Fraser Sutherland stands in a children's playground, behind the steps up to a slide. He looks down at the camera which is positioned quite low down. He is holding a white book. In the background is a row of houses and a blue sky with clouds.

Our CEO talks religion and politics in The Herald

March 7, 2023

Our CEO Fraser Sutherland spoke to Neil Mackay for a long read in the Sunday Herald on 5 March. They talked about the rising influence of religion on Scottish and global politics and possible impacts on our democracy and human rights. Kate Forbes’s candidacy for first minister has been grabbing headlines in recent weeks because of her well-publicised opposition to equal marriage and support for anti-abortion groups. But the influence of Christianity on Scottish politics is a much wider and more historically rooted issue than this single story might suggest.

Fraser and Neil discussed the increasingly secular profile of Scotland, pointing out that more humanist wedding ceremonies are now carried out in the country than Christian ones. We are a long way from the 1950s, when Scotland was “by far the most Christian part of Britain.” But, Fraser added, evangelical religious groups are increasingly rallying around socially conservative causes in a way that plays down their faith-based origins. Often, the same individuals crop up in different guises, so connections can be drawn between, for example, anti-assisted dying groups and anti-equal marriage groups. Groups are often murkily funded. Together, these things give a false impression of widespread, grass-roots activism disconnected from Christian institutions.

Most worryingly, the example of Roe v Wade being overturned in the USA makes it clear that progressive legislation is never “settled.” “The idea that these matters are set in stone, I don’t accept at all,” Fraser said. We should not be complacent about how the tone of public discourse could shift with a socially conservative first minister in Scotland. Fraser also called attention to the hypocrisy of Christian organisations claiming “persecution” when their attempts to curtail other people’s rights are called out.

Fraser connected all these points to active Humanist Society Scotland campaigns such as on buffer zones around abortion clinics, assisted dying, and Gender Recognition Act reform. You can read the whole article below.

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