Discrimination and religion

I have strong reservations about religionists in politics and Kate Forbes is, by her own account, unable to separate doctrinal commands of her religious faith from the secular nature of our legislature. Nonetheless, I am very concerned by the way she is being targeted by what has all the characteristics of an orchestrated campaign to undermine her candidacy. A campaign in which The National seems to be a participant.

There is a tendency to assume discrimination is a bad thing. It is not. In fact, discrimination is an essential part of sentient life. We discriminate every time we make a choice. We discriminate, for example, between things that are edible and things which are inedible. Or we die.

What makes the difference between beneficial or benign discrimination and deleterious or malign discrimination is the criteria used. Discrimination on rational, factual grounds is generally beneficial or at least benign. Discrimination on irrational or dogmatic grounds tends to be deleterious and can often have a malign motive.

As a rule of thumb, it is acceptable to discriminate in its negative sense on the basis of choices made by the individual concerned. It is not acceptable to discriminate negatively on the basis of the individual’s innate attributes. It is irrational to discriminate against, say, a job applicant on the basis of their skin colour because the colour of their skin tells you nothing useful about the individual’s personality and character. It is perfectly rational to discriminate against someone who has a swastika tatooed on their face. Being a choice, the tattoo carries information about the tattooed individual. Presumably, that individual was aware of the connotations of Nazi insignia and is content to be associated with that ideology. The tattoo tells you something useful about the individual and is therefore a sound basis for negative discrimination.

Religion is a grey area. To what extent is an individual’s professed religious faith a matter of personal choice? If someone is born and brought up in a particular religious faith, there would seem to be little personal choice involved. On the other hand, the mature individual can choose to reject the religious faith – so continuing to be a ‘believer’ would clearly be a matter of personal choice. Then again, if the dogma in which the individual has been immersed during their formative years stigmatises apostates, it could be argued that their ability to choose is thereby impaired.

Religion is a grey area when it comes to discrimination.

But context also matters. The manner in which we deploy our capacity for discrimination will differ according to the circumstances. Selecting someone to pick orders at an Amazon fulfilment centre is not the same a choosing a parliamentary representative. The individual’s religious faith is unlikely to have any bearing on their ability to do the job and anything that does have a bearing – observances of any kind – can and should be accommodated within the conditions of their employment.

It’s a rather different story when the role to which we are seeking to appoint someone is going to give them the power to influence legislation. Potentially, the powers of the head of government.

The law should seek to reflect the norms and mores of society. Most of the time the law will lag a bit behind changing attitudes. Which is as it should be. It would hardly do to have the law trying to accommodate every whim. In every instance, the arguments for introducing or amending legislation must be made through the democratic process. That takes time. So, the law will always tend to be a bit out of date. Occasionally, it can get seriously out of sync with society. But most of the time, it’s not a major problem.

We elect a legislature to undertake the task of ensuring that the law reflects social norms and mores as closely as possible. A rather obvious problem arises if the legislator is trying to match the law to religious dogma that is contrary to the current social climate. The fact that their scripture says murder is wrong won’t be problematic. But if their religion says killing apostates and heretics is an essential duty of all true believers, there may be some difficulty.

That is an extreme example, of course. Although it might not be possible to come up with anything that is too extreme to be part of any religion. The whole point of religious faith is that the afflicted must be willing to believe anything regardless of objective facts or observable reality.

The point is that any religious faith professed by a candidate for elected office cannot be irrelevant. In order be equipped to make an informed choice, the voter must have access to information about the tenets of this faith and the extent to which the candidate is bound to act in a particular way on account of their religious faith so the voter may make a judgement as to whether this is compatible with what they perceive to be views of society in general.

A blanket prohibition on negative discrimination on the grounds of religion is unworkable because this would afford protection to attitudes which are held to be socially unacceptable.

Whether the religiously inspired attitudes expressed by Kate Forbes are considered acceptable is something each voter must make a judgement on for themselves. Likewise, assurances about her ability to separate her personal religious beliefs from the duties of a legislator in a secular state.

To my mind, the jury is still out on Kate Forbes. I resent and abhor the media’s efforts to influence that jury by manipulating public perceptions. If voters are to make informed choices then the very first thing they should be informed of is the fact that the media are neither impartial nor honest.

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22 thoughts on “Discrimination and religion

  1. Wee Free in ’23?

    The idea that Forbes could be the FM is untenable for a host of reasons that would never go away. Here’s one: If she was FM and voted against the GRR bill she would have had to sack herself.

    It gets a lot worse. Personally, I’ve had quite a few Wee Frees evangelising at my door (evangelism is a tenent of the church). Unlike Ian Blackford, Forbes looks like she has swallowed church doctrine, whole. So, if Forbes recites one of their leaflets about creationism on TV I’ll need an ambulance. As will the SNP.

    P.S. With a Wee Free at the helm, the SNP could wave bye-bye to the Catholic vote. That little anomosity is another bit of Wee church doctorine.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Kate Forbes has indicated that she would use the free vote mechanism , i.e. allow MSPs to vote according to conscience .
    That doesn’t sound like she’s a religious bigot likely to impose Wee Free values on her “flock”. Is she the wrong kind of Christian ? Would a devout Roman Catholic face similar problems ?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Unless they kept it personal and used the free vote system. It is possible to divorce your own religious beliefs from politics, but, sooner rather than later, you would come up against something that you could not condone or allow to pass, and that would be your downfall. I find it all very amusing, considering that those who passed the GRRB must also have faith-based beliefs because no heteronormative person could have voted for it unless, of course, he or she was lying to himself/herself. Exactly the same objections could be made against the ‘wokerati’.

        Fortunately, the churches have managed to temper their totalitarian instincts in the 21st century, but the same cannot be said of the ‘wokerati’. Of the two, I’d choose the religious person. I rather like Kate Forbes, but she is no more in thrall to her religion that Humza is to his, no? The ‘wokerati’ are even more steeped in religiosity of a different kind, and their instinct for totalitarianism is profound.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m not entirely happy with the “free vote system”. We vote for candidates and not parties. But we vote for candidates who have chosen to associate themselves with the party’s manifesto ‘pledges’. They are elected on that basis. So, it would be rather disconcerting if, having been elected to implement a particular raft of policies, those MSPs then decided their religious beliefs (or ‘conscience’) would not permit them to vote for some significant part of that raft of policies.

          Of course, the candidate could stand up at every husting and enumerate which parts of the manifesto he favours and which bits he rejects on religious grounds. That would confuse the electorate and annoy the party. I use the term “annoy” in the sense of provoking them to contemplate murder.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Now you know how I, and many other women, feel about the ultra religiosity of the ‘trans’, Peter. Parasites taking over the party was not envisaged until around early 2015 when women started warning everyone. Heigh ho, who ever listens to women? Lucky for those we disagree with, we are not totalitarians. I take your point about following the party’s policies. Didn’t Alyn Smith invite all the dissidents to leave the party because they would not go along with the bilge? That’s where it gets difficult. If it was to work as you suggest, there will be no SNP very soon. Politicians are, after all, hooman beans, as my grandchildren used to say when they were very small, so all parties have to give some choice to MSPs/MPs or we are just another North Korea, full of nodding doggies. Giving in to parasites who should not be there anyway, is a fast track to oblivion.


      2. It depends which party they are standing for.

        If it is a party, such as the SNP, which has positioned and sold itself as a socially progressive party, then someone with the conservative beliefs that inform Ms Forbes views on progressive issues becomes problematic. Both internally in that it would create a rift in the party, and externally in that it would confuse and probably alienate large swathes of the electorate.

        If it is a party, such as the Tories, that has positioned and sold itself as a socially conservative party, then someone with the conservative beliefs that inform Ms Forbes views on progressive issues becomes …. a good fit.

        Her particular religious beliefs do not bar her from high office. It just makes her leadership of a progressive party “unsuitable”. Which is a shame because she would have been a competent, charismatic leader otherwise.


  3. I think it is refreshing that Kate Forbes has stated her personal views on subjects affected by her faith. I have no idea what Hamsa Yousaf or Ash Regan are thinking in a personal capacity but as long as the personal does not trump the democratic will of parliament then I have no difficulty with any of the candidates. The breadth of views brought to parliament and democratic debate is essential to gain a consensus and to air all sides of an argument however when the vote is taken and the matter settled then personal views are subsumed into the consensual decision. We need to return to a place where views may be expressed without an immediate response which negates the person and debate can actually take place.


    1. “The Free Church of Scotland opposes both abortion and same-sex marriage. It has also stated its opposition to banning conversion therapy.”

      Personal views? As a Wee Free, she is not permitted personal views on these matters. The church’s views are her views. I cannot be comfortable with that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If there was only religious fundamentalism, Peter, the churches in the West would never have shifted from burning heretics. The SNP always promoted itself as a social democratic party, left of centre, never as ‘progressive’. That stuff came in with Sturgeon and the parasitical wing of the ‘wokerati’.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Can I be forgiven if I appear slow on the uptake here. I was under the impression the SNP were undertaking an exercise to elect a new leader of that party who presumably would assume the title and role of FM of Scotland.

    It would however appear that the media are leading the gullible doon the path o’ thinkin’ that this is an election tae pit in place a new Heid Bummer in charge o’ some as yet unidentified quasi religious entity.

    Scotland’s progress to Independence will hang heavily on the commitment of whoever is elected de facto leader of our movement and THAT is what is critical in all of this.

    Prejudiced views based on religious belief are toxic in the extreme and can never be permitted to control the destiny of our Nation regardless of how staunchly or devoutly those beliefs are upheld.

    Judge the candidates on their integrity, vision and genuine determination to free our Nation from the chains of our coloniser. Ask will they ‘DISSOLVE the UNION’?
    IF NO, HOW NO?


    1. I have no idea what is the stance of the Free Kirk on the constitutional issue. But let’s suppose the Wee Frees came out against independence? Can you say what Kate Forbes position would be then?

      We have separation of powers for a reason.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Free Kirk is in much the same situation as the Independence movement Peter, factionalised, some continuin’, some goin’ doon their ain road. I share your reservations and for that reason their ‘conservatism’ disnae rest weel wi the concept o’ Independent thocht. That will prove to be Forbes achilles heel!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If we are going to rule out Kate Forbes on the basis of religion, then we must also do so with Humza for the same reason. Can we demand that a complete secularist stand for leader? Is that not also a diktat? We live in very interesting times indeed.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I wouldn’t rule her out on the basis of religion. I might rule her out on the basis of the attitudes she CHOOSES to be associated with when she espouses that religion. A person cannot hold two sets of values that are diametrically opposed. What are we supposed to believe? That Kate Forbes is fundamentally opposed to same-sex marriage on the Sabbath but a disinterested party when she’s at work? I smell shite. And this time it wisnae me!

            Liked by 1 person

          2. “Very interesting times indeed” lorncal. Yousaf upholding Sharia law in its most extreme form would not sit well were it to be implemented in the wake of
            promiscuous activity within that cohort of transwomen who Yousaf maintains are women. Sticks an stanes micht brak thir banes!

            I have no vote in this selection process, however, living where I do in the constituency represented by Forbes I can state categorically that there has been zero campaigning by her personally to progress the case for Scotland’s Independence since she took office and to date have no evidence of her having experienced her Damascene moment in that sphere.

            Independent thocht is anathema tae them wha seek tae guide and control us thru’ the scriptures an’ religious text. Secularism disnae sound that bad efter aw!!


      2. Indeed, Peter: Kirk, State and Legal System all separate. The very fundamentals of a democratic political system. In the past almost nine years of the Sturgeon hegemony, and under the ‘wokerati’ diktat, the last two have moved closer together than ever before. I think religion is the least of our worries, but we must always be vigilant.


  5. Mr Yousaf said last night that although a proud Muslim, he would never use his faith “as a basis of legislation”.
    Forbes has said the same. Her religion guides her personal life, rightly so, but she would defend democratic decisions.
    I notice more and more that this is descending into GRR/trans issues rather than the Independence issue. Is that deliberate by certain politicians?


    1. The problem doesn’t relate to her defending democratic decisions. Any of us could make that claim. But few of us are vying to be in a position to exert great influence in the process of making those democratic decisions. Or even, as party leader and First Minister making those decisions unilateraly.

      I need to be assured that it is not her church acting through her. But if she was to give me the assurance that I require she would be condemned by her church as a nonbeliever.

      How can I be sure that as an MSP she represents her constituents and as FM she is acting for the nation when she places so much importance on her religious faith?

      If she is for or against something how can I be certain that it’s as a result of a rational assessment of the arguments and not because God told her?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. ” In order be equipped to make an informed choice, the voter must have access to information about the tenets of this faith and the extent to which the candidate is bound to act in a particular way on account of their religious faith so the voter may make a judgement as to whether this is compatible with what they perceive to be views of society in general.”

    A voter is under no obligation to vote according to what they believe to be the views of society in general. Indeed, if they believe society to be headed in an undesirable direction I would expect voters to vote for candidates that might stymy such.

    I suspect that you have referred to the voter when the electorate would apply more accurately. Of course, it makes no difference to your argument that religious affiliation and devotion is pertinent information.

    Liked by 1 person

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