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“We want to get away from a default setting that just assumes everyone is Christian”, said opponents. “The importance of religious beliefs should not be underestimated”, the Church of Scotland pointed out.
Crosses and other Christian symbols are being hidden or removed inside Scottish chapels during funeral services so as to not be offensive to atheists and non-Christians.
“There have been a number of occasions where at the request of applicants steps have been taken (where practical) to remove or conceal the cross for the duration of the service”, the Scottish Inspector of Crematoria, Robert Swanson, said.
COMPLAINTS ABOUT CROSSES AND BIBLES
In his report, Swanson stated that “there have also been concerns raised over the presence of Christian religious symbols, particularly the cross in chapels and gardens of remembrance”.
“It is their view that current practices leave their 15,000 members and those of other non-Christian faiths and beliefs open to discrimination as defined under the Equality Act 2010", he added.
Additionally, there have also been complaints for the laying out of Bibles and prayer books on seats before funeral services.
“SCOTLAND IS A MAJORITY NON-RELIGIOUS COUNTRY”
Gordon MacRae, chief executive of the Humanist Society Scotland, told Scottish newspaper The Herald that those requests “symbolise the changes that are happening in Scotland. Scotland is now a majority non-religious country”.
He believed that “the crematoria issue is particularly painful for a lot of people. If you had a negative experience of religion it’s a very difficult time for somebody to have to mark the passing of a loved one in a way that feels dishonest or brings back bad memories”.
“What we want to get away from is a default setting that just assumes everyone is Christian”, MacRae pointed out.
“THE IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION SHOULD NOT BE UNDERESTIMATED”
Meanwhile, a Church of Scotland spokesman said in a statement that “everyone must agree that crematoria should be welcoming to people of all faiths and none and the wishes and preferences of the families should be accommodated whenever possible”.
“At the same time, during times of grief and loss many people want and need the comforting presence of symbols of their faith and words that express their beliefs and the importance of these should not be underestimated”, he added.
DAVID ROBERTSON: “THIS IS AN ATTACK TO CHRISTIANITY”
“This is an attack on Christianity by militant atheists and secular groups under the guise of the Equality Act”, said David Robertson, former Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland.
According to Robertson, “most people in Scotland are nominally Christian and even if they are not particularly religious, they will have a Christian funeral service. This is an example of the Equality Act being used to create less equality”.
RELIGION DROP IN SCOTLAND
According to official Scottish government statistics, religion has dropped dramatically in the country, with 48.7% of the population declaring themselves to be non-religious in a 2016 survey.
A quarter of the population said that they are part of the Church of Scotland, while Roman Catholics made up 13.8%. Christians of other denominations represented 8% of the total.