A “New Enlightenment” in Scotland?

It’s no secret that your Curmudgeon is an admirer of the Enlightenment — particularly the Scottish Enlightenment, for its brilliant support of reason over authority. The results of the Enlightenment were a civilization based on reason, liberty, science, and free enterprise — all of which were manifest in the American Revolution and Constitution.

We have discussed this in a number of posts, for example: Salem and Philadelphia: A Tale of Two Cities. The Enlightenment has always been a problem for creationists, whose views are exactly the opposite, hence their fanatical opposition to science and the separation of church and state. This was explained in one of our earliest posts — Discovery Institute: Enemies of the Enlightenment.

We have recently been reporting about some troublesome outbreaks of creationism in the cradle of the Scottish Enlightenment. Our most recent post on that was Creationism in Scotland — Update. But today we are pleased to see this news story in The Courier of Dundee, the fourth-largest city in Scotland: ‘It’s time for a new enlightenment’ — call to limit churches’ influence on schools. Look at that headline — they understand what’s going on! Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

“Undemocratic, unelected, unscientific and self-serving” church leaders should not have the legal right to make decisions on school education, according to cross-party politicians and secular groups.

Churches hold the balance of power in nearly two-thirds of council education committees due to a law which compels councils to appoint three religious representatives, the secular coalition said.

That’s very interesting. We weren’t aware of that law. When did it come about? Stay with us, all will be revealed — with undefined acronyms clarified by your Curmudgeon:

The Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS) has lodged a petition to repeal the law, backed by the National Secular Society, Humanist Society Scotland and Edinburgh University Humanist Society with the support of Green MSP [Member of the Scottish Parliament] Patrick Harvie and SNP [Scottish National Party] councillor Sandy Howat.

We applaud the effort. [Addendum: Here’s a link to the petition at the government’s website. We assume only UK citizens should sign it.] Let’s read on:

The petition calls for a repeal of section 124 of the Local Government Act, which ensures religious representation on boards, after recent census results which show that nearly half of Scots profess no religious beliefs.

Scots presumably know their own history, but for the rest of us, that’s likely to be a reference to the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. Or it might refer to a later law with a very long title — referred to as Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994. [Addendum: It appears to be both laws. The petition refers to: “Section 124 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, as amended by Section 31 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994.”] We continue:

ESS [Edinburgh Secular Society] vice-chairman Colin Emerson said: “To afford a particular section of society, a privileged position within the decision making process of local government, based solely on their particular and personal religious beliefs, is profoundly and 
inherently undemocratic, unfair and discriminatory.”

Indeed! Here’s more:

Mr Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, said: “I’m particularly concerned at the involvement of people who would promote utterly unscientific notions like creationism, pushing this absurd ideology at children is the very opposite of education.”

He calls it an “absurd ideology.” We like that. Moving along:

Mr Howat, a member of Edinburgh City Council’s education, children and families committee, said: “… All contributions to committee deliberations should be welcomed, yet continued undemocratic privilege of the few over the many is an out-dated tradition we should remove. As we look to create a fairer Scotland with liberty at its core, we need to ask ourselves what this ‘privilege’ says about our values. It’s time for a new enlightenment.

Well said, Mr Howat!

This is a controversy that is well worth following, and we intend to do so. Stay tuned to this blog.

Update: See Scotland Keeps Religious Role in School Boards.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “A “New Enlightenment” in Scotland?

  1. Richard Olson

    ‘continued undemocratic privilege of the few over the many is an out-dated tradition we should remove’ … this is a very un-theocratic idea, and if the USA Christian Right should find it threatening, you Scots better brace yourselves for a wave of media wrath headed east

  2. I found another article on this: Call to end religious representation on council education boards. They give one spectacular quote from Thomas Boyle, Assistant General Secretary at Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and Roman Catholic representative on the education committee for East Renfrewshire, who claims that religious figures have an important role to play in education:
    “This shows an ignorance of the Scottish education system in terms of where it comes from. The main reason why the Church plays a role is because they used to be in charge of schools.”

  3. The Scottish Enlightenment lent its values to the nascent United States; we could return the favor by letting them borrow our First Amendment.

  4. “…used to be in charge of schools.” Past tense. It’s now the present. Time to live in it.

  5. Ceteris Paribus

    Bishop Boyle says: “The main reason why the Church plays a role is because they used to be in charge of schools.”

    And thank the Jesus on your dashboard that the Roman Catholic Church still exists for the sole reason of protecting women from the role of being in charge of anything.

  6. Graham Hughes

    I am now almost 53 and I still resent being taught religious belief as if it was historical fact in primary school

  7. Stephen Kennedy


    There are many of us who were scarred for years, and maybe forever, by the religious indoctrination that was forced on us when we were young and vulnerable.

  8. Stephen Kennedy: “…religious indoctrination that was forced on us when we were young and vulnerable.”

    That’s when indoctrination is most effective. “Suffer the little children to come unto me” and all that. What is truly insidious is teaching children that blind belief is a virtue in and of itself.

  9. For more background, see Reviewed: Young Earth Creationist books handed out in Scottish primary school http://wp.me/p21T1L-7U and Parents Against Creationism – Two Big Victories in One Scottish Town, http://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/parents-against-creationism-two-big-victories-in-one-scottish-town/

  10. @Paul Braterman: Thanks for the links. I’ve not checked in with Jonny’s blog in some time. I found the running knife fight between he and the creationist. I’ve studied creationists enough to see the standard canards they use. “Evolution” means “everything we don’t like because the Bible says different”. I guess it’s easier to win an argument when you can change the definitions of things to suit your purposes.

  11. Stephen Kennedy notes:

    There are many of us who were scarred for years, and maybe forever, by the religious indoctrination that was forced on us when we were young and vulnerable.

    Indeed–though in my own case the only permanent scarring is a small vaccination mark, where I was effectively inoculated against adherence to Oogity-Boogity.