Tag Archives: Same Sex Marraige

ESS letter: Gay cake” ruling puts spotlight on equality

After much soul searching which divided even liberals, the Christian owners of Northern Ireland bakery Ashers have lost their appeal against a ruling that their refusal to make a “gay cake” was discriminatory.

gay-cake

The appeal judges concluded that supplying a cake did not imply that the bakers supported the “Support Gay Marriage” message any more than they might support a sports team, and that their religious beliefs did not exempt them from equality laws.

The baker’s argument highlights a common religious sophistry : gay people are not unequal, they just shouldn’t have access to the institutions of equality.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published Edinburgh Evening News 27th September 2016

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?

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.