Tag Archives: Religion

Public religious subsidy of the week–6. £140,000 pa for a Church of Scotland chaplain at St Andrew’s University.

Manfreddi La Manna points out the Stirling University has found a much more economical and effective way of providing chaplaincies for university students from public funds with the university only providing accommodation for such activities and the denominations paying for the services of their priests. The University of St Andrews pays the full time salary of a Church of Scotland minister and for two support staff while other denominations (Catholic, Episcopalian/Anglican, Church of Scotland, Kingdom Vineyard Church, Orthodox, Muslim, and Jewish – two rabbis) provide their religious services to students out of their own resources.

For more on this story from the Scottish Review click this link http://bit.ly/Szq1Y1

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

Scottish Government religious subsidy of the week – 4 – £60,000 pa to Interfaith Glasgow

The Scottish Government now gives an annual grant of £60,000 to Interfaith Glasgow.

This is in addition to grants previously publicised by ESS of £120,000 pa to Interfaith Scotland and £70,000 per annum to Interfaith Edinburgh. The cumulative annual funding for interfaith work revealed so far by ESS is thus a quarter of a million pounds – £250,000 per annum

The work of Interfaith Glasgow is documented at http://www.interfaithglasgow.org and at least this interfaith organisation admits upfront that it is funded by the Scottish Government. The growth of city based funding, in addition to the funding of the nation wide interfaith organisation, Interfaith Scotland, which is already based in Glasgow, looks highly questionable.

Most of the denominations involved will be charities and will benefit from tax relief on income and gains, rates relief and gift aid. Why then should additional public funds be channelled to them? There ought to be no need for this funding. Local authorities are well placed to facilitate cooperation and dialogue between religious denominations if it is felt that there are problematic aspects of relationships between them and the denominations themselves ought to be open to dialogue between themselves out of religious goodwill and their own resources.

Scottish Government religious subsidy of the week – 3 – £70,000 pa to Edinburgh Interfaith Association

In addition to the £120,000 pa that the Scottish Government gives to Interfaith Scotland it also grants £70,000 per annum to the Edinburgh Interfaith Association (EIFA), which does not appear to acknowledge this source of funding on its website.

The work of EIFA which focuses on Edinburgh, the wider region and internationally, overlaps considerably with Interfaith Scotland and involves work in Scottish schools. Details of its work are to be found at http://www.eifa.org.uk

There are nine different faith representatives and one Christian on the Board. Most of these denominations are, like EIFA itself, probably charities, and thus already benefit from tax relief on income and gains, rates relief and gift aid.

According to the 2011 census 2.1 per cent of the Scottish population has a non-Christian religion.

Surely these denominations and charities should be able to cooperate among themselves out of their religious good will and for the public good without additional state subsidy.

Edinburgh Secular Society receives no government funding and is entirely resourced by the voluntary activity of its members and supporters

Religious subsidy of the week – no 1

Jesus Christ drives the moneychangers out of the temple

The Scottish Government  contributed towards the developments costs of the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO) which serves 12 denominations. SCPO was established in 1999 to help churches

  • Engage effectively in the new political process
  • Translate their commitment to the welfare of Scotland into Parliamentary debate
  • Contribute the range and depth of their experience, and their faith reflection on that experience, to the decision-making process.

These churches are all also likely to be charities which benefit from exemptions from taxation on income and gains from charitable activities as well as rates relief and gift aid and some of them have substantial resources.

SCPO operates as part of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland. The Church recognises that ‘by undertaking this core activity ecumenically, the Church is able to be better informed and have stronger influence on political debate’ (proposed deliverance May 2012).

The 11 other denominations are not particularly generous to SCPO. They contributed £8250 of the £93,111 cost of SCPO in 2013. The rest of the cost fell on the Church of Scotland (SCPO Annual report 2013)

So why did these churches have this privilege of government funding? Are there not some other organisations that might benefit from government funding so that they, too, might enhance the effectiveness of their lobbying with the Scottish Government and with the Scottish Parliament?

Should the Scottish Government have ever been involved in funding such activity?

ESS is investigating the size and duration of the Scottish Government grant to SCPO and would welcome any further relevant information.

Source http://www.actsparl.org

Open letter to Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

Gary McLelland

Chair, Edinburgh Secular Society

admin@edinburghsecularsociety.com

November 5, 2013

The Right Rev Lorna Hood

Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

Church of Scotland

121 George Street

Edinburgh

EH2 4YN

Dear The Right Rev Lorna Hood:

I am writing in response to your comments in The Times (Saturday 2nd October, 2013).  I was concerned about your comments regarding secularism, in which you say – when asked if Scotland is a secular state; “a secular state would be one without religion”.

I am disturbed that in your role as Moderator of the General Assembly you appear unaware of the true meaning of secularism.  Secularism is a socio-political stance which calls for the separation of church and state: it simply advocates that in the public domain people should be treated equally whether they hold religious beliefs or not.  I would have expected that this is something that you and the Church of Scotland would support.

I am troubled that you see members of the Church of Scotland, and secularists as opposing forces. In my position as Chair of Edinburgh Secular Society, please be assured that this feeling is not mutual.  Indeed I know of members and clergy within your church, who are supportive of a number of our aims and objectives.

In the article you go on to mention the services provided by the Church of Scotland. I must point out that those services are also available for non-religious people by organizations such as the secular Humanist Society Scotland.  Indeed, the Humanist Society Scotland are Scotland’s third most popular provider of marriage services.

In The Times you went on to say: “I do think that the Church has to speak out on issues, because if the voice of the Church isn’t heard, the voice of the secularists will be heard”.

It’s not the intention or objective of secularism to silence the voice of any church. The voice of religious groups in Scotland should be available alongside the many other voices and viewpoints in our vibrant society.  Your comments in the article appear to suggest that it can only be one or the other.

I am very glad to be able to reassure you that neither secularism in general, nor Edinburgh Secular Society specifically, is hostile towards religion.  The focus of our campaigning is the situations where religion seeks a privileged position in Scottish society.  Such privilege conflicts with current ideas of equality and democracy.

We not only look forward to a continued dialogue with, but the support of, the Church of Scotland.

Sincerely,

Gary M Signature

Gary McLelland

Chair of Edinburgh Secular Society

(pdf version available)

Kids should get to enjoy Hallowe’en

My pal Scott is five and loves Hallowe’en. He insists that his birthday too is Hallowe’en-themed and his parents happily comply (Originally from Edinburgh Evening News).

What is it about Hallowe’en that kids love? Is it the immersion in the gruesome which works as a healthy end-of-summer catharsis for them? In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche suggests that classical Greek dramatists looked bravely into the abyss of human darkness and affirmed the meaning of their own existence. So is Hallowe’en Oedipus Rex for kids?

Read More →

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

Sunday Herald: Scrutiny needed in schools–Edinburgh Secular Society

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Opinion piece by Sunday Herald.

RELIGION in non-denominational schools is a sensitive matter. (View online here)

Recent claims that only 20% of parents feel adequately informed about their right to remove children from church services or assemblies have, for example, prompted calls for the rules governing religious observance to be changed. But non-religious parents will not be the only ones to be alarmed by evidence suggesting that some ­evangelical groups are ­providing volunteer helpers. Edinburgh Secular Society says these groups encourage members to offer support to teaching staff, or provide services such as outdoor education centres.

These volunteers may be well-intentioned and it is perhaps understandable that, with tightened budgets, headteachers are grateful for additional support and resources. However, religious education is supposed to be ­regulated according to nationally agreed guidelines, and it is important that teachers and local authorities are aware of what is going on within their premises.

Recent events at Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride should alert us to the need for vigilance. An inquiry is under way there into West Mains Church of Christ’s involvement in school activities, after books denouncing the theory of evolution were handed out to pupils. Given that some evangelical groups hold contentious views on issues such as homosexuality or the validity of science, all parents will want to know what their children are being told. The fact that a West Mains Church of Christ preacher had been helping out at Kirktonholme for eight years before questions were asked raises doubts as to whether the involvement of religious organisations in Scottish schools is being adequately monitored.

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