National

New political settlement must recognise the strength of Christianity

October 21, 2014

Representatives from the Free Church of Scotland have called on the Smith Commission to recognise the strength of Christianity in the nation and reinstate freedom of religion into Scottish society.

The group, made up of elders and ministers, argued that equality legislation has hindered freedom of speech and led to a situation where the Scottish Government “ignores” Christianity.

Instead of the status quo, the submission urged the Smith Commission for a “level playing field” to be restored because the Christian religion still represents the majority of the Scottish people.

Board of Trustees chairman James Fraser CBE said: “We believe in a non-persecuting liberal society where religious tolerance and freedom of speech are embedded into the values upheld by the State.

“We do not believe that the State should continue to ignore the fact that more than 50 per cent of the people of Scotland describe themselves as Christians and allow minorities such as the secular society to seek to bar Christian access to schools and to make it difficult for Christian organisations to recruit the Christian staff who share the beliefs and agenda of their employing organisation. 

“We recognise that a liberal and tolerant society will allow religious freedom to flourish across the spectrum and will not treat secular humanism as if it were a value-free neutral set of beliefs.

“We want to have the capacity to persuade people that it is wrong in fact and harmful to society but we have no wish to deny it or any other religion the market place within which to parade their beliefs.

“We are simply asking that the level playing field is restored and as a religion which still represents the majority in Scotland, we believe that the State must in all fairness listen to our plea.”

The group stressed that a flourishing Christianity in Scotland was essential in tackling social deprivation – because people “are not simply economic and social units” but “beings with a spiritual appetite”, and to that end a vibrant economy, appropriate funding and political initiatives would never be enough to see lasting transformation.

Mr Fraser, an elder at Kiltarlity Free Church near Inverness, continued: “We are concerned that Scotland still has deep-seated problems of poverty and social deprivation with linked inequalities in health outcomes and life achievement.

“So many people in our population are victims of social and economic deprivation, which are compounded by the problems of unemployment, alcohol, drugs and violent crime.

“We believe that a vibrant economy, appropriate funding and political initiatives are hugely important in tackling these problems but we do not believe that these things alone are sufficient.

“People are not simply economic and social units but beings with a spiritual appetite and as such we believe that governments should maximise the freedom which Christians have to offer the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the people of Scotland.

“This is our mission but empirical evidence shows that it leads to social transformation and the diminution of the litany of problems which we have recited.”

Elsewhere in its submission, it was noted that the abortion time-limit and immigration should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

The group said it was “anomalous” for Scotland to have responsibility for everything else in the health portfolio and that there was “no good reason” for abortion to remain a reserved matter.

They added that immigration should be devolved because there was a Biblical emphasis on offering support to those who have been persecuted overseas, and “looking after the stranger in our midst”.

The submission also called for 16 and 17-year-olds to be given to vote at Holyrood and Westminster general elections, with ministers and elders praising the nation’s youngsters for their responsible attitude to voting in the independence referendum.

Download the full submission to the Smith Commission by clicking here.