Education The Free Church

Banning Christian Books from Christian Schools – Humanist Intolerance Strikes Again

The following report appeared in The Herald

Humanists have been condemned by the Free Church of Scotland for lobbying a head teacher in an attempt to ban Christian books from schools.

But the Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS) says while it supports the study of different religions in schools, young children should not be targeted with “evangelical” material.

Gary McLelland, HSS’s Policy and Public Affairs Officer, said the society had written to the 417 pupil Robert Douglas Memorial School, a primary in Scone near Perth, regarding literature given out at an assembly class of P7 pupils in preparation for their move to high school.

A parent of a pupil at the school, who is a member of HSS, had raised concerns about a Scripture Union booklet which included advice about bullying.

The HSS had complained and was given assurance by the head teacher that she would no longer distribute it,

Now the Free Church has accused the Humanist Society of “bullying” in its attempts to suppress “It’s Your Move” which was described by Christians as a “fun and friendly guide to moving to secondary school”.

Objections to the book, which was given out at a leavers’ event last year, revolved around references to seeking guidance from God.

Mr McLelland said “The literature is obviously an attempt to evangelise young children at a vulnerable phase in their lives. ”

He said school was first and foremost a place of learning, where pupils should be challenged and inspired to learn and question the world around them.

He said the HSS was supportive of comparative religious education, and measures to make religious observance more inclusive and tolerant of other faith positions.

However he continued ” The attempts by Scripture Union, and others, to target evangelical material to young children at a vulnerable transition phase in their lives is wrong.

“We know that 74% of children aged 14-17 are not religious, and of those who are religious there will be a diversity of beliefs.

“Religion is a private choice which should not be forced on anyone, let alone young school children. ”

But Rev David Robertson, who will become Free Church Moderator in May, said: “Lobbying a headteacher to ban a book mentioning prayer is petty and vindictive, as well as setting a dangerous precedent that suppresses free speech.

“I think the involvement of HSS here is a form of bullying and intimidation, as they have basically told a headteacher what to do. It seems rather intolerant that the humanists cannot handle a book which mentions prayer. ”

He said it was worrying that head teachers appeared willing to entertain the agendas of lobbying groups, and all sorts of people would be writing asking for their books to be promoted and others to be banned.

Mr Robertson said his children were constantly barraged with humanist philosophies and literature in school.

“As Christians we can handle that, we discuss material we don’t agree with. I don’t like my children coming home with Stonewall propaganda, but we don’t demand it be banned for everyone. ”

He said if parents were unhappy with materials offered to pupils, all they had to do was hand the book back and ask not to be offered it again.

And then this one in the The Courier

A protest about the religious content of a guidance book handed out in a Perthshire school has been condemned as “petty and vindictive” by a church leader.

A complaint by the Humanist Society that the Scripture Union book was “inappropriate” and an assurance by the head teacher that she would no longer distribute it brought swift condemnation from Christians.

They accused the Humanist Society of “bullying” in its attempts to suppress It’s Your Move, a “fun and friendly guide to moving to secondary school”.

Objections to the book, which was given out at a leavers’ event at the Robert Douglas Memorial School in Scone by head teacher Gillian Doogan, revolved around references to seeking guidance from God.

“One of our members, a parent of a pupil at the school, made a complaint to us and we agreed to make contact with you on their behalf,” Gary McLelland of the Humanist Society wrote in a letter to Mrs Doogan.

“As you know, many millions of Scots live life without religion. We believe that this material is not appropriate; it promotes one religious belief as more valid than the other and has the potential to cause distress for some children and young people.

“As you will know, the involvement of children and young people in communicating about bullying is a key priority for tackling this issue. We cannot see how the promotion of prayer or a particular belief would help in any way with this. We would like to ask that the school undertakes not to distribute such literature to pupils again.”

Mrs Doogan replied this month, confirming a complaint was made known to her at the time of the leavers’ event last year.

“The concerns were discussed with the parent who had been brought to my attention and we were able to resolve matters constructively,” she said.

“At the time of discussing the matter with the parent concerned I took the decision not to issue the leaflets again.”

David Robertson, moderator designate of the Free Church of Scotland: “I am not surprised but I think it is very, very petty.

“You would think they had more to do helping humans rather than nitpicking, particularly against Christians. If one person complained they could hand it back.

“The Humanists cannot handle a book which mentions prayer. This is petty and vindictive. I think this is a form of bullying and intimidation, telling a headteacher what to do.”

The Church of Scotland declined to comment on the issue.

The comments section afterwards is interesting – including the marvellous witty riposte from a leading Dundee Humanist “Robertson is a miserable git!”. Don’t you just love the love that humanists have for their fellow humans!

Still as it happens I will be debating Gary McLellend tonight at Glasgow Caledonian University. Gary is a fine, intelligent and articulate young man, who does actually show love for his fellow human beings! Must be his Catholic upbringing!

Even better though is the response from Secular Scotland – whose Mark Gordon posted the above article with the headline ‘Robertson shows his anti-Catholic side’ (a prize for the person who can find that anti-catholicism in this one!) , Mark then goes on to say “who cares what the twat says…the wee frees are irrelevant, when we treat them as such, they will be as such”…says the man who just posted my article on their FB page! You’ve just gotta love that New Atheist Logic!


  1. So the objection made was over “seeking guidance from God” with that being alleged “targeted with “evangelical” material” being “wrong”. I remember being at school and being given a bible by the Gideon society with advice on what to do by way of asking God in it. I didn’t believe and both my parents were atheist and I don’t think that left me in any way traumatised.

    I wonder why Mr McLelland feels this booklet is such a threat to school pupils well-being? If God does exist then isn’t God a God of justice? Wouldn’t that apply to bullying in schools and any other kind of justice and therefor be an option for pupils to consider if they so wish? Wouldn’t this be in keeping with “measures to make religious observance more inclusive and tolerant of other faith positions” that HSS has?

    On the issue of RO and Mark Gordon, are we to see a response from him about his welcoming of removal of all religious components to RO in schools? Or does Mr Gordon still hold to that being mistaken and wish that any statement to that effect be withdrawn? As one leader in the Scottish Secular Society confided in me, (for the sake of their reputation among their peers their name is not included) there have been concerns within the society about their “perceived anti-faith stance” and the risk of being marginalised therein as an “fringe atheist” group.

    Perhaps Mr Gordon can give a clear answer to the position of SSS with regard to the removing of religious components in RO? Perhaps he can also and give assurances of there being no anti-faith elements to SSS policy by way of addressing this concern raised by his fellow leader and maintain the credibility of SSS as standing for “freedom form faith and freedom of faith”.

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