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Showing posts with label same sex marriage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label same sex marriage. Show all posts

Friday, 2 December 2011

Same sex marriage – Gordon Wilson, Cardinal O’Brien and the Kirk – a ‘taint’?

Gordon Wilson clearly thinks some things are more important than Scotland's independence. So do I, but in my case it's the right of democratically elected politicians not to be intimidated by doctrinaire holders of archaic beliefs trying to blur the vital separation between Church and State.

And having been married in a kirk almost 52 years ago, I feel in no danger of having my marriage vows 'tainted' by two people of the same sex in love wishing to have a civil ceremony legally recognised as marriage to unite them, and to have it solemnised as such by churches and ministers of religion who are willing - not compelled - to do so.

There is a ‘taint’ here – it is the taint to democratic politics of a minority holding dogmatic religious beliefs attempting to impose their own narrow views on individuals and, in the main, a society that does not share them. It is an unwelcome echo of the 17th century Kirk and even more ancient world intolerances that  society in the 21st century has long since left behind – almost …

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Religion in politics: Two letters – two faiths – and alarm bells ring for me

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.


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 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

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Religion and Scotland’s democracy

Bishop Tartaglia – unelected – has tea with the First Minister of Scotland – elected – and gets concessions from him. But so far not on what for the Bishop and his boss, the Cardinal, is the big issue – gay marriage.

The Bishop says ominously that Catholics are wondering if they can trust the SNP. Trust them to do what – sustain a medieval relic of a law that denies two people of the same sex in a loving relationship the right to enter into a legal partnership called marriage, and have it solemnised in a church ceremony if they so wish, and can find a church and a minister of religion willing to do so?

The Bishop does not speak for Catholics, since the Roman Catholic Church is not a democratic body, and does not consult its members on matters of doctrine. Why should it? The Bishop has a hotline to God through the Cardinal Archbishop and the Pope.  And God has spoken? How?

Well, what God has - or more accurately had - to say is set out in various Holy Books, which have remained unchanged throughout the history of mankind – or have they? No, not quite …

God hasn’t dictated anything for about two millennia to Christians, but spoke to Muslims in 610 AD. The writings that are collectively known as the Old Testament date from various pre-Christian eras - i.e. before any Christian religions existed - and  probably date no farther back than about eight hundred years before the Christian era, around the 5th to the 8th centuries BCE

But mankind as we know it has been around for somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 years, and in earlier forms, maybe five to seven million years. God wasn’t silent for all of those years, but what he said has been safely buried, together with the multiplicity of ancient religions that claimed their hotlines to his minds, with one or two exceptions that can be safely ignored by the three religions that effectively dominate debate, all from the Abrahamic tradition – in order of antiquity Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 

Wikipedia comments laconically as follows -

“The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism. The number of these writings varies markedly between denominations …”

Varies markedly between denominations …” That’s putting it mildly – hotly contested between denominations, usually with hot irons, brandings, floggings, immolations and in the modern era with all the most up to date methods  by which human beings mutilate and destroys other human beings.

What these various writings say about an ancient institution, marriage, in the 21st century is the subject of much controversy within the religions of the Protestant tradition in Scotland, the UK and globally, but the Catholic Church, at least its priest, bishops and cardinals – and the Pope – speak with one voice. What the laity thinks, especially that substantial block of them with liberal social democratic values, and the substantial number of them who are not heterosexual in orientation have to say, is of no interest whatsoever to the hierarchy.

What should be acceptable from such non-democratically elected groups in Scottish society in the 21st century?

1. That they have a right to their beliefs when they do not conflict with the law of the land, and when they do, the right to profess them while submitting to the process and penalties of law.

2. That they have the right to communicate to their adherents what these core tenets of belief are, and to require them to observe them as a condition of membership of their church.

3. That they have the right to be active in politics, and to vote for candidates for political office who most closely reflect their core values.

But what they do not have a right to do – in my view – is demand that a government with a secure and decisive democratic mandate from the people maintains a law that discriminates against the rights of a significant proportion of the electorate, who wish to have that law amended to permit them to enter into a civil partnership in a legal civil ceremony called marriage, and where they so wish, to have that civil marriage solemnised voluntarily by a church and a minister of religion that are willing to do so.

A religious group or church through their spokespersons, that demands that such a discriminatory law is maintained is seeking to impose the beliefs of their particular sect on others citizens of a democracy that do not share those beliefs.

When such a demand is accompanied by a thinly veiled threat to use the unelected power of that group or church to influence the voting patterns of their adherents, it is a blatant attempt to influence the process of democracy.

I do not believe that such attempts should be banned, nor indeed that they could be banned – I believe they should be ignored by the elected government.

And I believe that the government I elected will do just that.

If they don’t, we are heading insidiously for a theocracy and a religious state. We don’t have to look farther than across the Irish Sea to appreciate the perversions of democracy, justice and human values that produced for generations, and its attendant violence and civil disruption. The Republic of Ireland and the Province of Northern Ireland are emerging from that long, dark night. Let’s make sure Scotland does not take the first fatal step to entering it.