(Vatican Radio) Bishops in Scotland have criticized the comments of a Member of Parliament as “chillingly intolerant” after it emerged recently that he would work with humanists to put an end to Catholic education in the country.
Tommy Sheppard is a senior member of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and an MP for the capital city of Edinburgh. He is also a member of the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS), and was recorded while speaking at an HSS event during last year’s SNP conference.
The event was promoting the HSS ‘Enlighten Up’ campaign, which seeks to put a stop to mandatory religious representation on local authority committees. Speaking about a secular school system in Scotland, Sheppard said, “Some of the things in the Enlighten Up campaign are, I believe, exactly the way to do that.” He added, “Chip away at the power organized religion has within our school system.”
A spokesperson for the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland told the national Catholic newspaper, the Scottish Catholic Observer, that this was “a blatant attack on religious freedom and chillingly intolerant.”
Explaining that the Registrar General in the country categorizes humanist weddings as part of the ‘Religion and Belief’ marriage statistics, the spokesperson suggested that “they don’t seem sufficiently proud” of their belief system to argue for humanist schools. He added that “advancing the rights of humanists by demolishing the educational rights of Catholics is hypocritical in the extreme.”
Currently, over 20 percent of the school population in Scotland attend Catholic schools, a fact which the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland maintains “reflects the educational values of Catholic schools.”
A spokesperson for the SNP rejected any suggestion that Sheppard’s comments represent the position of the SNP or the Scottish Government, insisting that they were “simply the personal views of Mr Sheppard.”
“The SNP is a strong supporter of faith schools. They play an important part in Scotland’s education system, and the SNP Government believe it’s important for parents and pupils to have the choice to attend a faith school if they want.”
When approached by the Scottish Catholic Observer, Sheppard declined to comment.