Rosemary Goring tells us that religion should be '"relegated to the purely private and personal realm" ("A desire for secular balance to the state", The Herald, June 17).

For starters, the public playing of Christmas carols will be out and so I will have to return my trombone to the Salvation Army hall. Our church and community centre could survive, but only as a private members' club, rather like a sex cinema in the 1960s.

This would soon put a stop to the daily provision of free meals to the homeless, some of whom might not have spotted that their hot dinners were laced with "intolerance and judgmentalism".

At the inter-church level, our project to support families who are experiencing housing difficulties and financial hardship would have to end. This is, after all, a programme motivated by the "bronze age" injunction to love your neighbour, endorsed by the post-bronze age teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.

And lastly, our very public street pastors must be cleared from the area. The nocturnal care of drunken youths could then be taken over by teams of enlightened secularists from the premier league of public thinking.

John Coutts,

138 Ladysneuk Road,


Rosemary Goring's article on secularism stimulated a very instructive set of letters (June 18) but secularists need to make it clear they are strong advocates of freedom of expression.

Secularism does not want to still the religious voice.

Secularism is strongly in favour of people being free to congregate on any lawful basis and express their views on any matter so long as this, too, is done on a lawful basis.

Some people like to do this on a religious basis and good luck to them.

The key objective of secularism is to ensure a level playing field in the public arena which guarantees that religious voices and institutions are not privileged in public institutions, such as in controlling or influencing publicly funded education or defining the laws of marriage which should, of course, ultimately be determined by our elected representatives.

Too often the opposition to religious privilege by secularists is mischievously interpreted by religious apologists as an attack on the very ideas and practice of religion.

But in a free society even religious denominations must expect to be the target of criticism.

Too often in the past negative views of some religious denominations have been suppressed since they have been considered improper, disrespectful or even hateful.

Religions institutions must expect and tolerate critical comments about them and the questionable privileges granted to some of them by both the UK and the Scottish parliaments.

Norman Bonney,

17 Palmerston Place,