Religious grace

The Scotsman should apologise to John Finnie for giving an inflammatory and misleading headline to an otherwise very balanced article by Alistair Munro (6 November). John Finnie’s bill seeks to remove unelected religious representatives from local authority education committees: it does not seek to remove religion from education.

The Humanist Society Scotland supports the bill, because as John Finnie says, “in 21st century Scotland, when the single largest group of people identify as having ‘no religion’, obliging councils to appoint unelected religious representatives to education committees is an archaic arrangement”.

This does not mean that religion should have no voice in education: on the contrary, the many voices of our different religions should continue to be heard, but without privilege, and among others, as expressions of the varied cultures and beliefs that make up our democratic nation.

Tim Maguire

Humanist Society Scotland

Bath Street


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John Finnie’s proposal to remove ministers of religion from education committees is narrow, short-termist and insulting. Education committees could well do with greater involvement from business, industry and other areas of real life. To leave education policy in the hands of politicians is a blinkered outlook.

Ministers of religion have a unique insight into family life and practical involvement at every stage of infancy, childhood and youth.

To remove this contribution at a time when early intervention has rightly been given high priority in the education system is very short-sighted.

To assume that churches no longer have public support because one third of Scots self-identify as having no religion is false logic.

The constituency of those churches which presently have a historic place on education committees is very much larger than any political party in Scotland and the 2011 census also reveals that two-thirds of Scots self-identify as being religious.

Pandering to the hysteria of the Scottish Secular Society may win John Finnie their few votes and media attention. It does not serve the moral, spiritual and educational needs of young people who require the foundations of a Christian culture to navigate an increasingly dangerous world.

As a minister who spent ten years of fruitful engagement on an education committee, I consider John Finnie’s proposals to be unintelligent.

(Rev) David Campbell

Barnton Avenue West


Gus Logan attacks all secular societies for being “non-diverse” and “unrepresentative memberships of largely middle-class, male and middle-aged or elderly activists”. The Edinburgh Secular Society’s chair is a promoter of an Atheist Church, has almost 30 members and seeks the complete removal of religious observance from schools.

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On the other hand, far from being “tiny” and “non-diverse”, not only does the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) have a female chair, Caroline Lynch, but more than 800 members of all ages with almost 2,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter.

And far from being an “unrepresentative cabal”, as the leading and largest body campaigning for secularism in Scotland we are committed to working with people of faith, many of whom are SSS members including evangelical Christian, Muslims, Quakers, Jews and many more.

We do not follow an absolutist line on the removal of religion, which is why we don’t campaign for the complete removal of religious observance in schools, preferring to campaign for the rights of parents who should be asked first and properly informed what it involves, who is conducting it and how often.

The current guidance denies all those who are not Christian the right to a fair education, and that includes the largest single belief group in Scotland: those without faith. Secularism acknowledges and protects all belief stances, and attempts to silence none, not even Mr Logan.

Garry Otton

Scottish Secular Society


In addition to his usual arguments about the legitimacy of religious privilege that Scottish churches have more members than Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS), religious advocate Gus Logan now seeks to bolster his position with ad hominem insults.

Are his defences against our actual ideas so flimsy? ESS may be a young group but we clearly reflect a growing body of opinion to which the several thousand signatures on our petitions to ­Edinburgh city council and the parliament testify.

Neil Barber

Edinburgh Secular Society