Tag Archives: Religious Privilege

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

Same sex marriage laws entrench religious privileges

Amidst all the public attention about the achievement of same sex marriage in Scotland, some months after it was achieved in England, it does not seem to have been noticed that in many ways the relevant legislation further entrenches religious privilege in Scotland.

A secular society, like France, would arrange that all marriages were exclusively certificated by the state. Thereafter the newly wed couple could celebrate the marriage as they wish with other parties.

In UK not only are many religious denominations empowered to issue such certification of the marriage at or after a religious ceremony but now, as a result, of the new legislation, they will be empowered to decide which couples they will choose to include in such ceremonies and who they will exclude.

Such is the power of these religious lobbies in Scotland that not only will they have this right to discriminate but they are also having success in allowing some teachers from fully and fairly discussing such matters with pupils and in excusing public registration officials from conducting same same sex marriages on religious grounds. We don’t expect police officers or fire service personnel to refuse to aid citizens because of religious beliefs so why should registration officers be excused from their duties on such grounds?

Scottish Parliament writes the rules–and advises how to circumvent them!

 

ESS Chair, Colin Emerson, has received the following reply from the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament in response to the ESS complaint that a meeting by a religious organisation in the Parliament appeared to break the Parliament’s own rules.

Thank you for your email and attached letter bringing to my attention a perceived breach of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body’s (SPCB) guidance on Member-sponsored events.Your complaint refers to the Member-sponsored event Scotland What Kind of Nation which was held on Wednesday 23 April.

Whilst the SPCB’s agreed guidance clearly states that no books, reports, leaflets etc. can be launched at the Scottish Parliament, it is acceptable for organisations to launch outwith the Parliament and then host an awareness raising event at the Parliament for Members.  Our understanding from the Evangelical Alliance was that the report Scotland What kind of Nation was launched over the weekend of Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 April – covered by some of the Sunday papers.  We were informed that this would be prior to the awareness raising event at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 23 April.

Other organisations have taken this course of action, launching their publications elsewhere and then holding awareness raising events for Members and stakeholders at the Parliament as part of our programme of Member-sponsored events.  In allowing such events to take place the SPCB is not endorsing the views of the host organisations, individual speakers or guests.

I can reassure you that all the Scottish Parliament policies are kept under review and we will, of course, reflect on the nature of our policy in relation to the matters you raise.  I hope that this clarifies the position and thank you once again for bringing this to my attention.

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)

Scotland’s young people deserve better than this

Young people have a human right to sexual health and relationships education. Something which the religious minority in Scotland is taking away, argues Gary McLelland (originally published on www.secularism.org.uk on 29 October 2013).

Scotland, like many areas, is working to promote safe and healthy relationships, especially among its younger citizens.

As with many issues in Scottish education, religious sectarian divides exist to the detriment of youngsters.

The current guidance from the Scottish Government on sexual health and relationships education comes from a circular issued in 2001. This was produced just before the repeal of Section 28 (2A in Scotland), however as the guidance states, this was a key factor for consideration in the document.

The 2001 guidance states quite clearly that:

"Programmes of sex education should present facts in an objective, balanced and sensitive manner within a framework of sound values and an awareness of the law on sexual behaviour."

This was, at the time, a welcome progressive move from the Scottish Government, an acknowledgement that young people have a human right to appropriate factual education about sexual health and relationships, and given the political environment at the time, was clearly a sign of a move towards a progressive secular Scotland, where the reactionary cries of religious fanatics was being firmly put in its place.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has made LGBT equality a cornerstone of his political career, the slogan ‘It Gets Better’ is used to denote his party’s alliance with equality.

This image of progressive equality has taken a bit of a battering recently, with the discussions around the introduction of same-sex marriage. Religious groups have been the most vocal in Scotland against the introduction of marriage equality north of the border, with the meek and mild Church of Scotland being forced into embarrassing anti-social positions.

Despite the fact that many of Scotland’s religious citizens, including the majority of Roman Catholics, are in favour of marriage equality, and the Quaker Church in Scotland of the opinion that it would strengthen the institution of marriage, religious groups have not been shy in queuing up to claim ‘religious persecution’. Despite the Scottish Government’s clear plans to legislate for same-sex marriage, it has held a lengthy consultation period, seeking a range of views on either side.

It seems that despite their previous commitment to equality and a progressive secular society, the Scottish Government is keen not to offend any religious groups. So much so that they are intent to legislate a ‘conscience clause’ or backdoor opt-out for any person who considers their religious beliefs to overrule equality.

Not content with ensuring that any religious groups can discriminate against same-sex couples whilst they act on behalf of the State to solemnise marriages, the Scottish Government has now gone one further in effectively making sexual health, relationships and parenthood education optional.

In a draft revision of the 2001 Circular, the Scottish Government has inserted a very vague conscience clause:

"In issuing this guidance it is the Scottish Government’s expectation that if a teacher, child or young person is asked to do something against his or her conscience, he or she should be able to raise this with the school or local authority."

This clause is worryingly vague and has been written, by the Scottish Government’s own admission, as a response to the proposed legislation on same-sex marriage. This is clearly an attempt by the Government to stop the requirement (of 2001) that teachers teach the law.

Even more worryingly is that this opt-out now applies to pupils as well. Unless this clause is seriously revised, or removed, we may see a situation in Scotland where religious teachers are not expected to teach the law, and parents and pupils may remove themselves.

It seems, for the Scottish Government at least, the vocal views of the religious minority have trumped the reasoned and sensible majority, and that the education of young Scots comes a mere second to the hurt feelings of the Godly.

As Scotland moves towards one of the most important periods in 300 years, is the Scottish Government really content to treat its young citizens in such a childish way.

The consultation can be viewed here.