Education Scotland

Scottish Secular Society calls for Imams to lead religious observance in Scottish schools!

Its been a bad year for our friends in the Scottish Secular Society – they have stumbled from one ridiculous extreme to another and one defeat to another. As their anti-religious rantings have become better known to the wider Scottish public it has become interesting to see the direction they have been trying to take. In their attempts to play politics and be clever they have failed. But their latest debacle is quite quite special so I thought it was worth sharing….first let me remind you of a couple of lowlights from 2014.

1) They had a failed campaign to get the religious observance in Scottish schools (which are traditionally and legally Christian – non-denominational but not non-Christian) moved from being opt out to opt in. In the course of this campaign they declared that they were FOR religious observance, denying that they really wanted religious observance removed. So they became the first secular society in the world to actually campaign for religious observance in schools.

2) Then they had a failed attempt to try and import American style creation/culture wars in Scotland. They had a ridiculous petition to the Scottish parliament seeking to get politicians to tell teachers what they should and should not teach. They were using the bogeyman of creationism to try and scare politicians into removing Christian and other religious influence from schools. It failed because they were not able to offer one single example of creationism being taught in any Scottish school science class. Now they have been reduced to calling in American creation war specialists to try and stir things up.

3) They then failed to speak out when their founder posted a series of anti-Catholic rants in attacking the new Labour leader Jim Murphy – calling him a pope loving militant catholic fanatic. (Mr Otton in fact never refers to Jim Murphy without using the term ‘Catholic” in a derogatory way). Given the history of sectarianism in the West of Scotland and especially in Glasgow where SSS are based, I fully expected them to dissociate themselves from these inflammatory remarks. It would have been the wise and politic thing to do. Instead they defended them – and thus because a secular society declaring that a politician should be judged on their religious beliefs!

But they have kept the best for last. It is almost impossible to believe but SSS are now the only secular society in the Western world calling for Muslim Imams to lead religious observance in Scottish schools!

Given this surreal and pythonesque behaviour – doubtless done in a cynical manner to try and get people to hate Christians leading religious observance as well – you will be hearing a lot less from me about SSS. They have become a parody of militant secularism. Give them enough rope and they will hang themselves….I don’t need to do anything more!

Meanwhile I wish you all and our SSS friends – all the best for 2015. There are good people within the SSS and even those who have a more irrational hatred of all things Christian, are still human beings made in the image of God. We pray that they would come to know and love the One they so vehemently deny and hate. May this coming year be a year of ‘enlightenment’ for us all…who knows but this may be the year when the light rolls back the Darkness!


  1. It’s funny – again there is something in the ether. I was just reflecting on something to do with SSS.

    My reflection has been on listening to a humanist speak of denominational schools out performing other schools. Given that it was a humanist speaking, he can’t be accused of advocating religious privilege or having any bias in favour of denominational schools. I shall omit his name for the sake of his reputation among his peers. He rightly stated that to have equality, either denominational schools must be banished or something must be learned from denominational schools and applied across all schools.

    There is a leader in SSS (again their name omitted for the sake of reputation among their peers) who advocates the abolition of denominational schools. Firstly this raises a question of whether this represents “freedom of faith and freedom from faith” or is discriminative. Secondly, congratulations, if the abolishment of denominational schools were to go ahead what effectively would happen would be that overall the achievement of school pupils will have been lowered. The proposal is sadly laughable.

    It would be interesting if a representative of SSS were to put their argument forward here for how abolishing denominational schools would work out better for pupils and what they would suggest putting in place to ensure the standard of academic achievement be maintained if that were to go ahead.

    On the issue of RO, the same leader talked of welcoming the removal of all religions components and regarded anything Christian in RO as an offence to anyone who is not religious and blasphemous to other faiths. Otton appears to support this in the statement “our wish to have Religious Observance replaced by some truly non-denominational and non-confessional activity”. This clearly would be to remove RO from schools. Is such in keeping with the principle of “freedom of faith” as well as “freedom form faith”. Has Otton considered whether what he advocates is offensive and blasphemous to Christians?

    Perhaps Mr Otton or any other representative of SSS would like to clear up any misunderstandings here or confusion that has been made due to any religious privilege or oppression? It is indeed of value if there is any religious oppression occurring that a group such as SSS should address this.

    Healthy dialogue of the like in principle of the agreement between SSS and John Chlamers, moderator of the CofS with the desire “young minds need to be introduced to the power of critical enquiry…. [and we are able to] discuss our deepest held views on religion, philosophy and politics without seeking to impose ours on others” is both desirable and beneficial for all, is it not?

  2. What is the difference between Education and Observance? I know, but wonder whether I’ve got it wrong all these years.

  3. This isn’t Garry Otton you’re talking about?

    The author of a book called “Sexual Fascism” which bemoaned, amongst other things, the arrest of a middle aged man for “peeking” at young boys in a swimming pool changing area?

    THAT Garry Otton?

      1. “Otton” joke – like it.

        Seriously though I do know Garry Otton through having met and spoken with him on couple of occasions. I find him friendly, accommodating and pleasurable to speak with in discussion of the kind of issues that have arisen here. It is not a betrayal confidence to share that he has had some frightening experiences in church and does not feel confident speaking in the company of David. This is what he has shared at a public meeting.

        Of course when emotions are running high it can be difficult for any one of us to engage in conversation without becoming adversarial and even more perhaps so when carrying the responsibility of communicating the good news of Jesus.

        Nevertheless I am surprised somewhat at the vociferousness of Otton’s communication in the written word. The use of the word “fascism” when connected with sexuality and religion and posts he makes of a religious nature on the Scottish Secular Societies website could easily be described as bordering on the discriminative. As a gay man one would perhaps hope that he would not wish others to experience the kind of fear and discrimination that no doubt he has been made to endure?

        I’m surprised that a comment either from him or another representative of SSS had not appeared here. It might be conducive to resolving any misunderstanding or corrective of any inappropriate use of religious privilege if this were to occur?

  4. I am not Presbyterian but I do like this blog. It is nice and gentle but honest. This post is particularly good. The SSS have been all over the place, weaving and diving, doing back flips.
    They have become a laughing stock. In fact they have become an otten joke.

  5. Oh dear. The similarity between an Imam conducting school religious observance and a Christian minister seems to have been quite lost . I wish we had had Rabbi Lionel Blue at some of our end of term religious exercises when I was at school. What is so wrong about giving children a flavour of religions from around the world?

    1. Sheila, yes I think that you are missing the dissimmilarity. I am currently in a Muslim country and believe you me there is a vast difference. Scotland is not a Muslim country – although if the secularists succeed in undermining CHristianity further, then it may be sooner than we think. I do wish that people were more educated about Islam and what actually happens when it takes control of a country…

      1. Agree with you that a Muslim country is not a comfortable place to be if you are a woman or gay or from another religion. But I can see this as part of a continuum which starts at the wholly secular where all have the right to practice their own, or no, faith and the state provides education (not observance) in comparative religion, and ends in mandatory belief in any single faith – or indeed no faith – which is enforced by violence.

      2. Sheila, sadly what you see and what is the reality is somewhat different. Islam is a political as well as a religious system. I am far more concerned though about what ‘education’ the state provides. If it declare that all religions are essentially the same then there is a real problem – mostly because that is not true. Mandatory belief in the values of the secular State will always be enforced by violence and other forms of intimidation.

  6. I’m not sure I understand why all religions and no religion can’t be treated the same within the school system. Forgive me but doesn’t having all these church people in the House of Lords or in our education committees influencing lawmaking and policy in the UK political?

    1. Sheila – do you think all philosophies and value systems should be treated the same? If not then why do you think all religions should be? What if they are not the same?

      1. Yes, on thinking about it, I guess I do. I think all philosophies, value systems and religions should be treated with respect and everyone should be given the opportunity to know about different philosophies, value systems and religions. They aren’t all the same – I don’t see how they can be – but the way we approach them I think should be fair, even-handed and respectful.

      2. Sheila,

        Your position then is that fascism, communism, ISIS Islam, paedophilia etc should all be treated the same! And given the same respect? All human beings should be treated with respect – all human systems should not be treated the same. And who determines what is ‘fair and even-handed’?

      3. Absolutely. Activities which are against the law as determined by a democratically elected parliament must be excluded (render unto Caesar that which is Caesars’).. This automatically excludes the likes of paedophilia which is now thought to be of both genetic and nurture origin but is against the law. However, why should philosophies, value systems and religions be given privileged roles within the structure of society without going through the same democratic process as everyone else? Surely we should not be trying to stop people thinking, discussing or believing in whatever they wish. Original thinking is something to be encouraged in my view. By allowing any religion, philosophy or value-system a privileged position within a democracy, a precedent is set which encourages other religions, value systems, and philosophies to think they too should be permitted to get hold of the reins of power without going through the democratic process and this inevitably leads to tensions and unrest. To establish a non-religious and democracy-only based system of government demonstrates fairness and even-handedness, an intolerance of groups trying to take over the establishment without using the democratic process, yet encourages original and imaginative thinking. I an not in favour of fascism, misogyny, bullying, radical Islam, slavery of any sort, or religion, any kind of ‘philia’, or anything else which victimises individuals or minority groups. I know it goes on though and it’s right that society as a whole, through the ballot box, should have a right to legislate against them becoming part of society.

  7. But Sheila – can you see what you are doing here? You are favouring one value, philosophical system above all others (the very thing you want to stop) by stating that democracy is the absolute. What about those who are not democrats? Or those who think that democracy is far too influenced by the wealthy? Your faith and trust in ‘democracy’ is misplaced, unless that democracy itself has a sound philosophical and moral basis – and so we come back to the question – which one? I think this trust in democracy is also dangerous – witness what happened when we took ‘democracy’ to Iraq!

  8. You say Scottish schools are legally Christian although non-denominational. Can you cite the statute/ legal authority that establishes this rather than asserting it.

    1. The 1872 Education Act in which the churches handed all their schools over to the State, and the State set up a Christian non-denominational system (the Catholics opted out of this – hence the reasons we have Catholic schools). Its why until recently a weekly act of Christian worship was required and bible etc was taught in schools.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: