Scottish humanists challenge religious leaders on assisted suicide

January 27, 2015

Today (27th January) the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee
will take evidence from a range of religious leaders, many of whom Humanist
Society Scotland says are out of touch with the actual views and beliefs of
their members. Humanist Society Scotland challenges religious objections to the
Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill.

Under the 2010 Equality Act, religion and belief are to be treated equally.
Despite this, the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee has decided
to take evidence from a panel made up of religious leaders separately from other
secular organisations, like Humanist Society Scotland.

A 2013 survey (BMJ 2013;346:f2897) on assisted suicide found that the
attitudes of members of certain religious groups was significantly out of step
with the official position of that religion. The survey found that 61% of
Presbyterians (such as the Church of Scotland) were in favour of assisted
suicide; 56% of Catholics and 72% of Anglicans also supported a change in the
law to allow terminally ill people to end their own lives.

In the same survey, it was found that less than 0.02% of respondents said
that they look to religious leaders for guidance on assisted suicide, versus 65%
who said they look to science and their own reason and intuition.

Commenting on the day’s proceedings, Ian Scott (acting chief executive of
Humanist Society Scotland) said:

“It’s widely accepted now that leaders of many religious groups do not
accurately reflect the views of their members. We want to make sure that our
politicians are fully aware that these appointed religious leaders do not
necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of the significant minority of Scots
who are religious.

“Across a range of contemporary moral issues we find that the vast
majority of Scots put evidence, compassion and empathy first – and this approach
is much more in line with a humanistic worldview.

“The simple fact is that most religious people support these measures,
and whilst religious leaders have a right to speak on these matters, MSPs must
be aware that their views are not necessarily representative.”

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