Scotland’s bishops have called out the country’s political parties for “removing the of conscience from their parliamentarians on votes involving contentious moral issues”. Source: Crux.
The statement from Bishops’ Conference of Scotland comes as a leading candidate for the leadership of the ruling Scottish National Party has come under fire for her Christian beliefs.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, a member of the Free Church of Scotland, has said she would not have voted for gay marriage and has said having children outside of marriage was “wrong according to [her] faith.”
She is one of three candidates hoping to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister of Scotland. Sturgeon announced her intention to resign on February 15.
“Although the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion are fundamental human rights and an individual’s religion and belief are protected characteristics in equalities legislation, recent events have left many citizens seriously concerned over the negative characterisation of religion in civic life,” the bishops said in a statement issued on Friday.
“These concerns focus on two interconnected issues: Disqualification from political leadership and the silencing of conscience in general. We share these concerns.”
The bishops spoke of the Forbes controversy directly, noting that it had been suggested she is unsuited to leading her party and to becoming First Minister because of her religious convictions.
“We feel obliged to restate the well-established civic principle, that holding or expressing religious beliefs and values does not and should not debar any individual from leadership in public office,” the statement said.
“Regarding the silencing of conscience in general, we are particularly troubled by the increasing prevalence of political parties removing the right of conscience from their parliamentarians on votes involving contentious moral issues. Such actions inhibit freedom and are insidiously conformist in nature. They compromise open and honest debate and risk marginalising minority groups,” the bishops said.
Scotland’s bishops say leadership candidate should not be excluded for her religious beliefs (By Charles Collins, Crux)
Scottish bishops defend religion in public life (The Tablet)