CONCERN has been raised over a new religious pressure group which is being proposed by MSPs with the backing of an exclusively Christian organisation that aims to "heal wounds inflicted by atheism".

Three of the five proposed MSPs who will join the group backed a parliamentary motion asserting that science could not disprove that God created the world in six days.

A proposal will go before a Holyrood committee today to win approval for a cross-party group on religious freedom, saying the new body would be open to members of all faiths and none.

Loading article content

However, it is being backed by the organisation Aid to the Church in Need UK, which describes its aim as healing "wounds inflicted by atheism" through "prayer, sacrifice, conversion, information and active charity".

The charity, which says it supports "the Catholic faithful and other Christians", has already pledged £800 in kind to the Holyrood group and it is proposed that its communications executive will act as the parliamentary group's secretary.

Dave Thompson, an SNP backbencher, earmarked the current refugee crisis as an example of an issue the group would take an interest in.

Aid to the Church in Need UK is running a campaign to raise the profile of exclusively Christian suffering "at a time when the refugee crisis is dominating the headlines."

One of the MSPs who backed the creationist motion, Labour's Anne McTaggart, later had her name removed, claiming she had signed it by mistake. Mr Thompson remains a signatory alongside SNP colleague John Mason, who wrote the motion and also plans to join the new group.

Of the 18 organisations lined up to participate, 15 are explicitly Christian with one Jewish, Muslim and multi-faith group lined up. Mr Thompson said that representatives from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and other faiths would be more than welcome, and that a wide range had been invited.

The secretary of the Hindu Temple of Scotland, K Jagannathan, said his organisation had not been approached despite addressing MSPs at Holyrood earlier this year.

Mr Thompson said: "We had a meeting in February and 50 people turned up from a wide range of religious backgrounds to discuss issues around religious freedom and persecution. We agreed to move on to the next stage and possibly forming a cross-party group.

"It's interfaith. Other religions are very welcome, and those of no faith. The Secular Society can apply if they want, the humanists would be very welcome.

"Religious freedom is a double-edged sword. If you want the right to believe, other people must have the right not to believe, it's indivisible. We're open to anyone who wants to come along."

However, Spencer Fildes, chairman of the Scottish Secular Society, questioned the need for the group, saying he feared it would seek to protect "entrenched and inappropriate privileges" enjoyed by religious organisations.

He added: "Interfaith groups already exists, as they rightly should, outside politics as part of a secular Scotland. It is unnecessary to develop a political wing of interfaith especially one so heavily focused on Christianity.

"On the group's registration, it states one of its aims as 'religious tolerance in a multi-faith world' yet there are no Pagans, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Humanists. Fundamentalist groups such as Solas are participants, along with evolution deniers and Young Earth Creationists.

"We do have one particularly serious concern - the primary sponsor. A group who seeks to convert is contrary to freedom of belief and freedom from belief. It also blames non-believers for conflict and suffering. Such an organisation should have no place amongst our parliamentarians."

Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP, described religious freedom as an "important principle" but added: "It can only be meaningful when it applies equally to all religions, as well as to the very large proportion of society who are not religious but who often suffer discrimination for that reason. Religious freedom must include freedom from religion, not only freedom of religion.

"It’s odd to see this group established with a membership that is exclusively drawn from monotheistic religions, and including some who have some very peculiar views about religious beliefs which directly conflict with scientific reality."