A proposed bill that would mean the removal of Church representatives from local authority education committees has been criticised by the Scottish Evangelical Alliance (SEA).
Highland MSP John Finnie has proposed a member's bill which seeks to
take away voting rights from representatives of parents, teachers, young
people and the Church who sit on these committees.
The SEA, which represents more than two million evangelical
Christians in 3,500 churches across Scotland, has expressed concern that
this will result in less community involvement in policymaking.
"There is nothing to gain from this proposal and an awful lot to lose," argues Alliance spokesperson Kieran Turner.
"It is nothing but a wolf in sheep's clothing and is part of a wider
agenda by small secularist groups to marginalise religion in public
"This short-sighted secularism, if allowed, would reduce community
involvement, which will not be good for society. What we need is more
engagement, not less."
Secularists are concerned about "religious privilege" in Scotland, as
the law currently requires three external religious nominees to be
appointed to every local authority education committee.
"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," the Edinburgh
Secular Society (ESS) has said in a statement supporting Finnie's
"It strikes against those specific virtues of justice and integrity
underpinning our society and which lie at the heart of the Scottish
The SEA, however, contends that it is crucial to democracy that community involvement remains central to Scottish education.
"Communities must be at the heart of all that government does, and
religious groups are often at the heart of our communities. Education is
too important to be left to the party politicians and it is important
that community voices are heard," said Turner.
"This is democracy in action.
"It is important that this secular agenda does not come at the expense of long-term community involvement."
The Alliance has affirmed the importance of maintaining and
strengthening safeguards to ensure that all groups in Scotland are
represented fairly, but claim that "we will not achieve anything by
throwing the baby out with the bathwater".
"As an organisation we do not approach this from any position of
privilege but rather we seek to look at the best outcomes for Scotland's
children," Turner concluded.