Tag Archives: Sectarianism

Labour’s Jim Murphy–at least he is honest about appealing to religious voters

The best that can be said about the appeal by Scottish Labour leadership contender Jim Murphy to religious voters is that, at least he is honest and transparent.

Few other elected Scottish politicians openly profess their religious faith and their role in shoring up religious privileges in Scottish society. Most prefer not to make a public issue of the role of religion in politics for fear of upsetting influential religious minorities.

They remain silent and assent to religious divisions in schooling, religious voting nominees on education committees, enforced religious observance in schools, and additional Scottish Government financial subsidies to religious organisations which already benefit from taxation relief because of their charitable status.

Even the much vaunted democratic assembly that is the Scottish Parliament recoils from open public debate about these matters – suppressing attempts to have a public discussion of these and other religious privileges.

Scottish Government religious subsidy of the week–10. Multi-million pound state funding of Roman Catholic schools

Religion around the world is part of the vast tapestry of human diversity and creativity. Secularism seeks the separation of church and state because it argues that freedom and diversity is compromised if the state seeks to impose one or more sets of religious doctrines on its citizens.

One of the biggest affronts to secularism in contemporary Scotland is the existence of a substantial sector of the state funded education system in which the Roman Catholic Church, an international organisation headquartered in Rome, is able to dictate the religious curriculum, forms of religious observance and the overall religious character of these schools.

Central to the doctrines of this church are the belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, the cult surrounding the alleged virginity of his mother and the belief that bread and wine turn into the body of Christ in the communion service.

If people want to hold and propagate such views they should be free to do so but the state should not finance such activities. Churches should compete in the adult free market for adherents. The state (taxpayers with all types of religious belief and none) should not subsidise some churches in trying to shape the minds, loyalties and identities of the young.

14 per cent of Scottish schools are Roman Catholic. In 2007/8 Scottish Government expenditure on schools, directed through local authorities, was £4.7bn. This figure will have grown since then. ESS estimates that current annual public spending on Roman Catholic schools in Scotland will be in the region of £750 million – three quarters of a billion pounds. More precise figures are currently being researched.

ESS Press statement on sectarianism in relation Scottish schools

Saturday 14 December 2014 – For immediate release

A recently published report commissioned by the Scottish government  (Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland Independent Advice to Scottish Ministers and Report on Activity 9 August 2012 – 15 November 2013) claims that denominational schools have no causal influence on sectarianism.

This seems hard to believe.

The report expresses concern about sectarianism but offers no alternative explanation for its existence.

It is incredible that even as the advisory group endorses educational apartheid according to the religious beliefs of parents, it urges schools both to work on their “co-operation and relationship building” and to be “imaginative” in constructing “anti-sectarian partnerships.”

It flatly contradicts the experience of Northern Ireland which has had to deal with this problem at its most acute. Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said in November 2011 "We cannot hope to move beyond our present community divisions while our young people are educated separately.”

Edinburgh Secular Society Education Officer and parent Veronica Wikman says:

“Segregation of children is always going to be counter-productive to the aim of creating social cohesion. It is naïve to suggest that segregated schools are not a huge contributing factor to sectarianism.”

ESS Press and Communications Officer Neil Barber adds:

”This suggestion flies in the face of common sense. Is the faith school lobby so powerful that the Government’s advisory group on tackling sectarianism is ignoring the elephant in the room?”

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.

Diamond Dan – the Orange Man – Letter by Norman Bonney

The Edinburgh Evening News reported on 8 November last year that the City Council Education Authority had withdrawn a cartoon of Diamond Dan, the Orange Man, from a city school because,although this was unknown to the school teachers and probably the pupils, it is used as an emblem of the Orange Order of Northern Ireland.
Last Saturday last I observed the Orange Order Annual Parade through George Square, Glasgow.. It was an impressive and orderly display of the key values that are celebrated by the Order such as the victory of the William of Orange over forces allied to the ousted former Roman Catholic monarch James VII (II)  of the United Kingdom in 1689. This victory established the Protestant monarchy which we still have today and which all the major political parties appear determined to continue whatever the outcome of the independence referendum.
It is thus hard to understand why the City education authority should have removed this disguised but innocent symbol of loyalty to the crown, devised and propagated by a lawful organisation, other than interpreting it as display of uninformed prejudice.
Letter in the Edinburgh Evening News 11 July 2013