Scottish Government questioned on anti-Christian bullying in schools
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, has questioned Scottish Government Ministers on freedom of religious belief in schools after reports of children being bullied because they are Christian
Ms Forbes has been approached by families whose children have been victims of anti-Christian bullying and said that “the families who approached me believe that there can be a lack of understanding about the diversity of religion in Scotland today, and this can often result in a lack of tolerance or mockery of religious practices.”
In responding to Ms Forbes question, John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Education, said that “Freedom of religious belief is an important feature of Scottish life that must also apply in schools.” He also responded to Ms Forbes’ call for protection for a young person’s right to religious observance, adding that there is a statutory basis for local authorities to provide religious observance and religious and moral education in Scottish schools, and that the legislation “also gives parents a right to withdraw their child from these activities, with Scottish Government guidance stressing the importance of including children and young people in any decision to opt-out.”
This story is a sad, yet unsurprising reflection of the ongoing hostility to religion in public life that families feel they have to contact a member of parliament to raise concerns about what should be completely unremarkable displays of faith. The right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom must be recognised and respected. If Scotland is to be a truly tolerant, progressive, forward thinking society it must uphold the rights of children to express their religious beliefs, without fear of prejudice or discrimination. And the Scottish Government cannot keep sweeping the anti-Catholic problem under the carpet or masking it under the cloak of ‘sectarianism’ in the hope that it will somehow disappear. I applaud Kate Forbes for raising this issue with Ministers and I would urge any Catholics who have experienced similar harassment and intolerance, no matter how insignificant they think it might be, to approach their MSP so that the Scottish Government may be held to account.