I was interviewed by The Times about the Humanists societies latest attack on the Church….here is the report.
A Scottish university study set up to investigate the “privileged status” of religion in Scottish law has been labelled “propaganda dressed up as research” by church leaders.
The project is being carried out by the University of Glasgow and is funded with a £40,000 donation from the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS). It is led by Callum Brown, professor of history at the university, and Jane Mair, a law professor.
Professor Brown, a humanist, said the research was aimed at finding specific examples that show the influence Christianity has on laws in Scotland in areas such as marriage, education and retail and licensing regulations.
However, the Rev David Robertson, moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, said the research was “laughable” and a waste of money. “The Humanist Society, whose membership could fit into a phone box, has paid £40,000 to a humanist to investigate religion” he said. “I could have saved them the money because I can tell you now this particular investigation will say religion is privileged. Frankly it’s laughable.”
Mr Robertson added: “This is simply anti-Christian propaganda, dressed up as research. If someone decided to fund an investigation looking at Jewish influence in society there would be outcry, but for some reason it’s OK to do this to Christians.
“Personally I’d like to see a study of the privileged status of humanists and why they think their principles should be the only ones allowed in Scotland.”
Professor Brown said the research will be based on a search of legal databases to find instances where the privilege of the church in law has been in contravention of equality legislation.
He said: “We will scour the records for examples where church privilege has led to discriminating laws, for example laws that prohibit what you can do on a Sunday.”
He added that sabbatarianism, which prohibits work and play on Sundays on religious grounds, prevented people enjoying a weekend round of golf in some parts of Scotland.
Douglas McLellan, chief executive of the HSS, said: “This is a proper academic study. The outcome is to establish the facts. Why can’t you buy a bottle of wine before 12 on a Sunday? Why does the church have a privileged position in Scottish education?
“For Scotland to progress as a fair and equal nation, it needs to be a nation with no special laws, practices or exemptions for religions or religious organisations.”
However, the Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, church and society convener for the Church of Scotland, said: “Religious organisations play an important role within society through our civic engagement, our work and advocacy for the poor and marginalised, and our contribution to the cultural heritage of Scotland, all of which should be reflected within Scottish law. Playing our part is not about privilege, but about service.”
A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “This is an area of legitimate research. We take in funding from a variety of sources to fund projects.”