I have been trying to write this for about 5 days now. I was always taught you don’t discuss sex, politics or religion in polite company.
Obviously I do talk about politics, and yes I do talk about sex – just not here, I don’t think we’re ready for that yet – but I haven’t covered religion. I believe people’s beliefs are their business but since moving to Glasgow it feels as if it is always the elephant in the corner of the room, and that is something I am not used to.
I have touched on it slightly with this post about the Rangers/Herald debacle and obviously my posts on the church led anti-abortion protests show my feelings about religion being involved in health matters. But there have been a number of incidents recently – starting with this article in Common Space (an excellent riposte by Lallands Peat Worrier here) that have got me thinking more about how I feel about it.
Slight digression – I thought I had nearly finished this piece last night, but there were a few things that came to me overnight/this morning and I’m crowbarring them in here.
This morning I heard more about the group who are fighting against the implementation of the Named Person scheme (archived link to Herald article here) I feel the Herald is stirring the pot publishing this poll, especially without supplying a link to the raw data behind it. I am very suspect of a poll conducted by an obviously biased organisation without the methodology to back it up. I will admit that the Herald’s opinion piece does declare the poll as hyperbole, but unless you catch both pieces, it is only whipping up opinion against the legislation.
The Named Person system is being set up to help families in need who may not be aware of the support available. Knowing that there is someone you can turn to when you need advice is a comfort, not everyone is clued up on where to access support. IT IS NOT a case of putting CCTV in people’s homes, and this kind of scaremongering is stupidity of the highest level. If the Scottish Government chucked the scheme in, they would then face a barrage of cries of “what about the children?” The scheme will no doubt have it flaws, but it is to me an honest attempt to help families.
So who are these people that hold family life so dear? The Christian Institute. An evangelical group which believes the Bible has “without error or fault in all its teaching.”
- They have been involved in a number of court cases and was censured in 2001 by the Charity Commission for breaching rules limiting overt political campaigning by charities, by “publishing a 100-page report, Homosexuality and Young People (1998), which argued against reforming anti-homosexual law with no reference at all to a Christian view.”
- In 2000 they were the only group to initiate a court case for an alleged breach of the now defunct Section 28, which failed.
- They also unsuccessfully sought with others a judicial review in 2007 of the Sexual Orientation Regulations in Northern Ireland.
- They funded the legal costs of a registrar who took her employer, Islington London Borough Council, to the London Central Employment Tribunal. She had refused to process the paperwork associated with civil partnerships on religious grounds, and claimed she had been subject to direct and indirect discrimination, and harassment in the workplace, on grounds of her religion. In July 2008, the tribunal found in Ladele’s favour; but was overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in December, 2008. The CI later launched an unsuccessful appeal against this ruling in the High Court, and has been refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
- In 2010, the CI funded the defense of two Christian hotel owners accused of acting unlawfully under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, by refusing to let a gay couple in a civil partnership stay in a double room reserved for married couples. The owners lost both the case and the subsequent appeal.
So back to the Named Person legislation, they have already lost in the Court of Sessions in September 2015, but are persisting with the Supreme Court. Supporting the Scottish Government are groups like Barnardo’s Scotland, Children 1st, NSPCC and Aberlour who have signed a letter to the court urging them to dismiss the case.
While I’m in mid-rant, I’d also like to say something about politicians and religion. It seems to be the case that we now have to put up with hypocritical Easter & Christmas messages from the PM, and I blame Blair for that. The more a politician bangs on about Christian Values the more likely they seem to be working against them. IDS being a case in point.
I do not want an American system where belief is central to being elected. It does my head in that a country where Church & State are meant to be separate we get Christian fundamentalists being wooed for votes. At least in theory they have a separation, we could be classed as a theocracy with our Head of State also being the Head of the Church – puts us on a par with Iran, Saudi, Somalia, Sudan and Mauritania. Some may say that the Queen is apolitical, but how do we know that with her being exempt from FOI, what we have seen from the Charles letters is that the ministers suck up to the monarchy.
And now I return to my original mewsings…
To be honest, religion was never been I subject I considered much, I was christened into the CoE, but that was “what was done” in the 70s. My local church which I attended maybe twice a year as a Brownie (it was affiliated) was a High Church and my only memory is of the incense, accompanied by fits of coughing by us & the Cubs who were made to sit in the front row.
Like most of my school friends religion was never something I ever defined myself by. I will admit that at some point during the first 3 years of High School – I can’t remember exactly, it was a very long time ago – I did come top of my year in RE (no laughing at the back) but that was down to my love of myths and legends, any pantheon really Celtic, Greek, Roman, Nordic, if my library had it, I read it.
As I got older my indifference turned to annoyance, 26 CoE bishops in the House of Lords is yet another sign of its anachronism. Belief in a god disappeared much as it did with the other anthropomorphic personifications used to us to keep us in line. These days I class myself as an atheist, unless I want to mess with the census and then I’m a Wiccan.
For those of you who have faith – part of me does envy you that trust and belief in a greater good – can we make a deal please? I will not attempt to dissuade you of that belief, you can live your life by the principles you feel it sets out for you, but at the same time don’t expect anyone else to do the same. Surely religion should be taken voluntarily not forced upon people?
If you don’t believe in gay marriage – fine, don’t do it, same goes for the pro-lifers, in a pro-choice society no one will force you to have a termination. But don’t class my ethics as being less because they weren’t written by some bearded guy in a desert. I have my standards and I chose to live by them because to me they are the right thing to do, not because I will suffer eternal torment if I don’t.
Coming to Glasgow was an eyeopener, I have never been so aware of other people’s faith (or lack of it) The first time when a neighbour told me he was Catholic; I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do or say. And to be honest I still don’t; I form my opinions on you as a person, not your church/mosque/synagogue.
It was difficult enough trying to explain racism to my daughter, sectarianism is just bizarre and explaining its links to football it sounds like madness. It is madness – there are so many things to get angry about in the world but teaching hatred because a slightly different view of a deity (who usually talks love & peace) is insanity. And I include ALL religions in this, discovering that there are extreme Buddhists was a tremendous disappointment.
Intellectually I get that there has been tremendous bias against certain groups and that some wish to continue the enmity; but I don’t get it. I hear stories of how people have been treated and I don’t understand how anyone can do that to another person. I cannot comprehend that level of hatred and I am sorry if my views seem flippant against those years of bias but all this is completely alien to me. All I know is the circle needs to stop.
All of this came to a head for me on Thursday, more of the same stupidity and hatred. What a stupid waste of life. No one should die for a religion.