Category Archives: Campaigns

ESS has officially adopted it’s new constitution

You can view the our constitution here; The Constitution of Edinburgh Secular Society

Separation of Church and State

The Church of England is the established religion of England and in Scotland we have “The Kirk”. This is manifest most obviously in the unelected Bishops’ seats in the House of Lords. Religious ideas and morality are not shared by everyone and with the increase of people declaring no religious faith or a different faith it is wrong that this influence should be exercised by any religion far less one denomination of Christianity.

The state should have no power to dictate to religion nor should religion dictate to the state. The government should not fund religious activity through tax benefits or in any other way.

Because of national and local secularist pressure The City of Edinburgh Council has joined the growing list of councils who have removed prayers from the agenda of their meetings. Christian worship is unwelcoming to prospective councillors of other religious faiths and those who have none, all of whom should participate in our democracy.

The Scottish parliament has a weekly “Time for Reflection” event which is a short talk given to the chamber by visiting speakers. We have no problems with our politicians devoting small amounts of time to a philosophical consideration of the bigger picture of things but records show the grossly unrepresentative extent to which these meditations are led by religious representatives, mainly Christians at that. “Time for reflection” should mean much more than “Time for religious reflection”.

The NHS runs a ‘chaplaincy’ service paid for by the taxpayer. Patients with a religious faith must be free to access such a service but it should be funded by the religions involved, not by the State.

The Law and Human Rights

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There can be no claim by the religious to exemption from laws which apply to everyone else on grounds of “religious conscience”. The right to hold religious moral views is not in dispute but there can be no right to impose them on others.

Religious organisations should not have unchallenged stewardship of public services or projects which are there to serve all equally.

The religious cannot have the right to discriminate against minority groups in a way which is incompatible with the law. If a religious organisation wishes to benefit from tax-free charity status, and to provide a service in the public sphere, it should not be allowed to discriminate against gay people who must have equal rights of access to adoption agencies and accommodation and should be free to choose from the same socially recognised definitions of life-partnerships as everyone else.

Religious ideas must compete in the intellectual market place with all others and should be free to do so but they can have no privileged platform from which to do this.

There should be no laws specifically to protected religion from criticism or satire.

If some minority cult routinely sought to cut off the earlobes of its children the state would surely send round the social workers yet because of notions of “religious freedom” we have tiptoed politely away from the issue of non-therapeutic circumcision for which there can be no consent given. Should the individual as an adult choose to follow the religious traditions of his parents and have his genitals altered he should be free to do so then.

Secularism has no problem with the wearing of religious symbols at work though we are puzzled by the need for this public manifestation of belief. Can God not see your cross under your shirt? However there can be no exemptions on religious grounds from rules and regulations set by employers on dress code or health and safety.

Education

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It is important that children be made aware of religion. It has had a huge impact on our history and culture and the Bible is as important a work of literature as Shakespeare, Homer or Dickens. However, biblical stories should not be presented as fact to intellectually defenceless children. Yes, explain to children in an optional R.E. class that a religious worldview is a means by which some adults administer their lives, but in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, schools must provide an equal platform for non-belief so as young people can make up their own minds.

It is quite wrong that religious creationism should be considered as a viable alternative to the scientific facts of evolution and should never be taught in a science class. Schools should have policies in place to prevent religious indoctrination in education.

There should be no sectarian “faith schools” which serve only to divide communities, exclude pupils and discriminate in employment against teachers who do not declare appropriate religious allegiances.

Our local education committees are required to appoint three or four statutory religious representatives which are simply nominated by their respective churches. This privileged access to influence over education fails to represent the majority of children whose parents have no religious beliefs or indeed children of parents with non-Christian religious beliefs.  These representatives are not elected and not accountable to the local electorate.

There should be no routine religious instruction or organised worship in publicly funded schools. Scottish schools are obliged to provide “religious education” classes for pupils and a minimum number of “religious observance” assemblies. While there is provision made for parents to withdraw their children they then often have to sit alone as if being punished. Not surprisingly most parents go along with things to avoid the stigma of exclusion for their child and to avoid having to declare their position on religion to the head teacher. Religious observance serves not only to divide and disadvantage children but it carries a real risk of religious indoctrination as it opens the school gates to proselytising teachers and organisations, e.g. Scripture Union.

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