Humanist Society Scotland CEO Fraser Sutherland appeared on BBC Radio Scotland on 21 February to talk about faith and policy-making in a secular country.
There has been much discussion in recent days of FM candidate Kate Forbes’s links to a number of evangelical charities, as well as her recent and historical statements opposing women’s reproductive rights, equal marriage, and GRA reform. As a human rights organisation we defend Ms. Forbes’s right to hold these views as a private citizen. At the same time, we believe it is important to question political leaders on how religion might inform their decision-making when this affects a whole population.
Speaking to John Beattie on Drivetime, Fraser Sutherland pointed out that “this is a debate about whether [Kate Forbes’s] views will become embedded in law and affect other people’s rights. It’s slightly disingenuous to suggest that the issue under discussion here is Christians being denied their faith.” He added: “religious beliefs and values are like any other deeply held belief, and the public is entitled to scrutinise those ideas in its leaders. This is someone who’s putting themselves forward to be the leader of our government.”
He acknowledged that some legislation opposed by Kate Forbes, such as on gay marriage, is already embedded in Scottish law and not under threat from any candidate for first minister. However, he pointed out that “we have other issues coming down the track, for example, in terms of buffer zones around abortion clinics. Is that now going to take a different turn? Ms Forbes has spoken at anti-abortion events in the past.”
Any first minister must govern for the whole country: for people of all religions and none. We applaud any candidate who makes a distinction between private faith, whether Christian, Muslim, or any other worldview, and a commitment to policy which recognises Scotland’s overwhelmingly secular profile.
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