Religious liberty

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I am astonished to see Free Church Moderator David Robertson (Letters, 24 June) claiming that only Christian tradition can provide a proven basis for universal values.

Is the present or history any help in determining how this looks in practice? For example, the Moderator campaigns to restrict the human rights of women and LGBTi people, and for religious apartheid in education. These are his current “traditions” that shape his approach to universal values, involving restricting the rights of others and promoting segregation and discrimination in Scottish society.

Historically, Christian “tradition” has at various times restricted access to literature, obstructed scientific progress, mandated torture and capital punishment for blasphemy or for being a witch. It has resulted in Christian institutions enjoining in the slave trade and has argued women should not be allowed to divorce abusers nor have property of their own.

If Mr Robertson thinks Christian “tradition” provides a proven basis for universal values, then the evidence demands that I disagree.

Alistair McBay

National Secular Society

Atholl Crescent


ROBERT Canning of the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) has kindly answered my question about what it means by universal virtues (Letters, 25 June). Unfortunately, his answer just raises more questions. “The avoidance of behaviour that others should not have to suffer and the cultivation of behaviour that benefits others”, is a relatively meaningless statement.

Who decides what is “suffering” and what is behaviour that benefits others?

I agree that as parents we want “a safe happy environment conducive to learning”. That is better done in the context of a school whose ethos is based on Christianity.

Anne Seenan (Letters, 25 June) thinks that my statement that the SSS has no rational basis for its values is “absurd”. Unfortunately, she provides no basis for her own statement. Mere assertion does not constitute rational, evidence or logic, nor does the somewhat superior view that those of us who disagree with atheistic secularism don’t know what its principles are.

David A Robertson 

Solas CPC

Shamrock Street, Dundee

ROBERT Canning regards it as “self-evident” that schools should promote “avoidance of behaviour that others should not have to suffer and the cultivation of behaviour that benefits others” (Letters, 25 June).

I agree. The debate is about which behaviours meet these criteria. For example, the secularist would want sex education embodying the usual “don’t have sex unless you really feel like it, and use a condom” philosophy, believing that any consenting sexual experimentation is harmless.

Using Mr Canning’s own criteria, I would want sex education to present the case for reserving sexual relations for marriage between a man and a woman, adhering to the traditional Christian understanding of marriage. However, “reasonable human beings” disagree. 

It seems the SSS wishes to exclude from schools the usually more demanding, moral principles of Christians, retaining only a lowest common denominator code of ethics with which secularists would appear comfortable. 

Richard Lucas

Colinton, Edinburgh