Culture Judaism Politics Scotland The Church in Scotland

Persecution, Politicians and false Prophets

Visit to the Scottish Parliament- 10th Feb 2016

I was asked to speak to the Scottish Parliament sub-committee on religious freedom. Although I never stick to a text the following is the substance of what I said and a few reflections on the whole experience – which tells us a great deal about the state of Church and Society in Scotland today.

“It is my privilege to be able to address you on this vital subject of freedom of religion. If we do not have freedom of religion then we will lose all our other freedoms. Let me first of all say a word about persecution. Religious people are not persecuted in Scotland today. At least not in the sense of being jailed, fined or executed for their faith. When we see what is happening in many areas of the world, especially to Christians, then it would be foolish to complain of persecution. However you are all aware that the way to boil a frog is very slowly. Put it into tepid water and gradually heat it up. In the same way my concern is that whilst we do not experience the kind of persecution that is so often the norm for our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, there is a danger that through a ‘salami tactics’ slice-by-slice, discrimination is increasing against Christians.

I am not here however just to speak in favour of Christians – I want to defend religious liberty for all. My remit is particularly concerned with the role of religion in politics. My view is that there is subtle and not so subtle discrimination against religious people in politics, but especially Christians.

Philip Nye writing in the Telegraph in January this year spoke of Christianity as being subtly “silenced” within the public sector in the UK because of a civil service culture that treats speaking about faith as “not the done thing”.

On the Left, my favourite Marxist writer, Brendan O’Neill, gives the example of a BaptistBrendan O'Neill Church in Norfolk in England that put up a poster suggesting that if you didn’t believe in God you would go to hell. Someone complained to the police who registered the poster as a “hate incident”. They launched an investigation, went to the church, spoke to the pastor, suggested he take the poster down, and so he took the poster down. O’Neill writes these insightful words –

I found this really disturbing. For what we had here, in Britain in the 21st century, was a situation where the armed wing of the state put pressure on a church, a private religious association, to take down a public expression of its deeply held beliefs.” He continues to summarise the situation – What we’re witnessing is a silent war on religion. In the 21st century, there is the creeping criminalisation of certain religious views and an undermining of religious groups’ right to organise themselves, and those who are voluntarily part of their community of faith, in what they consider to be the most fitting way. Religious people’s ability to express themselves publicly is being undermined, and their ability to organise themselves around their faith — such as by having schools and other agencies to propagate their views among their followers — is being undermined too. How has this happened? I think there are two drivers of the silent war on religion: first, the spread of hate-speech legislation; and second, the rise of new and intrusive so-called equality laws.


I found the following words of our Prime Minister quite chilling:

“For too long we have been a passively tolerant society, saying as long as you obey the law we will leave you alone”


Since when was it the business of government to interfere in people’s lives, outwith the law? This is what happens when the proper relationship between church and state is not understood, and when the state thinks that it is God –with the ability and right to control the thoughts, words and actions of its citizens.

The following are some examples of where this is leading us.

1) Mark Spencer, a Tory MP, argued that new banning orders intended to clamp down on hate preachers and terrorist propagandists should be used against Christian teachers who teach children that gay marriage is “wrong.” He called for those who use their position in the classroom to teach traditionalist views on marriage to be subject to “Extremism Disruption Orders” (EDOs), tough new restrictions planned by David Cameron and Theresa May to curb radicalisation by jihadis.

2) Polly Harrow. She is the Head of Safeguarding and Prevent at Kirklees College in Huddersfield. She was asked on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, should a Muslim who believes that homosexuality is wrong be accepted. Her chilling answer?

“ If that’s what you think and that what you want to believe and you want to hold that in your head, that is your business and your right. But bear in mind that if you speak it out loud you might be breaking the law”.

3) Kevin McKenna cites this example –

“Last month, I conducted an interview for the Scottish Daily Mail with the Reverend David Robertson, the outspoken but articulate Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland. For this I was condemned by some gay rights activists for promoting a man who hates gay people. The Reverend Robertson is nothing of the sort and simply believes that marriage is a civic and sacred contract entered into by a man and a woman. To hold such a position, whether you agree with it or not, is entirely reasonable. But in the world occupied by Patrick Harvie, full-time atheist and part- time Green Party leader, and his acolytes such views do not deserve even to be uttered in modern, enlightened Scotland. In the months and years ahead it won’t be tanks that are being parked on the lawns of those who oppose abortion or want to see the 24-week time limit reduced it will be fiery crosses.

4) Jim Murphy former Scottish Labour leader was frequently referred to to as the Catholic….or Pope loving by the Scottish Secular Society. If I had done this I would rightly have been accused of sectarianism. Is sectarianism any better if it is conducted by secularists?

5) I know of at least two prospective MSPs who have been hounded through social media by activists within their parties who would like to exclude all those who dare to disagree with the current liberal elitist zeitgeist on issues such as Same Sex Marriage.

6) I think of the prospective Tory MP who told me to remove a reference to her and her church from my website from ten years ago because gay rights groups were trawling the internet trying to link her with known extremists – like Christians!

7) I did a debate here in Edinburgh at Charlotte Chapel with Patrick Harvie and Willie Rennie, in which I pointed out that there were MSP’s who disagreed with SSM but would either abstain or vote for it because they did not think it was that important an issue and they could not be bothered with the abuse, hassle and intimidation if they dared to vote against. Patrick Harvie disputed this but after the debate I was approached by a leading journalist who told me that what I had said was right and that he could name several who were in that position.

The bottom line is that it is not right that anyone who dares to disagree with the current zeitgeist, whether for religious reasons or not, is discriminated against, abused and effectively removed from the mainstream political process.

What is the solution?

This committee must defend and maintain the following:

a) Freedom of Speech – in reality as well as in words.

b) Freedom of Ideas – there must be the freedom to discuss and to hear ideas that one disagrees with and others might find offensive.

c) Freedom of religion – which involves a whole lot more than an acknowledgement that we have the right to worship and serve God in private. We also have the right to be involved in the public square. All political parties in this parliament should give an assurance that Christians and others are welcome to participate within them and in the political process, without discrimination.

Political leaders should discourage the use of social media to intimidate and abuse those who are believers and who might have different value systems. Social media has become the 21st Century equivalent of the 19th Century mob.

The removal of the Christianity, upon which our society is founded, from the public square will result in either a secular authoritarian state or a religious authoritarian state. If we do not defend, maintain and promote these freedoms whilst we have them, then we will find that once we have lost them, it will be too late.

Discussion and Reflections:

After this speech there was a lively discussion for an hour. I did not take a verbatim record and it would be unfair to try and state what everyone said. But I will offer the following observations.

1) I was very impressed with the Jewish representative who spoke of the anti-Semitism within Scottish society – especially mentioning Jim Murphy being accused of being too pro-Israel.

2) It was good to see MSP’s present who clearly cared about and are interested in the issue of religious freedom.

3) It was good to have the backing of a considerable number of the Christians present. However there was a little confusion with some who argued that this is what we should expect as Christians. I’m afraid I don’t buy into the persecution/martyr complex of Western Christians who think that a little persecution is good for the soul. We are to pray for kings and those in authority so that we may live peaceable and godly lives – we are not to pray for persecution – although we know that in the providence of God it will come and he will protect us through it. But we are not just concerned for ourselves. We are concerned for others. Freedom of religion means greater freedom for all. The removal of that freedom will mean the State replacing God and greater restrictions for all but the elites who control and run that State.

4) Finally I was really frustrated at the Church of Scotland representatives who spoke. It reminded me of the last time I spoke at a Scottish Parliament committee. (You can read about that here).   They really undermined my case by suggesting that what I said was not really happening; that is was anecdotal; that it needed some research and that the people of Scotland were not really concerned about religious freedom. They based this last statement on their own research that they conducted of 11,000 people.

So what was my response?

Of course it is anecdotal – just like Stonewalls stories of homophobic bullying in schools is anecdotal.

Their own research – which can be viewed here – was not academic research but a political campaign with highly leading questions about ‘a fairer, more equal, more just society’, climate change etc. Of course when people self-select by taking part in this campaign they are not going to think about religious freedom and the threats to it.

Incidentally I suggested that Solas would be quite happy to conduct serious research into the question of religious freedom and discrimination within Scottish society. And I asked if the Scottish parliament would be willing to fund such research. After all they are very happy to fund the ‘Equality Network’ and other gay rights groups to do ‘research’, why would they not fund us? Or is it the case that some are more ‘equal’ than others?

In my view the Church of Scotland establishment has become the secular humanist society/Liberal party at prayer. The fact that the establishment of the Church of Scotland does not experience religious discrimination does not mean that there is no religious discrimination. It just simply demonstrates how much in bed with the secular establishment, the C of S is.

Sally Foster-Fulton Sally_Foster_Fultontried to defend the religious discrimination that many Christians face in political life by saying that political people just don’t like our social views on issues such as SSM. I responded by saying that the liberal elites just assume that their social views are the self-evidently right views which any right thinking and nice people would accept, and that the only reason people do not hold them is because of religion – and therefore such religious people must be excluded.

The only religious people who can be accepted are those who accept the doctrines of the cultural elites and are prepared to compromise their faith in order to be accepted as part of the establishment. It seems to me that the Church has always been plagued with clergy politicians who think that their job is to reflect the values of the culture and use the church as a power base to promote those values. If you doubt that just observe that whenever a cultural change occurs, the C of S establishment tamely follows behind – initially it will oppose but then within a few years it will become part of the obvious values. Witness this coming Assembly and the current debacle over SSM. In my view the establishment of the C of S is gutless, Godless and gormless….and that is why they are currently in such decline. God will build his church, not the secular humanists.

It is more than ironic that some of the people who are most likely to encourage religious discrimination are the establishment of the self-styled national church. I know that there are believing leaders in the Church of Scotland who do not buy into this agenda. But all I want to know is – why don’t you speak out? Why don’t you tell the Sally Foster-Fulton’s of your church, ‘not in my name’?! If you don’t do this soon then you are in as much danger of losing your freedom as the rest of us are in the wider society. Or have you determined that ‘Ichabod’ has already been written above the door of the Church of Scotland?

It is so frustrating because I know many good and fine people in the Church of Scotland and I hate to see the Lord’s people being led at best by spineless shepherds who run away when the wolves attack, and at worst being shepherded by the wolves themselves!

I am sorry if my words are too strong for some – feel free to just dismiss them because my words and opinion don’t really matter. But at least consider the words of the One who does matter and who will be our judge on the Last Day. Jesus Christ once said of one of his churches, who thought that they were rich and comfortable (in touch with the people, a key part of society, doing rather well thank you) that they were poor, pitiful and blind; and that they made him sick. He preferred hot or cold…anything but the tepid insipidness of a church which thinks it is great. I am all too deeply conscious of my own weakness, blindness and pitifulness (as I am of my churches), but at least I know that my only hope is in Christ and not in seeking to ape and follow the changing fashions of this world. Whether we have the political and social freedom to do so or not, let all the Lord’s people determine to follow him whatever the cost, and never to bow the knee to Caesar.


  1. Spot on in so many ways. Christians who hold traditional views are not welcome to speak them in political parties. We lost a Tory candidate a couple of elections back for saying he wasn’t in favour of SSM. Cameron sacked him publicly during the election. Yet, Christ is building his church in Scotland. Wrt the ‘church of Scotland’ I am seeing a work of God that will invalidate the ancient denominational boundaries. There are now only living Christian Churches and dying formerly Christian Churches. In one generation he upis building a new Church true to the Bible, led by the Holy Spirit and honouring to God the Father.

  2. Thank you so much for this David. So helpful to us as believers as we consider issues – thank you for articulating it all. Continuing in prayer for you as the Lord uses you to proclaim truth. And may those present last night consider well. Pat Urquhart

  3. Marvellous articulate witness!

    And I just happened to read this at bedtime last night.

    The friends of purely secular education, the enthusiastic advocates of reform and progress, the worshippers of reason, intellect, mind, and science, may say what they please, and do all they can to mend the world. But they will find their labour in vain if they do not make allowance for the Fall of man, and if there is no place for Christ in their schemes. There is a sore disease at the heart of mankind, which will baffle all their efforts, and defeat all their plans, and that disease is sin. Oh, that people would only see and recognize the corruption of human nature, and the uselessness of all efforts to improve man which are not based on the remedial system of the gospel!” from “Holiness:Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (J. C. Ryle Collection Book 1)” by J. C. Ryle

    More power to your elbow David.

  4. Ive also just finished reading the book you recommended by Os Guinness and I had noted this.

    “Some of today’s deadliest challenges to the Christian faith come from within the church itself, yet in many parts of the church Christian apologetics is weak, poorly understood and openly dismissed as an unworthy and a wrong-headed enterprise. Without faithful and courageous apologists, men and women who are prepared to count the cost, the church is vulnerable to the challenges it faces internally as well as externally.” from “Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion” by Os Guinness

  5. David,

    There are many in the CofS that share your concerns, as they do about the state of the church in Scotland, including the Free Church. Going by the relevant past, you will perceive my comment about the Free church as a “game of equivalence.” I assure you, that your opinion about any game I am playing is not a reflection of reality. However there is truth in what you say about equivalence. You will be aware of the words of Jesus about judgement and being judged as one judges others.

    Are we not to hold to account leaders (including yourself) in the church, just as you are with leaders in the CofS?

    I am not personally offended by your comments about the CofS but it is the measure of a man when they can take the same kind of judgement that they dish out. Conversely it is a measure of someone who is not secure in their own skin, is thin-skinned, and / or is insecure and weak with the position they take in a discussion / debate when they get defensive when challenged.

    Playing the denominational game is not going to unite believers but result in discord in the body of Christ. Even great men can be misguided. History has taught that with the differences between Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones and John Stott over the choice of whether to remain in a denomination or come out of denominations and unite as evangelicals. Unless the lessons of history are learned then they are doomed to be repeated.

    An effective stand against secular propaganda and action that erodes religious freedom cannot be made where there is division among those who would otherwise rightly be working together to safeguard religious freedom.

    1. Adam,

      I am glad that there are many in the C of S who share my concern….I look forward to them taking on their own establishment. Your attempt to play the equivalence card (all churches are equally bad) does not work. And for someone who quotes the words of Jesus about judgement you spend a great deal of time making judgements! But feel free to dish out as many judgements as you want…if you would like to tell me where I am going theologically astray or denying the Bible please let me know….

      I agree that you shouldn’t play the denominational game – you know the one that goes all denominations are basically the same and it doesn’t matter which one you belong to….I agree entirely about not causing discord within the body of Christ – but it all depends on what you mean by the body of Christ. My contention is that there are many within ‘the church’ who are not part of that body. I also agree about learning from the lessons of history…just what are those lessons?

      Your last sentence is brilliant – and ironic – in the light of my article which pointed out that the C of S establishment came to that committee and opposed my stance against religious freedom, saying there was no real problem. I will not unite with people who deny the basics of the gospel…and neither should any Christian…

  6. Hello David

    Another excellent article. I agree with about 99.9% of them but that has now it has gone up to 100%!!

    May God continue to bless and give wisdom to you and your team.

    John MacDonald

    Sent from my iPad

  7. I could hardly help cheering aloud from start to finish as I read this, David.
    We are blessed in Scotland to have you as a spokesman – praying for all your writing and speaking opportunities.
    I relished this:

    “In my view the Church of Scotland establishment has become the secular humanist society/Liberal party at prayer…”

    It’s true. If only the fact were as droll as that makes it sound :-s

  8. “I will not unite with people who deny the basics of the gospel…and neither should any Christian…”
    So says the man who considers Roman Catholics to be his Christian brothers…..

    1. Not all Roman Catholics….just as you should not condemn all Roman Catholics to hell just because they are Roman Catholic. Yes I do have Roman Catholic brothers and sisters – and so do you…

      1. Off the main topic but very much about the RC brothers and sisters: the best funeral I ever have attended was conducted by the priest in the next parish to mine. He and I have always enjoyed a stimulating friendship – he understands reformed theology far better than many C of S folk – and he preached on John 11:25-26 but he focussed on the last words, “Do you believe this?” which “protestant” ministers so often miss out. A person whose ears were opened by the Holy Spirit could not have come out of the service without realising that they had one thing above all others to get sorted. How often I yearn to hear such clarity in funerals.

  9. In my CofS Sunday School days, my question, “How do I love my enemies?” was answered with “Well, you’re not supposed to have any.” Despite being fairly young I could see there was an obvious problem there. It doesn’t appear to have improved any!

  10. I enjoyed your article and could have cried tears of joy re C of S who I find so frustrating that word “spineless” really does come to mind,I find it particularly frustrating re SSM.
    I have become so frustrated re constant issues that I have decided to return to the Church of my birth,island upbringing although I have dear friends and relatives as ministers in C of S,there is only so much one can bear and hope that you continue in your work as I find it inspirational.

  11. Some thoughts:

    1. I’m an outsider to this debate in Scotland, but it is a one that pervades Western culture and the church and from what I perceive it is an everday issue. Even today Christiantoday reports that Dan Walker who is to present BBC “Breakfast TV” is being criticised and undermined for holding “creationist views.”

    2 Where does the CoS get it’s anecdotal evidence that there isn’t a problem? How does it assess? There will be none or little if it subscribes to cultural ideology.

    3 What is ancedotal evidence? Hearsay? Someone telling their story, giving a testimony about what has happened is evidence, though it might not be formally recorded. It is evidence, specific.

    4 To say that what David said was anecdotal, seems like a cheap, dismissive, high handed shot, masquerading as august consideration, a politicans non engagement with the points raised. SSM was based on ideology.. The NHS is supposed to have evidence based practice, but it is ideologically driven. Most organisational change is not evidenced based. In fact, it generally flies in the face of research based evidence.

    5. I’m not seeking to get into expositions of text, but “judge not” is the is liberal “trump card” text . All decisions, choices, preferences are judgements.of one degree or another. What about discernment? We are called to exercise discernment. Is that not also to exercise judgement? What we must not .do is to be judgmental, to be superior, self righteous. I do not see any self righteousness in any of David’s blogs. Yes I see frustration, anger even, coming from a burden he has for the church, the “called out ones” of Christ, but not self righteousness..

    6. Stott, Lloyd-Jones and Packer were not in agreement, but they were “brothers in Christ” all delighting in and promoting and defending the gospel of Jesus Christ, Packer still doing so, despite loss of sight.

    7. I think this post links, follows on well from the “The Bible as evidence” blog of David. The roots of the disputations are in the attacks on scripture from liberal, theological training of a lot of those in church leadership.

    8. I thank God that David, was given a platform to speak..

    9 Lastly. Church: stay or go? CS Lewis wrote a highly pertinent and challenging essay/address “The Inner Ring”- do we influence/ change a group we join, or are we changed, “drift in the stream” as Lewis puts it. Link is here:


  12. I used to think your criticising the C of S was a bit of an impertinence, but no one else is doing it, and it needs to be done, so I now enjoy it. My own view, as a non-active C of S minister, is that the C of S is no longer part of the Holy Catholic Church. I would not take communion in it, as it stands, and that is a reason for being unable to continue in it after May 2015, when it burned its last bridge. The evangelical wing, of which I was on the barest fringes, would not fight purposefully; I mean actually hit back. It is as simple as that. It was utterly futile to fight on the floor of the Assembly. What was required, and what I think Willy Philip initially tried, was ecclesiastical disobedience, not to the real principles of the C of S, but to a renegade leadership and Assembly. What was required was for a good number of ministers, elders and congregations to say to the Assembly, ‘Decide what you like we will not accept this because it is in contradiction with everything the C of S stands for’. Shriek! Scream! You are precipitating a war in the Church! Exactly! That was what was required. The Assembly stands fourth in line of precedence in the C of S, after the Word of God, the First Article Declaratory and the ordination vows. The Assembly ignored all of these and now stands in opposition to them. It gave itself complete and unaccountable democratic authority. These recent Assemblies are ultra vires. The Assembly has no authority to ordain whoever it likes. And such ordinations are illegitimate. No doubt it would all have been very difficult to attempt to oust the present appalling, not strong enough, atrocious leadership of the C of S but who knows maybe God would have showed up to defend His Truth.

    And one of the main reasons for standing for truth in the C of S was the well being of the people of Scotland.

    Sadly it is all too late.

  13. I used to think your criticising the C of S was a bit presumptuous given that you are not a minister or member, but no one else is doing it, and it needs to be done, so I now appreciate what you say. My own view, as a non-active C of S minister, is that the C of S, as an institution, is no longer part of the Holy Catholic Church. It is radical and distressing to say it but I would not take communion in the C of S, as it stands after May 2015. The evangelical wing would not fight purposefully. It was, in my opinion utterly futile to restrict the fight on the floor of the Assembly. What was required, and what I think Willy Philip initially tried, was ecclesiastical disobedience, not to the real principles of the C of S, but to a renegade leadership and Assembly. If a good number of ministers, elders and congregations had said to the Assembly, ‘Decide what you like we will not accept this because it is in contradiction with everything the C of S stands for’ things might have been different. But: shriek! Scream! This would be precipitating a war in the Church! Exactly! That was what was needed. The Assembly stands fourth in line of precedence in the C of S, after the Word of God, the First Article Declaratory and the ordination vows. The Assembly ignored all of these and now stands in opposition to them. It gave itself complete and unaccountable democratic authority. These recent Assemblies are ultra vires. The Assembly has no authority to ordain whoever it likes. And such ordinations are illegitimate. No doubt it would all have been very difficult to attempt to oust the present leadership of the C of S but who knows maybe God would have showed up to defend His Truth.

    And one of the main reasons for standing for truth in the C of S was the well being of the people of Scotland.

    Sadly it is all too late.

  14. David, in addition to Sally Foster-Fulton, which members of the Church of Scotland establishment were present?

    1. Does that then mean social work students would not be allowed to, for example, express a view on helping women out of prostitution, just in case someone “exercising her right to be a sex worker” might be offended?

      Social work sees all the ills known to man. Are they going to dismiss everyone who takes a behaviour and speaks of it as not the best for humankind?

      Plus nobody seems to notice that it is pretty offensive to say there shouldn’t be something to specifically recognise a male-female relationship, or that if there is, it is completely wrong.

      Remember the marriage issue coming up at university (just over a decade ago). People held a range of views, but it was all very dispassionate. I wonder what histrionics they go through now!

  15. Neil Combe says that the best funeral he ever attended was conducted by a Catholic priest and refers, particularly, to the homily. Another recent homily given by a Catholic priest at a funeral (his own father’s) is being given a lot of publicity. It can be heard on YouTube at
    The homily proper starts at 2.30.
    It can be read here:
    The deceased person referred to in the homily was Antonin Scalia, a member of the United State Supreme Court. His son begins the homily by saying:
    “We are gathered here because of one man. A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more; a man loved by many, scorned by others; a man known for great controversy, and for great compassion. That man, of course, is ….”
    And the man is?

  16. that doesn’t look anecdotal to me – it happened.
    I wonder what the reaction would have been if he had told the authorities that HE had been offended by the views of SSM supporters?

  17. Curlew,
    That’s why anecdotal is in inverted commas. I was being ironical. Those who deny the persecution just say that the evidence is anecdotal. So I was supplying some real evidence and being ironic by calling it anecdotal. (Sorry for the change of name. I can get a bit mixed up with technology.)
    Nothing specifically Christian about this but I was recently told about somebody who went for an interview to train to be a Primary teacher. In his interview he remarked that he wanted to increase the number of males in Primary teaching so that Primary pupils had more male role models. At which the interview panel went berserk.

  18. I get it, Mike17 – I was a bit slow there.
    The differing attitudes to gender in differing contexts are quite instructive, I think. In a case like the one you mention, it’s anathema to hint that male and female might not be interchangeable. In another, currently very fashionable, context, it becomes necessary to go to all lengths to “change sex” (note the ironic inverted commas) – because being born in the “wrong” body means hideous trauma and suffering. Which does rather suggest the sexes are not indistinguishable, after all.
    Reality, anyone?

    1. That is spot on.

      There is a singer on The Voice just now who is “transitioning” to “female”. Last week, he – and I say that because that is the fact of the matter, not wanting to have a dig – commented that every day he feels like a parody of a woman. I thought that was rather telling. He just came across as a terribly unhappy, confused bloke. He does a very good glam-rock look though, I thought.

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