Tag Archives: Secularism

Remove crosses from Mortonhall Crematorium

I hope that the City of Edinburgh Council will take the opportunity 
another two months of repairs offers (Your report 14 January) to remove 
the crosses that loom over both chapels (they need to be covered with a 
curtain for non-religious funerals).
    The Crematorium is a secular building and should not appear to be 
supporting one particular religious faith--Christianity. Only a minority 
are now Christians and most Scots have no religion. That should be 
reflected in the appearance of the chapels.

Steuart Campbell – Secretary – Edinburgh Secular Society
Published Edinburgh Evening News 18 January 2017


ESS Letter: Swear it’s true.

Today, September 30th is International Blasphemy Rights Day so it is a good time to remember that blasphemy, though not prosecuted for some time, is still a common law offence in Scotland.

International Blasphemy Rights Day

International Blasphemy Rights Day

In theocratic countries where the religion is the state the first victims are often minority faiths. Only secularism which separates religion from state can be fair to everyone involved.

Individuals of whatever faith or creed are entitled to respect and protection but that in no way means that, under fear of criminal sanction their ideas are not open to challenge.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published The Scotsman 30th September 2016

Edinburgh ‘a secular city’–councillor

Rejecting a plea by some city churches to abandon plans for car parking charges on Sundays Cllr Adam McVey, Deputy Convenor of Edinburgh City Council’s Transport Committee, stated that Edinburgh was a ‘secular city’. He continued that ‘the concerns of just one faith could not be allowed to influence city policy’.

Abandoning plans for Sunday parking charges on behalf of churches would probably offend equalities legislation since similar privileges might be required for mosques on Fridays and the synagogue on Saturdays.

For more information visit http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/transport/churches-can-t-get-special-treatment-on-parking-1-3660425

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 Inter-faith week–the lack of Christian charity in Aberdeen


Earlier this year ESS revealed that the Scottish Government had granted over £376,000 this year to faith and inter-faith organisations.

Most faith organisations are charities and benefit from numerous tax subsidies, so why do they need additional public funding to engage in friendly relations with other religious denominations? Should that not be part of their raison d’etre? Why should the public pay for problems brought about by religious short-sightedness? Should denominations not rectify them by their own endeavours?

In the week when faith organisations are celebrating and attempting to bridge divides between denominations with Scottish Government funding, ESS can reveal that on 27 June 2012 Aberdeen City Council convened a meeting of local religious interests to determine who would be the third legally-required religious representative nominated by religious organisations to serve as a voting member on the Education Committee in addition to the nominees of the Church of Scotland and the Church of Rome. Present were representatives of the following denominations;

Aberdeen Hindu Association;  Aberdeen Mosque Islamic Centre;  Aberdeen Vineyard;
City Church;  Crown Terrace Baptist Church;  Deeper Life Bible Church; St Devenick’s Episcopal Church; St Mary’s Episcopal Church; The Mission Church.

On a vote, the representative of St Devenick’s Episcopal Church was elected by 7 votes to 2 over the Islamic representative. So much for Christian charity, inter-faith collaboration and support for diversity. 

All three religious nominee voting places on the Aberdeen Education Committee are thus controlled by Christians in a city where only 40 per cent of the population were recorded as Christian in the 2011 census

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 churches worried by the resurgence of secularism


The rise of articulate and influential secularism in Scotland in the last few years clearly has the religious establishment rattled. The Pope Emeritus railed against ‘aggressive’ secularism. The Roman Catholic Cardinal for Edinburgh and St Andrews criticises ‘ill-tempered’ secularism. The newly appointed minister at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, the flagship kirk of Scotland, has been imported from Chicago and, according to the Times, says that one of his priorities will be to confront ‘raucous’ secularism. ESS looks forward to hearing the views of Rev Calum MacLeod, formerly of the Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, on the separation of church and state.

Could it be that the religious authorities are so rattled because secularists have increasingly exposed and challenged the unjustified privileges granted to some religious denominations such as having financial subsidies of various types from the Scottish Government, a separate system of schooling, the right to impose prayers in schools, and to nominate voting members to otherwise elected local authority education committees?

Secularists simply use the mechanisms of democracy to challenge such religious privileges and promote the separation of church and state. ESS looks forward to more democratic debate and decision making on these issues.

New visitors to this site are encouraged to read the reasoned case for secularism put out in these posts and join the ESS.

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.

The Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office –monitoring and influencing the Scottish Parliament

The head of a foreign state arrives in Edinburgh with the Duke

The power and influence of organised religion in the Scottish Parliament and with the Scottish Government is evident in the handling of recent issues raised by secularist groups.

One of the strongest lobbying groups focussed on the Scottish Parliament is the Catholic Parliamentary Office. It employs a staff of four. Its only major defeat in the 15 years of the Scottish Parliament is the same sex marriage legislation. Its website is http://www.rcpolitics.org/index.html

Secularist groups in Scotland are staffed entirely by volunteers. They have made a great impact and they will continue to do so.

Read ‘Parliamentary Focus’ on the front page of its website for the Catholic Parliamentary Office’s view of recent secularist initiatives in the Parliament.

Comment on the feature. The UK state, for historical reasons, does regard the Church of Rome as a potentially hostile foreign power since the monarch cannot is not allowed to be of that faith. No political parties propose to change the relevant laws either in a continuing UK or an independent Scotland.

The hierarchy of priests, bishops and archbishops in the Church are answerable to the head of a foreign state. The Church is an international organisation headquartered in Rome with local paid priestly staff following the decrees of headquarters and with their careers dependent on their superiors as the experiences of exiled former Archbishop of Edinburgh, Keith O’Brien, demonstrate. It has no democratic annual conclave like that more democratic deliberative Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Like all multinationals the organisation may have interests that conflict with local ones.

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.

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