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Religions do not have monopoly of morality or of social reform

I TAKE issue with Bashir Maan on two grounds when he argues that people of all faiths should unite against the present "anti-religious odour" (Letters, September 8).

First, his suggestion that all Christians should put forward a united front ignores the diversity of views on same-sex marriage within the Christian community. These range from the conviction that homosexuality is evil to the view that homosexuality is part of the normal range of human sexuality and that our current understanding of marriage should be broadened to include same-sex partners.

Secondly, I disagree with his negative reference to "ongoing and oncoming onslaughts" from "ultra-liberal, powerful lobbies". Though religions have often been to the forefront of social reform, there have been times when religious traditions have required a nudge from secular society to remedy social evils. The momentum for change in relation to the role of women in society, for example, came from sources such as the Suffragettes and many Christian traditions were (and some continue to be) rather slow on the uptake in relation to gender equality within their structures.

Religions do not have a monopoly of morality or social reform and should welcome the opportunity of gaining new insights and understanding through an open and creative dialogue with others. We must at all costs resist the suggestion of erecting a division within society between those who belong to religious traditions and those who, for a range of reasons, do not. Scotland has had more than its fair share of religious division in the past. Let us not compound the situation with a religious versus secular divide.

Iain Gray,

39 Roman Road,

Bearsden.

BASHIR Maan does not seem to grasp the nature of the issues regarding the current debate around religion in the UK.

The National Secular Society defends religious freedom as well as the right to be free from religion, and the right of religious believers to manifest their faith. We have no issue at all with Christians wearing crosses in the workplace, and there is no ban on the practice. But there has to be a recognition that employers also have rights, particularly, for example, where health and safety regulations are concerned.

There is no anti-religion sentiment in the UK. We do however, oppose the principle that religious believers should have special laws just for them, and enjoy special rights and privileges under the law that we all have to live by.

Mr Maan does not want anyone to discriminate or practice prejudice against religious believers because of their faith, but he also insists that same faith gives religious people the right to discriminate against others, notably women, children and gay people. Does he believe that this tyranny should go unchallenged?

Alistair McBay,

National Secular Society,

5 Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh.

BASHIR Maan links the debate on same-sex marriage with Anne Johnstone's column on the wearing of religious symbols at work ("Is it right for law to marginalise Christians?", The Herald September 6). He states that religion is under "onslaughts being designed by the ultra-liberal, powerful lobbies". The Equality Network is campaigning for same-sex marriage. I do not know whether Mr Maan therefore considers us to be "ultra-liberal", but I can tell him that, like Anne Johnstone, we support the right of people to wear their religious symbols at work and in public.

Mr Maan seems to think there is a division between people of faith on one hand, and the "ultra-liberal lobbies" on the other. There is not. Many religious people of all faiths support liberal ideas like same-sex marriage. Many "liberal" groups, like us, support the right to practise and manifest one's religion. That includes the right to wear symbols, the right to reasonable adjustments to working hours to accommodate religious belief, and other adjustments, so long as they do not involve harming or discriminating against other people.

Tim Hopkins,

Equality Network,

30 Bernard Street,

Edinburgh.

Christians suffer overt persecution in the likes of Pakistan, Africa and the Middle East and even in Europe it is the one religion denied expression in the workplace.

As a professional Protestant cleric I have never worn the cross but I can see no possible reason why a girl should be prevented from wearing this traditional symbol of her faith.

I note the aggressive secularism of companies like BA does not extend to the myriad of Muslim headscarves, Sikh turbans and Jewish skullcaps seen in UK airports.

The argument advanced by BA to justify its discrimination against a female employee wearing a tiny Christian crucifix was that it was not a "requirement of the faith". It clearly has not come up on chief executive Willie Walsh's radar that wearing a headscarf is not required by the Koran, but I will not hold my breath waiting for him to ban the hijab.

Rev Dr John Cameron,

10 Howard Place,

St Andrews.

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