Bishops warn against excluding people of faith

A statement from Scottish Bishops’ conference says religious values should not debar people from political leadership.

Scotland’s’ Catholic bishops have intervened in the contest to choose the next First Minister. They say recent events have left many citizens seriously concerned over the negative characterisation of religion in civic life. 

Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is among those running to replace Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who announced she was resigning last month.

However, Forbes – a member of the Free Church of Scotland – has come under fire for saying her faith meant she would not have voted to legalise same-sex marriage.

A new statement from the Bishops of Scotland said ‘it has been suggested that Kate Forbes MSP 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 bishops said they were also concerned at 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,” they say. “Such actions inhibit freedom and are insidiously conformist in nature. They compromise open and honest debate and risk marginalising minority groups.”

 We urge our civic leaders to recognise the dignity of the human person and the right of everyone to participate without discrimination in civic society according to their beliefs and conscience; without this guarantee our society cannot be free nor fair.”

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