Tag Archives: Faith

Tony Blair appeals for the world’s children to be taught respect for all religions. But should they not be taught to respect the more general right of others to free expression and association?

Under the auspices of his Faith Foundation Tony Blair has appealed for the children of the world to be taught in school respect for all religions. This appeal is questionable in many ways. An objective treatment of all religions would reveal their negative features which in many cases attracts valid criticism. For instance, why do so many denominations exclude women from their priesthoods and justify the patriarchal dominance men over women? There is a danger that encouraging respect will lead to an ignoring of the negative features of religions and a lack of objectivity in education on the issue. Indeed in the work of the Tony Blair Foundation there is only one form of one religious denomination that comes in for regular criticism.

Respect for the right of people to hold different beliefs and associate on the basis of them should be a value taught in all schools – but this should not be focused exclusively on faith. By focusing on religious differences is not Tony Blair contributing to an excessive focus upon, and privileging of, this one sphere of human activity? Pleas for tolerance should be much wider than those just based on religion. To be fair there are sections of his latest article that refer to the need to foster understanding across barriers of religion ‘and belief’ but the dominant focus is on religious difference.

Tony Blair outlines his views at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29553001

Scottish Government religious subsidy of the week – 7 –£36,000 pa to the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

                                                            

The Scottish Government gives £36,000 per annum to the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCJC).

Judged by the website of SCJC  (http://www.scojec.org/) the Scottish Jewish community appears to be prosperous and cohesive and perfectly capable of looking after its affairs and interests. It has good contacts with governmental organisations.

In 2012 SCJC reported an annual income of £111,000 to the Scottish Charities regulator. As a charity SCJC can benefit from tax relief on income and gains, rates relief and gift aid. Is additional direct Scottish Government subsidy merited?

The Jewish population of Scotland declined to just under 6,000 people according to the 2011 Scottish census.

Need for equal gender opportunities in the Scottish Parliament’s weekly ‘Time for Reflection’

Former MSP for Dunfermline, Bill Walker, pictured right, with Rev Martin Scott and  Mrs Scott at the Scottish Parliament prior to Rev Scott’s contribution to Time for Reflection at the Scottish Parliament 28 January 2014. Source http://www.billwalkerdunfermline.com

The weekly four minute ‘Time for Reflection’ (TFR) in the Scottish Parliament is meant to reflect the diversity of religion and belief in Scotland by having contributions from a wide range of different denominations and philosophies roughly in accordance with their population support. Unfortunately, as ESS Honorary President, Professor Norman Bonney, recently argued in the Scottish Parliament, this approach to equal opportunities in religion has worked at cross purposes with the Parliament’s commitment to equal gender opportunities.

Prof Steve Bruce and Dr Marta Trzebiatowska (Aberdeen University) have demonstrated that women are significantly more religious than men (‘Why are women more religious than men? Oxford University Press 2012). Yet only 30 per cent of contributions to TFR are from women.

This disparity highlights the fact that most religious denominations, despite having a majority of women members, tend to be dominated by men. Some well known denominations even exclude women from their priesthood. The Scottish Government now has a target of 40 per cent for women on its cabinet and on public boards. Perhaps the Scottish Parliament, which falls short by this standard in TFR, should aim higher with a target of 50 or 60 per cent female contributors to remedy female disadvantage in many sects.

And should the Scottish Parliament consider disallowing participation in TFR by denominations that exclude women from their priesthood in order to demonstrate a strong commitment to equal opportunities for women? Otherwise it looks as though it is conniving with, or accepting of, the grosser gender inequalities to be found in some denominations.