Journeying Together? Further Reflections on the unequal marriage of the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society.
There have been, as expected a variety of responses to the news that I posted about the Church of Scotland aligning itself with the Humanist Society in seeking to remove Christian worship from Scottish schools. Some just did not believe it and thought I was exaggerating. Others wrote to me and said they were in tears for their church. Others thought it did not really matter, as school assemblies were so banal and rubbish anyway. Atheists rebuked me for not recognizing what a great thing it was that the Church of Scotland was so ‘open-minded and tolerant’ – i.e. it supported them.
But the situation is actually worse than I suggested. I have just been given the letter that the Church of Scotland and the Humanists wrote to the Scottish Parliament (I append it below). What is most astonishing is the following section:
“Both the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society Scotland also believe that requiring external visitors to schools to agree with the equality and diversity policy of the school, or local educational authority, would ameliorate situations which have arisen in the past.”
It may not be obvious to some but the implications of this are clear. This is a less than subtle attempt by the C of S to retain its position as the de facto state church from whom most school chaplains should come. It is an attempt to exclude any chaplain or group that does not hold to the same ‘equality and diversity policy’. In the Orwellian language of the modern politically correct this means the exact opposite of equality and diversity. If for example you don’t agree with ‘equal’ marriage then you will be excluded. If you think that Jesus Christ is Lord then you will be excluded. Can you imagine that this ‘equality and diversity’ would include let’s say, creationists? The only views that will be allowed are those that the Humanists accept. The C of S establishment is getting more and more concerned that various other church groups (largely evangelical) are becoming part of chaplaincy teams and doing a very effective work. So they have cut a deal with the Humanists to try and prevent this happening. And the Humanists of course are keen to be seen as an organization providing ‘celebrants’ – this deal lets them do that and as a bonus, undermines the campaign of Secular Scotland to have an opt in clause for religious observance, which they had refused to support. The bottom line is that far from just excluding Christian worship, they now want to exclude Christians who do not accept the Humanist agenda.
The letter then states:
This suggestion reflects a desire of both the Church and the Humanist Society Scotland to celebrate diversity rather than see it as a problem and a willingness to search for common ground on which they can journey together. We hope that the Public Petitions Committee will give due weight to our consideration, in the spirit of tolerance and compromise.
Its so bad it’s almost laughable. The Church of Scotland wants to ‘journey together’ with the Humanist Society. A society dedicated to creating a godless society. How does this fit with article 3 of the declaratory articles of the Churches constitution? “As a national Church representative of the Christian Faith of the Scottish people it acknowledges its distinctive call and duty to bring the ordinances of religion to the people in every parish of Scotland through a territorial ministry.” The Humanist Society is dedicated to the abolition of religion from society. The Church of Scotland is dedicated to the promotion of Christianity in society (at least in theory). A wise man once said ‘except two agree how can they walk together’. Does the Church of Scotland ‘journeying together’ with the Humanist Society, mean that they are agreed?
And I love the laughable idea of this being done in the ‘spirit of tolerance and compromise’. The C of S has indeed compromised itself. But tolerance? This is a stitched up deal to ensure that the Humanists get their celebrant into schools, and that the C of S maintains its position as the de facto state religious chaplains. The fact that they have had to compromise to the extent that they have given up the promise to teach Christianity, and instead will swear allegiance to the Humanist values of the Almighty State, seems not to matter. For the liberal establishment within the C of S it means they can continue to offer the same therapeutic deistic moralism and have the added advantage of claiming to be tolerant and journeying together, whilst excluding anyone whose teaching would threaten or question them. It’s a win win situation for them. But it is a disaster for the many faithful Christians, ministers and elders still within the C of S. And an even bigger disaster for Scotland’s children.
One small request – as I was finishing off writing this a film crew from STV came and I did a short interview which will appear on the evening news. Personally I hate doing this )I have a great face for radio!) and would much prefer if there was someone else. After all I am not a Church of Scotland minister and to be honest I don’t want the publicity or the flak that goes along with it. But they told me they had no-one else to go to. Is it really the case that there are no C of S ministers who disagree with this who would be prepared to speak? I am happy to do the media stuff if necessary (that is after all one of the purposes of Solas), but can I plead with the evangelicals who remain in the C of S to take action against the Church and Society Council which has been speaking in your name. This is worse than the homosexual debacle of last Assembly and in some ways far more serious. Tomorrow the C of S will appear before the Scottish parliament to argue with the Humanists that Christians worship and prayers should be banned from Scottish schools. Can you not prevent that happening?
Jan 27th 2014
The following is the letter referred to above:
24 January 2014
Dear Mr Stewart,
PE01487 on religious observance in schools
Joint statement from Church of Scotland & Humanist Society Scotland
The Church of Scotland and Humanist Society Scotland are grateful for the opportunity to make representations to the Public Petitions Committee
on the progress of petition PE01487 ‘Religious Observance in schools’.
This petition has stimulated a wide-ranging debate about the role of religious and other belief groups in Scottish education. Many organisations have written to the Committeeto express their support for the opportunity for schools communities to experience shared community acts of reflection and collective exploration of values and beliefs that are at present called Religious Observance. For some people however, the nomenclature “Religious Observance” hinders their participation.
The Church of Scotland and Humanist Society Scotland would like to propose an alternative option, which will maintain the positive aspects of current practice, and introduce a greater sense of equality for all beliefs. We propose that the Public Petitions Committee advise the Scottish Government to bring forward legislative
proposals to remove reference to ‘religious observance’ in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, and insert ‘time for reflection’ instead.
This change would echo the 2011 Scottish Government guidance, and send a clear message that no one particular belief system is valued over any other in Scottish education.
The change to a more equal and inclusive ‘time for reflection’ would echo the current practice of the Scottish Parliament, and bring legislation into line with modern views. It will also remove the current focus on ‘religion’, with which many non-religious people struggle.
The examples of bad practice, which the petitioners rightly raise, show the need for a closer scrutiny of current practice by Education Scotland and HMIE. Both the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society Scotland also believe that requiring external visitors to schools to agree with the equality and diversity policy of the school, or local educational authority, would ameliorate situations which have arisen in the past.
This suggestion reflects a desire of both the Church and the Humanist Society Scotland to celebrate diversity rather than see it as a problem and a willingness to search for common ground on which they can journey together. We hope that the Public Petitions Committee will give due weight to our consideration, in the
spirit of tolerance and compromise.
Rev Sally Foster Fulton
Church and Society Council
Church of Scotland
121 George St
Scottish Charity Number SC011353
Chief Executive, Humanist Society Scotland
272 Bath Street