To the Editor of the Sunday Herald,
It seems that hardly a week goes by without yet another attack on the Christian church in the Sunday Herald instigated by the Scottish Secular Society. But last Sundays was a new low. I assume you are aware that you are being used by the tiny SSS in order to further its anti-Christian campaign and to increase its witch-hunt against Christians. It would be helpful if you checked the sources and the language used before you printed the press releases of the SSS as ‘news’.
In your latest report you state that there are ‘radical’ evangelists who are infiltrating schools in the Peterhead area. This is hilarious. Would your journalist who wrote the piece be able to tell us exactly what a ‘radical’ evangelist is? Maybe we should not expect the Spanish Inquisition, but perhaps you have visions of the Tartan Taleban, militant Christians assaulting people with their bibles and seeking to start Holy War in Peterhead! According to your report ‘radical evangelists’ include those who use the Alpha course. This course is used by all major denominations and has been taken by some 24 million people. It just simply encourages people to explore Christianity. Yet your report makes it sound like those who take part in it are the Christian equivalent of Jihadi John. I’m sure this emotive and pejorative use of language suits the militant secularists, but for the Sunday Herald to report it as a fact is distressing. In todays climate where real religious extremism is resulting in thousands of deaths, for you to equate an Islamic terrorist with a Pentecostal who believes in speaking in tongues, is as dangerous as it is dumb.
Your report also attacks another Church because it seeks to ‘see children, youth and adults come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, the un-evangelised hear the good news and churches planted in all nations”. Would you like to tell us why you printed this as news? Surely that is precisely what every church does? And what is wrong with being a vibrant Pentecostal Church? You report it as though it were the equivalent of the KKK!
Its kind of Mr Otton, the founder of SSS to inform us that mainstream churches are being replaced by ‘new, smaller, hard-core, socially conservative progeny of zealous individuals’. Unfortunately Garry Otton has no knowledge of any of these churches. He is also not keen on the mainstream churches – his societies FB page contains regular mocking attacks on the Church of Scotland, the Anglicans and especially the Catholic Church. Besides which his knowledge of the Church scene in Scotland is informed only by his own organisations website, which feeds his members a regular diet of anti-religious horror stories, thus confirming them in their bias that religion is of the devil!
His definition of ‘hard-core, socially conservative’ is anyone who does not agree with his own ‘progressive’ views of sex as espoused in his truly dreadful book ‘Sexual Fascism’. If you really want to examine what danger extremist views can do to children, I suggest you simply read this dire tome.
Meanwhile can I request that you stop allowing your newspaper to be used in this alarming manner? You do realise that SSS are exultant that they seem to have you as their propaganda sheet . Mark Gordon of SSS boasted on their website about your report, “This is excellent PR. I am proud of our group of what we have achieved and frankly rather smug with myself for kicking some of this off.” You indeed are offering them excellent PR and allowing them to feel smug as you indulge their McCarthyite witch-hunt. Instead of ‘reds under the bed’ it appears to be ‘Christians in the school’. The hysteria surrounding this seems to imply that we are only one step above being a paedophile! I would like to hope that SSS might put their energies into combating the real dangers facing children in Scotland today – including paedophilia and sexual abuse, poverty and hopelessness. I suspect they won’t because their raison d’etre, their driving passion, is to get Christianity removed from public life, and Christians silenced about our beliefs. But does the Herald have to join in? Is that what you want as well? It’s a sad day for Scottish journalism when its standards seem to have sunk so low.
2nd March 2015
This is the report that was in The Sunday Herald – to which the above is a response:
SECULAR campaigners have raised concerns over the range of religious groups seeking access to state schools.
A list obtained by the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) shows 16 groups, some of which are radical evangelists, have registered an interest in working with both primary and secondary schools in the Peterhead area, by taking part in activities such as assemblies, prayer groups and games sessions. Of the 16 groups registered groups, seven have definitely already been given access to schools.
Among the 16 listed are Kairos Church, which according its website, believes in “speaking with other tongues” and the bible End Times prophecy, heralding in the “climax of this age and the return of Lord Jesus Christ”. It also runs regular evangelical Alpha courses.
The website explains that Kairos is the Greek word for “appointed time” or “opportune moment” and asks: “We are walking into our Kairos time – will you join us?”
The Living Waters Community Church is also on the list. According to its website it is part of the DOVE Christian Fellowship International, which states part of its mission is to “see children, youth and adults come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, the un-evangelised hear the good news and churches planted in all nations.”
The list also includes the Apex Church in Peterhead, which describes itself as a “vibrant Pentecostal church”.
Garry Otton, founder of the SSS, said mainstream churches were being replaced by a “new, smaller, hard-core, socially conservative progeny of zealous individuals”.
The SSS has lodged a petition at the Scottish Parliament calling for the Scottish Government to issue official guidance barring the teaching of creationism in classrooms in Scottish schools. It is due to be considered by Holyrood’s education and culture committee.
The Sunday Herald attempted to contact the named churches but none replied.
Andrew Griffiths, head of primary education and curriculum development at Aberdeenshire Council said: “Through religious and moral education and in line with Curriculum for Excellence, Aberdeenshire pupils learn about many different faiths and cultures.
“Young people are encouraged to be tolerant, understanding and respectful of the beliefs of others.
“Visits to schools by representatives of various beliefs or faiths are not unusual and if any parent has concerns or wishes that their child should not participate in religious activities we encourage them to contact their local school directly.
After writing this I of course expected SSS to post it and the usual mocking comments to follow: But I am astonished at what they have published in response “”DAR asks who is the most dangerous. Here is one of the leaders of Peterhead Kairos Church, which has acess to Peterhead schools. His father has also been prosecuted for child sexual abuse in Northern Ireland.” If SSS were claiming that paedophiles getting into schools was a danger we would wholeheartedly support them. But that is not their complaint – their complaint is that ‘radical evangelists’ are getting into schools. That people who do the Alpha course in their churches are getting into schools (not that they are doing the Alpha course there) is their complaint. Now that they are equating this with paedophilia it gets even worse. I assume SSS know that every one working with children in Scottish schools has to be PVG checked? Therefore convicted sex offenders could not work in schools. It is also completely hypocritical of Gary Otton to post this article criticising a 20 year old for having sex with a 14 year old – when in his book he appears to defend precisely this sort of behaviour. As a Christian pastor I hope that this young man was disciplined – and I think he should have been prosecuted…but it is news to me that Gary Otton holds the same standard! This young gay man who reviewed his dreadful book clearly does not think so either – “Paedophilia and homosexuality are two different things. Mr Otton can confuse the two.
The vast majority of this book appears to jump to the defence of accused (and often convicted) male sex offenders, attempting to exonerate them not on evidence, but the fact that the news of their convictions was carried by a Scottish tabloid newspaper in the late 1990s. In the newspaper articles in question there is rarely (if ever) a direct link made to the gay community. These links are instead created by Mr Otton in his book.I for one, as a young gay man, do not enjoy being “defended” in the same breath as paedophiles.” Remember Mr Otton is the founder of SSS – I wonder how many members share his views? Meanwhile my letter has clearly struck a raw nerve – even by SSS standards the personal vitriol is a bit OTT. My remark about them regarding us as just being one step above a paedophile was apparently wrong – we are exactly the same and we should admit it! Apparently I am a closet atheist/homosexual who has lots of past indiscretions just about to be revealed in time to prevent me becoming Moderator of the Free Church. Its very sad that such hatred has to be expressed in such a way…but I’m glad that anyone going on to their FB page will be able to see for themselves. We continue to pray….