Tag Archives: Church Of Scotland

Scottish Parliament should determine whether to maintain Protestant and Presbyterian privileges in Scotland

Prince Edward, Lord High Commissioner, representing the monarch at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, together with the Moderator and procession

Legislation for increased powers for the Scottish Parliament should include provision to enable it to revoke the clause in the Act of Union of 1707 that requires a new monarch immediately at accession to ‘maintain and preserve the True Protestant Religion and the Presbyterian form of church government in Scotland’. Such a step would enable Scots to determine if they wish to eliminate this heritage of religious discrimination and remove the special constitutional standing of the Church of Scotland that now has the adherence of less than one in three of the population of Scotland.

This is proposed in an article in Democratic Audit by Professor Norman Bonney, Honorary President of Edinburgh Secular Society.

Prof. Bonney also proposes that the Church of England bishops in the House of Lords should lose the powers that they have to change laws on UK reserved matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In 2010 their votes were decisive in excusing religious organisations from some provisions of the Equality Act that apply to other bodies. ‘English bishops should vote only on English matters – if that is the wish of the English people’ he said.

The article in Democratic Audit can be accessed at http://www.democraticaudit.com/?p=9328

Scottish churches worried by the resurgence of secularism

    

The rise of articulate and influential secularism in Scotland in the last few years clearly has the religious establishment rattled. The Pope Emeritus railed against ‘aggressive’ secularism. The Roman Catholic Cardinal for Edinburgh and St Andrews criticises ‘ill-tempered’ secularism. The newly appointed minister at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, the flagship kirk of Scotland, has been imported from Chicago and, according to the Times, says that one of his priorities will be to confront ‘raucous’ secularism. ESS looks forward to hearing the views of Rev Calum MacLeod, formerly of the Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, on the separation of church and state.

Could it be that the religious authorities are so rattled because secularists have increasingly exposed and challenged the unjustified privileges granted to some religious denominations such as having financial subsidies of various types from the Scottish Government, a separate system of schooling, the right to impose prayers in schools, and to nominate voting members to otherwise elected local authority education committees?

Secularists simply use the mechanisms of democracy to challenge such religious privileges and promote the separation of church and state. ESS looks forward to more democratic debate and decision making on these issues.

New visitors to this site are encouraged to read the reasoned case for secularism put out in these posts and join the ESS.

Worrying words from the Lord High Commissioner to the Church of Scotland

At the opening of the Annual Assembly of the Church of Scotland on Saturday 17 May 2014 the Lord High Commissioner, Prince Edward gave an address on the theme of community, contrasting "the assertion of legalistic rights" with the Christian teaching of responsibility.

Could this possibly be a reference to the persistence of the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Government refusing to consider that the decades long arrangements whereby three church voting representatives are added to each local authority education committee in Scotland might actually not be inconformity with the Equality and Human Rights Act 0f 2010?. Does he mean that religious concepts of ‘responsibility’ should allow churches and the Scottish Government not to follow the law?

The Church and Scottish Government are in dangerous constitutional territory if this unlawfulness continues. Scotland should be subject to the rule of law, not the interests of powerful groups and interests.

See the letter by ESS Honorary President, Professor Norman Bonney, in the Scotsman Monday 19 May 2014

http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/letters/kirk-s-stance-smacks-of-arrogance-1-3414898

‘Reconciliation is the business of the church’

Says the new Moderator of the Church of Scotland. But what about:

  • the over 500 year split with the Church of Rome?
  • the refusal to give up Church of Scotland nominations to every Scottish local authority education committee
  • Insistence on conducting religious observance in all ‘non-denominational’ state schools
  • insistence on continuing preeminent positions among churches if voters agree to independence
  • insistence on continuing with legal privileges established with the Act of Union of 1707 even if there is a new Scottish constitution after a ‘yes’ vote
  • claims Church should be able to continue to conduct marriages and conduct prison chaplaincies

Not much of a record of achievement of reconciliation there!

Image from Coventry Cathedral

Church of Scotland Annual Assembly off with a bang

The 21 gun salute at 0920 at Edinburgh Castle on Saturday 17 May 2014 marking the commencement of the Annual General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was also a clear signal of the determination of the UK Government and monarchy as head of the UK armed forces to stand by obligations under the Acts of Union of 1701 ‘to maintain and preserve the True Protestant Religion and the presbyterian form of church government in Scotland’.

Scotland votes on the independence referendum on 18 September.

ESS welcomes the General Assembly to Edinburgh. While recognising the many contributions that the Church makes to Scottish life ESS argues that its many legal privileges are unjustified and need review.

An independent Scotland: A secular or a religious state?

A recent statement by the Church of Scotland and a number of other religious denominations demanding that religion is specially recognised in an independent Scottish state raises fundamental issues that have not yet been answered by the Scottish Government.

Professor Norman Bonney, ESS Honorary President, explores some of the key issues in a new London School of Economics British Policy and Politics blog post. Visit

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/archives/41409

Response to Church of Scotland news release

For immediate release | Thursday 31st October 2013 | Contact details at bottom.

Response on behalf of Edinburgh Secular Society.  Edinburgh Secular Society is currently supporting a petition in Edinburgh to remove religious observance in the City’s schools.

ESS is affiliated to the National Secular Society, although views expressed are that of ESS alone.

Edinburgh Secular Society believe that education should not be used as a vehicle for evangelisation by religious lobby groups.  ESS works for the complete removal of religious observance, and does not support a recent petition to The Scottish Parliament to change the requirement for prayers to ‘opt-in’ from the current ‘opt-out’.

We believe that this is treating the symptoms and not the cause, and that the time (if there ever was one) for compulsory religious worship must end.

You can view out original response to the ‘Opt-in/Opt-out’ petition here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_PublicPetitionsCommittee/General%20Documents/PE1487_P_Edinburgh_Secular_Society_11.10.13.pdf

In a report authored, among others, by Rev Ewan Aitken (Secretary, Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council) in 2005, it was admitted that:

“It seems that until a model of RO for non-denominational schools is developed that provides an understanding of non-religious ‘spiritual development’ as well as shared classroom practices to enact this model, an inevitable result is an RO of the ‘lowest common denominator’ that gravitates to moral exhortation and communal singing rather than spiritual development……”

The report went on to say:

“When one of the primary school pupils, when asked whether his RO teacher helped him understand what it is to be a spiritual person gave the honest answer: ‘I don’t know what spiritual means,’ there seems to be a challenge issued to educators that goes unmet by practices such as schools organising religious retreats for pupils, or having specialists come into the school to give sessions on prayer, mediation or contemplation.”[1]

Responding to the Church of Scotland’s latest remarks, Gary McLelland, Chair of Edinburgh Secular Society said:

“The vague and un-specified notion of spiritual development advanced by the Kirk is obviously a euphemism for religious belief.  The Church of Scotland should be embarrassed by its latest attempt to shoehorn compulsory religious belief into Scottish schools.The idea that religion is a prerequisite to inter-personal development is an insult to those Scots who wish to live a good life without reference to religion.”

McLelland continued: “It’s time to end, not amend, compulsory worship in Scottish schools.”

[1] http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/68010/

  • ESS can provide photos, speakers and comments.  Please contact Gary McLelland, Chair of the Society at 07813060713.
  • ESS is a leading secular campaign group, based in Edinburgh we cover issues across Scotland.
  • ESS is affiliated to NSS, although views expressed are that of ESS alone.

Edinburgh Secular Society challenges undemocratic religious representatives

Click here to sign our petition.

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Edinburgh Secular Society Vice-chair Colin Emerson has submitted a petition to The Scottish Parliament to ask it to instruct The Scottish Government to bring forward legislation to remove the legislation which places a requirement on the all 32 local authorities in Scotland to appoint three ‘religious representatives’ to their education committees.

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Edinburgh Secular Society comment on the 2011 census religion statistics

News release – For immediate release – 8th Oct 2013

Edinburgh Secular Society comment on the 2011 census religion statistics.

• “No religion” polls at 37 per cent…higher than The Church Of Scotland.

• Church of Scotland polls at 32 per cent…a 10 per cent fall since the 2001 census.

• Another 7.5 per cent of the total Scottish public turn their back on the Kirk since the last count.

• ESS questions the mandate of the Church of Scotland to have privileged access to our education system.

The religious statistics produced after Scotland’s 2011 census show, as many had expected, that religion is an ever decreasing choice for many Scots.  The 2011 census figures for Scotland reveal such plunging numbers declaring religious beliefs that it is predicted in a few years the total number of people declaring any religious belief will be a minority.  The most striking figure is that “no religion” has increased dramatically to 37 per cent. This is higher than The Church of Scotland at 32 per cent which is a reduction of well over 400,000 from its numbers in the 2001 census.

An ESS spokesperson said, “We respect individual adult religious choice but the Church of Scotland cannot presume to speak for anyone other than its followers. It continues to impose its minority beliefs in our non-denominational schools and together with other religions has unelected representatives on all Scottish education committees. Almost two million Scots now declare that they have no religion. So what does that mean for the age-old religious assumption of church involvement in our education system? Religious Observance is still compulsory and evangelising missionaries use this  to infiltrate the school system.”

ESS continued:

“The right to evangelise is an important religious freedom but it does not extend to recruiting from our schoolchildren.”

ESS calls on the Scottish Government to begin the process that will :

  • Repeal the legislation that requires Religious Observance is all Scottish schools
  • Repeal the legislation that imposes unelected religious representatives on all Local Authority Education Committees.

***Ends***

  • Speakers available for TV/Radio and other interviews.  For further information contact Gary McLelland – Chairman on 07813060713 or Neil Barber – Press and Communications Officer on 07986183977.
  • ESS is a leading secular campaign group in Scotland. We are based in Edinburgh and cover a range of national issues relating to Secularism.  ESS believes in freedom of religion and freedom from religion.
  • ESS is affiliated to the National Secular Society, although views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the NSS.

www.edinburghsecularsociety.com

Edinburgh Secular Society meet with representatives of the Church of Scotland

On Friday 27th September 2013, Gary McLelland, Colin Emerson and Norman Bonney (Chair, Vice-chair and Honorary President of Edinburgh Secular Society) met with representatives of the Church of Scotland at their offices in George St, Edinburgh. Present from the Kirk were Ewan Aitken (Secretary of Church & Society Council), Sally Fulton-Foster (Convener of Church & Society Council) and Sandy Fraser (Convener of Education Committee).

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