Church responds to Humanist Society of Scotland report

The Church of Scotland has reacted to the publication of a report commissioned by the Humanist Society of Scotland.

The 355-page document, written by academics at the University of Glasgow, said the position of religion had weakened in most areas of life in recent years but claimed laws protecting religion in education had been strengthened.

Reacting to the report on behalf of the Church of Scotland, Principal Clerk the Very Rev John Chalmers said:

"I'm not surprised the Humanist Society Scotland has found the protection given to religious groups in Scots Law is declining as this is something which is already well understood.

"This report has been commissioned and edited by the Humanist Society Scotland.

"I believe a more balanced approach to the research would have extracted the many aspects of law which are not designed to protect the interests of the church, but which are there because the fundamental values and beliefs of the Christian faith have been embodied in our legal system over hundreds of years.

"The most mature and enduring fundamentals of our legal system are a respect for persons, a condemnation of prejudice and a fundamental belief that all people are equally valued.

"It would have been good to see an acknowledgment of the way in which our legal frameworks have been imbued with the best of our Christian heritage.

"Of course, there have been weaknesses in the past, but all cultures evolve when they holds on to the best and leave behind the stuff which is no longer of relevance."

Mr Chalmers said the Church of Scotland could hold its head high when it came to the provision of universal access to education.

"It was in the vanguard of ensuring that every parish had a school and a school teacher and its place in the structure of education today is a good example of how an important element of our identity and history is given an appropriate place without being forced on anyone," he added.

"Today we retain an active interest in the moral and spiritual development of children.

"The Church of Scotland regards its place at the table as appropriate and would not agree that religious influence on education has grown in recent years.

"It is measured and appropriate given that churches and faith groups of every kind are invited to reflect the traditions and beliefs which are a significant part of our common culture through religious observance and Time for Reflection.

"Repeated scrutiny of the current arrangements through the Scottish Parliament in recent years has not found any compelling need for change."

Mr Chalmers said he welcomed the Humanist Society of Scotland's decision to put the report into the public domain but much of the content was historical.

"As a Church, our focus is on maintaining our relevance and value through service to the people of contemporary Scotland," he added.