On Friday 24th January 2014, the Church of Scotland and Humanist Society Scotland issued a joint statement and press release in response to the Scottish Secular Society’s petition on religious observance.
Without delay an immediate tirade of abuse began to radiate from Dundee – in the guise of Facebook’s very own David Robertson (pictured right).
So nimble fingered is his reverence that he managed to fire off three blog posts on the issue before the ink had even began to dry on the joint statement.
You can read my analysis and response below.
David’s original blog posts on the subject are, in chronological order:
- Et Tu Kirka? Reflections on the Church of Scotland’s new alliance with the Humanist Society (25-Jan-14)
- Journeying Together? Further Reflections on the unequal marriage of the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society. (27-Jan-14)
- An Open Letter to C of S Evangelicals in the light of the C of S/Humanist Debacle (28-Jan-14)
So, lets take each post one-by-one and have a look.
- The first post, issued less that 24hrs after the original release, and without (as far as I can tell) speaking to anyone involved, started with the gentle suggestion:
“If anyone doubted the corruption that is at the very heart of the Church of Scotland (and the reason that Church is dying and deserves to die), then todays joint press release from the Church and the Humanist Society, should remove any such doubts.”
So, after that gentle start, and a subtle reminder about his opposition to gay ministers (well, why not!), David then goes onto describe the fact that the proposed change of legislation would exclude a ‘confessional’ approach, and not allow for ‘worship’ in schools. That is of course true. It has been in the guidelines from the Scottish Government since 2005, although without the backing of statute, led to many cases where the guidelines weren’t followed. It has also been the policy of the Church of Scotland to follow these guidelines since 2005, the main change the joint statement made was a request to have these guidelines enshrined in law, removing their voluntary nature.
David then goes on to stick the boot into the Church of Scotland, citing the fact that they are loosing 20,000 members per year – although from my calculations (based on the 2001 vs. 2011 census) it’s more like 43,000 per year. I can’t comment on their finances, although things do look good for the future of JD Weatherspoon in Scotland.
David then goes on to reflect that the petition by the Scottish Secular Society is, in his opinion, ‘far more adept at advancing the secular agenda’. High praise indeed! I suppose it would just be too much for David to suppose that although there are many groups in Scotland which campaign for a secular society; Edinburgh Secular Society, National Secular Society, Scottish Secular Society & Humanist Society Scotland (not to mention the large number of local and university groups) – it may just be the case that different groups of people have different views about how to achieve our common vision.
David seems intent to portray these organisations as mutually exclusive and combatant, which isn’t true. The Scottish Secular Society are partners with the Humanist Society Scotland in the My Death, My Life, My Choice campaign. The Humanists in turn partnered with Edinburgh Secular Society in their petition to remove unelected religious representatives, which is in-turn supported by the Scottish Secular Society.
Despite differences of approach, it seems only reasonable to join together with other groups in order to achieve a common goal.
The next argument is a particular favourite of mine:
“We have a church that is now collaborating with the atheists to prevent Christian worship and prayers happening in a State education system – a system created by the churches when they handed over their schools on condition that they remained specifically Christian.”
This is an argument that David has used before. You can see from a brief history of the Scottish education system, which I wrote, that the Church did play a major role in the establishment of Scotland’s schools (that Church originally being the Roman Catholic one, before the Reformation). It’s also clear that the main purpose of educating boys (yes, boys) in those days, was training for the clergy and knowledge of the scriptures (y’know… because God only spares you Hell if you can read his biog).
Education began to be funded by local taxes in 1633, and in 1872 the majority of schools were taken over by the secular State, who have (through tax-payers) been building, funding and staffing them since! The idea that there was a ‘deal’ done that schools must remain Christian is a bizarre invention of David’s imagination. If such a thing was possible, then the idea of democracy is redundant, and we may as well close Parliament and spend the money on more bibles!
Tis’ true that the Humanist Society Scotland provides chaplains to a range of institutions, including schools, universities and hospitals. Some non-religious people find this hard to agree with, and many struggle with the term ‘chaplain’ due to its religious connotations. I’m mostly impartial, I don’t think it’s something which I can ever imagine making use of. I am persuaded by Chris Stedman’s arguments on this matter, which stress the need for humanist involvement in the ‘interfaith’ movement. The one big difference between HSS chaplains and some religious chaplains is that HSS does not take any state funding for its chaplains, all are volunteers and expense costs are met from its own central budget. As opposed to the £30,000 that the Roman Catholic Church took last year for chaplaincy in NHS Lothian hospitals alone!
When considering what to do next (the eventual answer being to write more angry blogs), David suggested that:
“It would be far better to have meaningful Christian worship which pupils and teachers could ‘opt in’ to, rather than force everyone to go to the beige, bland, brain-dead, unquestioning banalities that would inevitably result.”
I was surprised to see a Free Kirk minister supporting a proposal from the Scottish Secular Society, so I though, in the interests of clarity, I would tweet them and ask:
Perhaps this was just David’s personal opinion. Anyway, I look forward to reading about a joint proposal from the Free Church of Scotland and the Scottish Secular Society on the ‘opt-in’ proposal from religious observance. What a progressive move that would be! Good luck David!
2. This blog post, written 3 days after the proposal, seemed merely a footnote to David’s mildly amusing title “Journeying Together? Further Reflections on the unequal marriage of the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society.” – if all else fails David, there is a job for you writing headlines for Private Eye!
In this post, David seemed mostly upset about the joint statement from the Church of Scotland and HSS calling for all school visitor to sign-up to the equality and diversity policy of the school or local authority. Needless to say… well… needless.
For those of you who have forgotten, in the last year we have had American creationists distributing anti-science nonsense to children, child-frightener Pam Stenzel putting the fear of God into teenagers and Glasgow school chaplain offering us his thoughts on the ‘homosexuality disorder’. I think it might be a good move to ensure that these views have no place in Scottish schools. If David is concerned that these requirements might disbar some religious people from visiting schools, perhaps he might want to consider that the pupils and parents/carers of Scotland maybe don’t want them there?
David makes a strange assertion in this post. He says “The Humanist Society is dedicated to the abolition of religion from society.” Now, I’ve taken advice about responding to this post. So, here goes!
Lies! Dam lies! That’s it.
3. It seems that in his third and last (so far) blog post on the matter, David has come to his senses, and seeks contrition from his fellow Christians.
David then goes on to analyse the events between his knee-jerk reaction to the joint statement, and his latest blog post (published 28-Jan-14). David seems to think that the Humanist Society Scotland were ‘stitched-up’ by the Church of Scotland, who had ‘backtracked’, he said:
“Of course the Humanists then felt betrayed (as they were) and the C of S looked really stupid.”
Well, again, this is just lies! The Humanists did not feel betrayed, as there had been no betrayal. HSS and the Church of Scotland stand-by the original statement on 24th January, again, you can read it here. The statement is clear in intentions. I cannot comment for later Church of Scotland communication, as that is purely a matter for the Church.
David then makes another blunder, he says:
“They moved from appearing together with the Humanists before the committee to “the committee was never due to take oral evidence today” hence their non-appearance. But as far as I know their original submission still stands. I was due to appear on the BBC this afternoon but that has been cancelled, because the Humanists and the C of S seem to have broken off their alliance – although as far as I know their original submission still stands.”
Again – not true. I hesitate to say a lie, because perhaps David didn’t know the facts (of course that didn’t stop him speculating).
The Public Petitions Committee never planned accept any verbal evidence at the hearing on 28th January. Nor did anyone suggest they could. Anyone who read the join submission, would realise that it took the form of a letter to the Committee. That was the nature of the submission. Sally Foster Fulton even made that point clear when she contributed to BBC Radio Scotland’s Morning Call show on Monday 28th January (SOLAS Cpc has kindly recorded this session which you can watch below).
After a long list of reasons to hate the Church of Scotland, which I couldn’t care less about to be bothered to reply, David then reverses his initial outrage, by denouncing the joint submission, by saying; “Renaming something without changing it really isn’t that big a news story is it?”. Lets just remind ourselves of his initial concern about the Church of Scotland wanting to “…remove Christian worship from what has traditionally been the Scottish Christian education system…”
So, which is it David? A mere pointless name change, or the removal of Christianity?
Many of my humanist and secular comrades will testify that I have always defended David in public. I do not agree with most of David’s public statements on moral and ethical decision, but as the cliché goes, I defend his right to express them. I’ve never before felt the need to respond to his blog, but it seems at last I have succumbed.
It seems to me, that in his eagerness to criticise something he never fully understood, David has put himself in an embarrassing position of negativity and narcissism – he has become, as internet teenagers say ‘a hater’.
Better try next time David!