The former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond MP, has stated in the Scottish Parliament that he prefers ‘people of faith to people of no faith or people who have lost their faith’. He also wrongly implied that religious people have a special claim to doing good works in their community over non-religious people.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) has condemned these remarks as being deeply inappropriate for any senior politician.
In his statement, Mr Salmond said:
‘I am biased of course because I am a Church of Scotland adherent and I prefer people of faith to people of no faith or people who have lost their faith.
‘All denominations have a key role to play in society and we are very fortunate in Scotland because we have a tremendous ability, among religions and denominations, to come together and support good causes.’
In most of his interview, Mr Salmond’s remarks were inclusive, speaking of ‘faith or belief’ to include non-religious people and specifically mentioning humanists. But his comments quoted above echo those of other UK politicians, such as David Cameron, Baroness Warsi, or Eric Pickles MP, who have all at one time or another made special claims for the superiority of religious groups over non-religious people. In 2014, David Cameron signalled his intent to infuse British politics with an ‘evangelical’ spirit about promoting Christianity, while prior to the election, Communities Secretary Pickles announced a scheme to pump Government money into helping places of worship grow while excluding secular community organisations from receiving equivalent funds.
Responding to Mr Salmond’s statement, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:
‘Mr Salmond has a good track record in including non-religious people when in government and before, including in the Scottish Parliament’s time for reflection so these remarks may just be unthinking. It is always sad to see senior politicians denigrating those of us with non-religious worldviews. Despite the fact that non-religious people in Scotland make up a larger group than either Catholics or Protestants, not to mention half the population of the UK as a whole, Mr Salmond feels he is justified in expressing open disdain for people who are atheist or agnostic.
‘His remarks will hit particularly hard at people who have struggled to find acceptance from family and friends after becoming open about having no religion. Ex-Muslims in Scotland and across the UK, for example, face a particularly challenging time when they come out as non-religious.’
For further comment or information, please contact BHA Director of Campaigns and Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07738435059.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in the law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.