Education, Human Rights and the National Secular Society – Letter in The Scotsman – 27th June 2015

The Scotsman published this edited version of my letter today:

Perhaps you will allow me to answer the rather strange accusations of Alistair McBay of the National Secular Society (Letters, 26 June) that I campaign to restrict the human rights of women and LGBTI people and for religious apartheid in education. These accusations are simply false – I challenge Mr McBay to demonstrate one right from the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR)which I campaign against.

On the other hand, the National Secular Society and the Humanist Society actively campaign against the UNDHR article 26 which states that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”.

To argue for choice in education is not to argue for “religious apartheid” – Catholic and other Christian schools are open to all.

Mr McBay thinks those of us who don’t agree with the atheistic secularist position are opposed to human rights, but the trouble is he wants those rights to be based solely on the National Secular Society’s atheistic philosophy. It is an authoritarian and intolerant position.

 DAVID A ROBERTSON

Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland

Here is the original version:

Dear Editor,

Perhaps you will allow me to answer the rather strange accusations of Alistair McBay of the National Secular Society (letters 26th June), that I campaign to restrict the human rights of women and LGBTI and for religious apartheid in education. These accusations are simply false – I challenge Mr McBay to demonstrate one right from the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which I campaign against. On the other hand the National Secular Society and the Humanist Society actively campaign against the UNDHR article 26 which states that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”; and the ECHR Protocol 1 Article 2 “No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and teaching, the state shall respect the rights of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.” To argue for choice in education is not to argue for ‘religious apartheid’ – Catholic and other Christian schools are open to all. Ironically Mr McBay on behalf of the National Secular Society has demonstrated the problem with their position on human rights. Mr McBay thinks that those of us who don’t agree with the atheistic secularist position are opposed to human rights – but the trouble is he wants those rights to be based solely on their atheistic philosophy. It is an authoritarian and intolerant position. Ironically those of us who base our understanding on the authority of the Word of God, are more open and tolerant of others, precisely because we know that we are not the ultimate authority. If Mr McBay wishes to convince people of his position he will need to use less emotive rhetoric, ad hominem poor historical arguments, and instead provide us with some rational based on actual evidence.

Yours etc

David A. Robertson
Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland

This is the letter I was responding to:

Letters: Religious liberty
The Scotsman 26 Jun 2015

I am astonished to see Free Church Moderator David Robertson (Letters, 24 June) claiming that only Christian tradition can provide a proven basis for universal values.

Is the present or history any help in determining how this looks in practice? For example, the Moderator campaigns to restrict the human rights of women and LGBTi people, and for religious apartheid in education. These are his current “traditions” that shape his approach to universal values, involving restricting the rights of others and promoting segregation and discrimination in Scottish society.

Historically, Christian “tradition” has at various times restricted access to literature, obstructed scientific progress, mandated torture and capital punishment for blasphemy or for being a witch. It has resulted in Christian institutions enjoining in the slave trade and has argued women should not be allowed to divorce abusers nor have property of their own.

If Mr Robertson thinks Christian “tradition” provides a proven basis for universal values, then the evidence demands that I disagree.

Alistair McBay, National Secular Society, Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh

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