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Politics – Call for protection of religious freedom

June 2018

Christian charity CARE has called for greater recognition of the right to freedom of religion and belief.

In CARE’s submission to the Scottish parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, it cited how the Scottish parliament failed to ‘have a fully informed and nuanced discussion of human rights, prior to policy and legislative initiatives being brought forward’.

For example, Dr Gordon Macdonald, CARE for Scotland’s policy officer, highlighted the information-sharing provisions of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, which was considered as a bill by the Scottish parliament in 2013/14.

In 2013, CARE provided written evidence to the then Education and Culture Committee, in which it highlighted the fact that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises the role of parents.

At the time, CARE suggested that ‘children’s rights should not be viewed in isolation from parental rights and the family context’. However, this is still a huge issue hanging over Scottish parents. Dr Macdonald said parental rights are often neglected by public bodies.

Parental rights

‘Parental rights are routinely overlooked by politicians and decision makers. You only have to look at the problems regarding the Named Person Scheme and the subsequent court case to see evidence of this’, Dr Macdonald commented.

‘The rights of parents to choose the type of education their children receive and to have them educated in accordance with their religious and philosophical beliefs are enshrined in human rights treaties, but are often neglected by public bodies.

After the enquiry, he also said: ‘The debates on human rights surrounding Brexit should be used to revisit the question of the protection of certain neglected human rights, for example the right to freedom of religion or belief and what else can be done to strengthen that protection’.

Dr Macdonald added: ‘Religious liberty is beneficial for all communities. The public service and contribution of religious groups to their communities has been remarkable for many years, from running food banks and debt management courses to hustings during elections’.

‘However, the right to freedom of religion and belief is not adequately protected when it clashes with other protected characteristics. People find that the manifestation of faith in public is being increasingly restricted in a way that is a significant concern’.

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