I usually admire Ian Bell's pieces, but his latest made me wonder if Peter Kearney (pictured) might have a point, however clumsy (and sectarian) his expression.

Yes, the number of atheists is small, but who else can regularly parade their prejudice in aggressive insults divorced from argument or qualification? What right have they to label as superstitious and unscientific the faith of chemist and polymath CA Coulson or hymn-writing physicist James Clerk Maxwell, men who had more science in their little fingers than Dawkins and all his one-eyed followers? Dear Lord, preserve us from all fundamentalisms.

(Rev) Bob Philip


Ian Bell's analysis of the current sectarianism debate was excellent (Catholics may be victims ... the Catholic church is certainly not, Comment, January 13). He might have mentioned that the secular camp also includes many religious people. The "them and us" mindset is not a simple paradigm of religious believers against secular atheists as the Catholic Church in Scotland's hierarchy would have us believe.

There is a growing organisation called British Muslims for Secular Democracy. Meanwhile, the Accord Coalition – with Muslim, Hindu and Christian members working in tandem with secular members such as teaching unions – wants all state-funded schools to operate inclusive admissions policies that take no account of pupils' or their parents' religion or beliefs, and operate employment policies that do not discriminate on the grounds of religion. It recently campaigned against the opening of two new Catholic schools in Richmond, Surrey, and numbered fair-minded Catholics among the several thousand Richmond residents opposed to the plan. Would the Catholic church in Scotland call these groups anti-Catholic bigots too? Can one be a Catholic opposed to faith schools and thus also be an anti-Catholic bigot in the eyes of the Scottish Catholic media office?

Alistair McBay

National Secular Society


Thank you for pointing out that support for same-sex marriage does not equate to anti-Catholicism (Sectarianism debate needs light, not heat, Leader, January 13). How could it, when the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey indicates that more than half of Scots Catholics support same-sex marriage? As well as campaigning for equal marriage laws, the equality network strongly supports measures to address anti-Catholic discrimination and hate crime.

Scottish Catholic Observer editor Liz Leydon asks: "What would happen to Catholic schools if same-sex marriage becomes legal?" (Civil rites, News, January 13). The answer is that schools will continue to be able to teach that the church believes that marriage should be mixed-sex only. No teacher will be required to say they personally support same-sex marriage. Catholic schools will no doubt deal with same-sex marriage in the way they currently deal with contraception and divorce, two other things of which the church disapproves, but which are legal in Scotland.

Tim Hopkins

Equality Network