatory.


The appeal judges concluded that supplying a cake did not imply that the bakers supported the “Support Gay Marriage” message any more than they might support a sports team, and that their religious beliefs did not exempt them from equality laws.

The baker’s argument highlights a common religious sophistry : gay people are not unequal, they just shouldn’t have access to the institutions of equality.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published Edinburgh Evening News 27th September 2016

ESS Letter: Swear it’s true.

Today, September 30th is International Blasphemy Rights Day so it is a good time to remember that blasphemy, though not prosecuted for some time, is still a common law offence in Scotland.

International Blasphemy Rights Day

International Blasphemy Rights Day

In theocratic countries where the religion is the state the first victims are often minority faiths. Only secularism which separates religion from state can be fair to everyone involved.

Individuals of whatever faith or creed are entitled to respect and protection but that in no way means that, under fear of criminal sanction their ideas are not open to challenge.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published The Scotsman 30th September 2016

ESS Letter: May’s faith school ruling is beyond belief.

We were appalled to hear that Theresa May’s UK government is soon to allow English schools run by faith groups but funded by tax payers to select ALL of their students on the basis of the religious beliefs of their parents.


Having said that it is “unacceptable” for schools to “promote discrimination against people or groups on the basis of their belief, opinion or background” it is twisted thinking now to facilitate exactly that.

What right do religious groups have to take tax payers’ money for this self-promotion and what mandate does the entirely un-elected Mrs May have to make such draconian changes to the English education system ?

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published Edinburgh Evening News 15th September 2016


ESS Letter : Fully inclusive religiously neutral schools.

Seems that the UK government is to spend £4.4million on LGBTI anti-bullying initiatives in schools and especially in faith schools where LGBTI-conscious education can often be the most lacking.

Here’s an idea.

What about fully inclusive religiously neutral schools for all our children?

Radical huh ?

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

ESS letter : Ozzie atheists say stop ticking Jedi in the census.

Symbol of the Jedi Order

Symbol of the Jedi Order

Seems that the ongoing joke of putting “Jedi” as a religious affiliation in a census is being campaigned against by The Atheist Foundation of Australia.

Their concerns are that the government gets a false impression of the general religiousness of its citizens which misdirects civic spending and how they allocate time slots on public radio and television.

That minority of Scottish citizens who do hold religious beliefs are quite rightly represented in a census but I wonder why people casually tick religious boxes when they have no real religious beliefs or lifestyle.

Maybe it’s through a sense of family or cultural loyalty or maybe it’s to cover their “fire insurance” as my Granny’s old joke used to go. I still keep my Granny’s rosary beads but if you don’t want religious ideas to be disproportionately represented in your name, for God’s sake tick the “none” box.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published Edinburgh Evening News 24th August 2016

ESS Letter : Christian faith in public life

Anthony Horan writes on Christian faith in public life.

To his credit he acknowledges that a recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey shows more than half of Scots do not identify with any religion : Christianity is now a subset of a minority.

We agree that all have the “right to a voice in the public square” if it is from a platform of equality, but Mr. Horan’s argument is compromised when he says that religious ideas should be “welcomed without fear or favour.”

There is huge favour still enjoyed by religions : unelected clerics on council education committees; statutory Religious Observance in state school; bishops in The House of Lords etc.

An “overwhelming majority” of Scots may identify as “spiritual” but that does not mean they tacitly endorse the privileging of minority Christian groups.

He says “Faith and belief in a constant and ever-loving God can guide us.” Faith is a “guide” for you Mr Horan, and long may it continue to be, but as one of many voices in the public square you must get over the belief that you speak for “us.”

Published Scotsman newspaper 4th August 2016