ESS Letter: Swear it’s true.

Today, September 30th is International Blasphemy Rights Day so it is a good time to remember that blasphemy, though not prosecuted for some time, is still a common law offence in Scotland.

International Blasphemy Rights Day

International Blasphemy Rights Day

In theocratic countries where the religion is the state the first victims are often minority faiths. Only secularism which separates religion from state can be fair to everyone involved.

Individuals of whatever faith or creed are entitled to respect and protection but that in no way means that, under fear of criminal sanction their ideas are not open to challenge.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published The Scotsman 30th September 2016

ESS Letter: May’s faith school ruling is beyond belief.

We were appalled to hear that Theresa May’s UK government is soon to allow English schools run by faith groups but funded by tax payers to select ALL of their students on the basis of the religious beliefs of their parents.


Having said that it is “unacceptable” for schools to “promote discrimination against people or groups on the basis of their belief, opinion or background” it is twisted thinking now to facilitate exactly that.

What right do religious groups have to take tax payers’ money for this self-promotion and what mandate does the entirely un-elected Mrs May have to make such draconian changes to the English education system ?

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published Edinburgh Evening News 15th September 2016


ESS Letter : Fully inclusive religiously neutral schools.

Seems that the UK government is to spend £4.4million on LGBTI anti-bullying initiatives in schools and especially in faith schools where LGBTI-conscious education can often be the most lacking.

Here’s an idea.

What about fully inclusive religiously neutral schools for all our children?

Radical huh ?

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

ESS letter : Ozzie atheists say stop ticking Jedi in the census.

Symbol of the Jedi Order

Symbol of the Jedi Order

Seems that the ongoing joke of putting “Jedi” as a religious affiliation in a census is being campaigned against by The Atheist Foundation of Australia.

Their concerns are that the government gets a false impression of the general religiousness of its citizens which misdirects civic spending and how they allocate time slots on public radio and television.

That minority of Scottish citizens who do hold religious beliefs are quite rightly represented in a census but I wonder why people casually tick religious boxes when they have no real religious beliefs or lifestyle.

Maybe it’s through a sense of family or cultural loyalty or maybe it’s to cover their “fire insurance” as my Granny’s old joke used to go. I still keep my Granny’s rosary beads but if you don’t want religious ideas to be disproportionately represented in your name, for God’s sake tick the “none” box.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published Edinburgh Evening News 24th August 2016

ESS Letter : Christian faith in public life

Anthony Horan writes on Christian faith in public life.

To his credit he acknowledges that a recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey shows more than half of Scots do not identify with any religion : Christianity is now a subset of a minority.

We agree that all have the “right to a voice in the public square” if it is from a platform of equality, but Mr. Horan’s argument is compromised when he says that religious ideas should be “welcomed without fear or favour.”

There is huge favour still enjoyed by religions : unelected clerics on council education committees; statutory Religious Observance in state school; bishops in The House of Lords etc.

An “overwhelming majority” of Scots may identify as “spiritual” but that does not mean they tacitly endorse the privileging of minority Christian groups.

He says “Faith and belief in a constant and ever-loving God can guide us.” Faith is a “guide” for you Mr Horan, and long may it continue to be, but as one of many voices in the public square you must get over the belief that you speak for “us.”

Published Scotsman newspaper 4th August 2016

ESS Letter: Catholic school name change


We were aghast to hear that the Roman Catholic section of Edinburgh’s Fox Covert Primary is trying to change its name to make it “sound more Catholic.” (your report 7th June)

We cannot understand what Roman Catholic doctrine has to do with primary education or why the head teacher wishes further to segregate local children according to the beliefs of their parents.

However if she presses on with this divisive initiative might we suggest Sainty McSaintface ?

 Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published Edinburgh Evening News 10th June 2016

ESS Letter: Kirk ‘overstated’


Ruth Davidson is a little overstated when she suggests that “civic society would completely collapse without the Church of Scotland.” (your report 1st June)

Religious groups must be entitled to voice opinions as long as it is not from a platform of privilege, but is it cynical to suggest that for a Conservative politician the religious block vote is too hard to ignore ?

We may applaud The Church of Scotland’s support for foodbanks and sometimes agree with its “challenging of politicians” but remember its challenge to several liberal initiatives including marriage equality which happily Ms. Davidson herself is soon to enjoy.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published Scotsman newspaper 3rd June 2016

ESS Letter: Remove Christian symbols


With Mortonhall Crematorium being closed for five months to allow for repairs following fire damage, this might be a good time to remove the Christian symbols from the chapels and the Garden of Remembrance to reflect what should be the religiously neutral nature of a publicly funded building.

Those who wish a religious funeral must of course be free to employ a chaplain and the religious accessories of their choice but we know that Christianity is now a minority belief, does not represent everyone’s sense of spirituality and should not be the default design of crematoria.

At a difficult and poignant time no mourner should have to screen out, or quite literally dodge around the symbols and icons of someone else’s religion.

 Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published Scotsman newspaper 31st May 2016

ESS Letter: Secularism

Church and State

Richard Lucas despairs about the modernising of The Church of Scotland over sexuality and relationships and their opposition to smacking children. (letters 26th May)

He laments that these are “secular values.” Mr Lucas should remember that Secularism is concerned only to separate church and state makes no judgement of religious ideas per se.

I imagine that if asked, many secularists would applaud The Kirk or any organisation finding its way towards liberalism and decency but the internal ideological struggle of a private religious group has nothing to do with Secularism.

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published in Scotsman newspaper 27th May 2016

ESS Letter: Secular Time


This week saw the pageant known as The Kirking of the Parliament and much is being made of its new “inter-faith” credentials including a contribution from Humanist Society Scotland.

Is this a step in the right direction? We know that all religious groups combined now amount to fewer than half of all Scots.

The solution to the privilege of one minority religion proclaiming its affiliation with our democratically elected parliament is surely not to shoe-horn in a whole bunch of other religions.

Pageantry and ceremony add value to our lives but could we not have a secular event which represents all Scottish voters?

Neil Barber – Communications Officer – Edinburgh Secular Society

Published in the Scotsman newspaper 13th May 2016

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