I subscribe to no religious faith, but I defend the right of members of any faith to worship in accordance with their faith without interference from the state, and to live out their beliefs in their daily lives, and without interference or persecution or threats or sectarian abuse calculated to lead to violence. I support their right not to be discriminated against in employment, in business or in politics.
I also believe in freedom of the individual within the rule of law in a secular democracy, and I expect the state to reflect core values that are shared by all in that democracy, values that are best expressed by and derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
What I oppose with every fibre of my being is any attempt by a religious group, or coalition of religious groups to attempt to deny these core human rights to anyone within their faith group or groups, or attempt to impose a belief that is not supported by or founded in law in the wider society of which that that faith group or coalition of faith groups is a part, beliefs based on holy books, ancient writings and ancient traditions.
I extend that opposition to political philosophies or political parties, whether religious based or ideologically based, that seek to subvert the processes of democracy and the rule of law to deny core human rights to any individual or group, and to impose ideological behaviours and constraints that deny core human rights.
The fact that most religions subscribe to the core values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, either wholeheartedly, or in some case, nominally, does not mean that religious groups or any particular religious tradition or faith group invented them or owns them. The essence of these core values of the human species, painfully developed and asserted, often in the face or religious or secular persecution, the rack, the scaffold, the stake, the firing squad, the gas chamber, the executioner’s block, is that they are the fundamental, shared core of our common humanity, and not the property of any faith or ideology.
For all of the above reasons, I support and will defend a secular democracy and I am opposed to any move towards a theocratic state, and I oppose faith schools, because they have a single core purpose – to indoctrinate, and I include within my definition of faith schools institutions supported by an ideologically-based or totalitarian state that professes no religion, but inculcate a rigid ideology, such as those that existed in the USSR or Mao’s China, or Hitler’s Germany or regimes such as Pol Pot’s.
MY CORE BELIEFS AND MY POLITICS
Anyone who holds strong social democratic values will sooner or later find that they create a conflict with the mundane realities of their political affiliation and their political party. I am no exception to this, and some of what I am about to say may leave the Scottish National Party unhappy at this crucial stage in Scottish history when a great objective – the independence of Scotland – is within sight of being achieved.
A political party - and a master politician and a great political strategist and statesman such as Alex Salmond - must balance all the forces within the society it hopes to govern and to transform. Scottish society has within it three churches grounded in three great religious faiths – Christian, Judaic and Islamic.
A politician who ignored the reach and influence of such institutions would not survive for very long, but equally a politician who allowed himself or herself to be dominated by them, and who allowed them to exert an undemocratic influence on the core values of a democracy would not deserve to lead a nation.
Some political prices are too high to pay. So I must speak out as an individual, and hope that others will do likewise, even if boats are rocked.
THE TWO LETTERS – The Herald
The debate that has been building for some time now, at first a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, but now heading for a storm, is the issue of gay marriage, covered by me as best I could in a recent blog.
Two very recent letters to The Herald have now crystallised the essence of the religious opposition, one from the Catholic standpoint and one from the Muslim viewpoint. Both of these religious groups now appear to speak with a single voice, although I can only hope that this is the voice of the institution and not the unanimous voice of all lay Catholics and Muslims. (The voice of the Kirk has yet to speak out authoritatively, but many individual voices within the Kirk have spoken out and they are divided.)
The first letter I refer to appeared in Monday’s Herald – the 17th – from a Michael McMullen. The header the Herald gives it is - Church is duty bound to speak out against the promotion of sin – which is a fair summary of its content. Church is duty bound to speak out
Michael McMullen’s last paragraph says unequivocally where he stands and where he believes the Catholic church stands -
“As a missionary and teaching institution, the Catholic church and its ‘practising membership’ can ‘never’ accept sin. It is duty bound to oppose it: thus its bishops speak out, because they are expected to. This is especially true when a powerful lobby or elite is hell bent on promoting sin.”
Mr. McMullen was attacking Iain Macwhirter’s article on this matter, and his quotation marks refer to comments from that article.
The second letter from the Herald today – the 19th – is from Bashir Maan, a man with a proud record of achievement in Scotland, widely respected both within the Asian community and Scottish society, carrying a name that resonates for the SNP.
He opens by saying that he fully support Michael McMullen’s comments, and he closes with words than send a chill down my social democratic, liberal spine -
“No one has the right or the authority to change the divine scriptures to suit certain times or certain people or for the sake of political correctness.”
I fear that those words and that sentiment will be fully endorsed by Cardinal O’Brien and his Scottish bishops. and by certain voices within the Kirk, and by some MSPs, including some SNP MSPs.
As someone committed to a secular democracy, I find them deeply dangerous, medieval in nature, and a denial of our democratic values and the rule of law. They are an attempt to assert religious values and ancient and highly-contested writings from another age as binding for all time, not only on those who subscribe to them, but to others who do not, and they are in conflict not only with the inalienable human rights of a minority but potentially with the rule of law and democratic processes.
To anyone who thinks that a political process dominated by a specific religion, its doctrines and its concepts of ‘sin’, and ‘family values’, one that has moved from being a secular democracy to becoming effectively a theocracy is a good thing, I recommend a study of Franco’s Spain, or the Republic of Ireland, or of anyone of a number of Muslim states.
And we don’t have to delve into the distant past to see such ‘values’ in operation – the recent history of the Catholic Church in Ireland, in Britain and in America and the abuse scandals, from the Magdalene laundries to child abuse and the protection of child abusers by the hierarchy, tells an appalling story.
One might think that the appalling brutalities and persecutions of minorities and the opposition in Franco’s regime in Spain, fully and unequivocally supported by the Catholic Church, are a distant memory. Not so.
A documentary on BBC2 last night – Spain Stolen Children – demonstrates with chilling force the application of the ‘family values’ of the Catholic Church, with the connivance of the law, the police and the state, that resulted in the theft and sale of children by nuns, priests and doctors, a scandal that has been suppressed since the death of Franco in 1975 by the supposedly democratic regimes that replaced him, but is now growing to a scandal of monumental proportions – a crime against humanity.
Here are my edited clips of the programme, an attempt to catch its essence in nine minutes or so – but the full one hour programme should be watched, painful and distressing as it is, to appreciate what the dangers are for Scotland.
Perhaps Cardinal O’Brien, his ever-vocal bishops, and all those who have had a lot to say about what a terrifying threat to family values and the stability of society the attempt to allow to people of the same sex to pledge their vows in a civil ceremony and call it marriage represents, could offer some comment on what the values of two societies dominated by just those religious values actually produced in Spain, in the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere.
Perhaps Bashir Maan, a good man who has contributed enormously to Scottish society, should consider just what he is endorsing. And lay Catholics, Muslims and Protestants should also consider what some religious leaders who claim to speak for them are saying in their name.
Alex Salmond now has the opportunity – and the duty – to demonstrate that he is the true statesman that I and many others firmly believe him to be, by standing up for the rights of all the people of Scotland, and resisting the pressures, the blandishments, the thinly-concealed political threats of withdrawal or democratic or financial support by sectional – and sectarian – interest groups.
Same sex marriage - Moridura blog