Scottish National Church Is Livid Over Proposal To Ask Parents If Kids Should Worship in Public Schools

I hate online stores that begin sending you a barrage of promotional e-mails after you place an order. They’re “opt-out” merchants, telling you belatedly — in tiny type — that you must choose not to receive their ads (to their credit, this is usually a quick and painless process, but by the time I do it, they’ve already put a bad taste in my mouth).

Like most consumers, I much prefer the opt-in approach. Some stores and brands are of enough interest to me that I like receiving their newsletters and special offers, and I’ll actively sign up. I would prefer that decision to be mine from the get-go, obviously.

The same thing goes for religion, times ten. It’s unwise to assume that I or my kids are dying to be anointed with religious snake oil, so please don’t sign us up unbidden for anything related to your phantasmagorical beliefs.

In short, don’t be like Scotland.

If you have children in a Scottish school, it is somehow understood that you want them automatically enrolled in religious instruction as well as in actual worship. To say “No thanks,” you have to fill out paperwork to permanently excuse your tykes from the Jesus-y goodness that is so kindly proffered.

Why doesn’t the assumption run the other way — with the default being that no child ought to be subjected to state-sponsored religious indoctrination without active parental permission?

That’s what the Scottish Secular Society would like to know, too.

The Scottish Secular Society has launched a new campaign to force schools to create an “opt-in” system for religious observance. Currently all pupils in schools across Scotland are automatically involved in religious worship and parents are given the option to withdraw their children if they wish. But the Scottish Secular Society has launched a petition demanding an opt-in, rather than opt-out, system that will effectively require parents to give consent before their children are permitted to participate.

Sounds reasonable, right? Not to the so-called Free Church of Scotland it doesn’t. They huffily call the petition “secular tyranny.”

The Reverend David Robertson, a Free Church minister in Dundee and director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity said: “Statistics go against the Scottish Secular Society — they are a tiny group of people who are seeking to impose their will and their philosophy on the vast majority of Scottish parents.”

The church claims that most parents are happy for their children to be involved in school-based endorsements of Christianity — but is evidently unwilling to put that to the test.

The Christians further allege that

… the society’s campaign [is] part of a wider agenda to eliminate religion from public schools.

Well, ladies and gents, to be honest, it doesn’t belong there to begin with.

Robertson’s reference to statistics is puzzling. I very much doubt that he can produce any that show a net gain for his side. Earlier this year, numbers released by the British National Secular Society revealed a dramatic drop in religious observance in Scotland.

Over the past decade the number of Scots saying they belong to a Christian faith has fallen from almost two-thirds (65%), as recorded in the 2001 census, to 55% today. Over the same period, the number of those who follow no religion has risen from 28% to 39%.

While 70% of men aged 55 and over, and 78% of women in the same group, call themselves Christian in the poll, only 34% of men aged 18–34 and 33% of women of this age do so. …

The drop in support for the Church of Scotland, once regarded as the national church, is particularly acute. While 42% said they belonged to the kirk [Church of Scotland] in the 2001 census, only 32% do so in the latest survey of 1,002 Scottish adults.

The group that encompasses the most parents of school-age children is especially secular. Considering that the non-religious folks in that demographic already form a majority, it seems to me that the petition of the Scottish Secular Society is very modest indeed.

If I had something to say about it, I’d indeed be pushing for the eradication of religious observance from public schools. Scotland’s national church has neither the numbers nor the moral or legal standing to support anything short of that.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.


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