Fundamental flaw

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Once again, the vested religious interests in the education debate (your report, 6 November) portray secular voices as militant, ­aggressive or fundamentalist.

They accuse secularists such as myself of wanting to banish religious influence from public life. In fact, the opposite is the case.

We want religious voices to be heard, but we want them to argue their case on its own merits and not from a position of privilege, which the appointment of religious representatives to local authority education committees undoubtedly represents.

It is often argued that the churches were first to provide universal schooling and this should continue to give them privilege in the education system.

This is usually credited to the vision of the Protestant reformer John Knox in the 16th century. More than a century after his death in 1572, however, we were still hanging witches in Crook of Devon and Paisley and blasphemers in Edinburgh.

I imagine if I had been around in those days arguing the case for secular education that taught children to think for themselves rather than enforced belief in a Christian God, I may not have got much further than the gallows.

Times change. Let religious voices be heard, but on the same level playing-field as every other voice, and let the vested religious interests cease to bear false witness about the secular cause.

Alistair McBay

National Secular Society

Atholl Crescent


The Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS) claims that diminished numbers in the Scottish churches mean that religious observance should be removed from schools and now supports an independent MSP in seeking to expel church representatives from education committees (your report, 6 November).

Yet the Scottish churches (in contrast to the ESS) have hundreds of thousands of members. The ESS has about 30 members, apparently.

How ironic that the ESS spokesman, Cary McLelland, is quoted as saying that the removal of church education committee representation will reflect Scotland’s “changing demography”.

The ESS is an unrepresentative cabal in many observers’ view but the other Scottish-based secular lobbies have equally sparse and unrepresentative memberships of largely middle-class, male and middle-aged or elderly activists.

Who or what is this tiny, non-diverse and unrepresentative lobby group, with little by way of roots in modern, diverse Scotland to be demanding changes that suit its particular agenda in Scottish society?

The ESS should perhaps pursue democracy and diversity in its own managing board before seeking to mould Scottish society after its own, rather shrill, demands.


North Berwick