Spencer Fildes and Rev David Robertson
Creationist Manoeuvres in the Dark
I usually stay out of his nonsense but on this occasion, as it was about our petition to prevent evolution denial in schools, I felt compelled to respond to Rev David Andrew Robertson who wrote in The Scotsman (Letters 21-11-14) under “False Accusations”:-
“Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, writing to the Scottish Parliament in response to the SSS petition, has also accused the society of using “inflammatory rhetoric”. They are indeed using this issue as a Trojan Horse to try to exclude Christianity from public education. “
The internet used to be known as the ‘information superhighway’ and largely, I believe it still is. It allows you to quickly connect many dots one may otherwise overlook, particularly if you’re a member of the Public Petitions Committee (PPC)
David Robertson enthusiastically presented his latest press release to the world, however, on this particular occasion; the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) were ready for it – they’re almost weekly anyway. We had already anticipated the content along with its inevitable main reference point – Ken Cunningham’s rather curiously forthright submission to the Parliament’s Petition’s Committee (PPC), presented in his capacity as head of “School Leaders Scotland”, an association of head teachers. I have to admit I was slightly taken aback at the speed of his reply to the PPC, one would have thought such extensive consultation with such a large and important body would take much more time and effort.
The SSS knew this would be another weapon for David Robertson to add to his armoury in his relentless assaults attempting to debunk, distort and misrepresent the core aims of the Scottish Secular Society which is to remove unwarranted religious privilege from the public place, in particular, within the Scottish education system.
Let’s examine a few of the issues that arise with the SLS submission…
It would seem, according to Ken Cunningham CBE there is no problem. But what surprises me is the manner in which he responds. It’s hardly the language of a professional representing the views of an impartial body!
He writes of “inflammatory rhetoric frequently used by the petitioners”. Here Ken infers he is familiar with our previous work. So far; so good…
“Inflammatory” – especially in speech or writing – is arousing or intending to arouse “angry or violent feelings”.
So we have aroused angry or violent feelings in you Ken, have we? Now why ever would you feel like that about our petition in your impartial position as head of the SLS?
He continues… “Frequently schools are also encouraged to break down subject boundaries by reflecting where different disciplines interact…” No they are not Ken! Are you implying that the boundary between science and religion should be broken down? If you are, then please remove yourself from any official capacity within the Scottish education system, as this is exactly why we have had to raise our petition. In his words, if our petition was implemented, “there would be a dangerous precedent”.
“There are fairly detailed curricular guidelines applying to both the science and Religious and Moral Education (RME) domains”. No Ken, there isn’t, and you know it. That is why we are petitioning the government to issue such guidelines.
“To link it to the situation in Birmingham as someone has suggested is a little disingenuous”. Ken. The difference here is Christianity, unlike Islam, doesn’t need a Trojan horse, its already operating within the Scottish education system and indeed, owns the stables and enjoys unlimited access to graze on as much land as it likes. Heck, they even have 3/5 unelected representatives on every single council in Troy!
Coincidentally, Ken Cunningham CBE is Secretary and elder at Cartsbridge Evangelical Church, a church where, coincidentally, Mr Robertson presented a recent sermon where he made references to the congregation about the Scottish Secular Society and our activities, along with his own personal interpretation, why we as an organisation exist. Dave wasn’t too flattering about us I may add.
Notable that these comments were also made at the same time our petition was awaiting presentation to the PPC.
As well as a secretary of Cartsbridge evangelical church and head of School Leaders Scotland, Ken Cunningham also sits on the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) examination board, as well as the “SCHOLAR advisory board and many other educational groups. He is an influential and prominent figurehead across the education spectrum in Scotland.
We admire the fact that Mr Cunningham possesses a remarkable ability to decouple his love of God from his day job – even if it does somewhat contradict his quote in the Times Education Supplement that stated: “His faith is fundamental to who he is and how he behaves….’I have never known otherwise and never wanted otherwise’.”
This must be particularly difficult given that, the one and only, Dr Alistair Noble, yes indeed – the same Alistair Noble from the “Centre for Intelligent Design”, leader of the very group the Scottish Secular Society are most concerned about, developing and presenting creationist material masquerading as science. Dr Noble has conducted no less than 15 sermons in Ken Cunningham’s church in recent months.
Yes you read that right, 15 sermons in Ken Cunningham’s church!
Noble is also a former colleague of Ken Cunningham at the SLS, holding down an SLS role as “Field Officer”.
Worryingly, at the start of one of Noble’s sermons, he encourages his congregation to listen to the creationist muttering of Stephen Meyer. Meyer is with the Discovery Institute, of which C4ID is a close affiliate. Meyer is also lead author of the mendaciously named “Explore Evolution”, which the equally mendaciously titled “Truth in Science” (a Young earth creationist organisation) was sent to every school library in Scotland a few years ago.
Coincidentally, (and there’s a lot of them), two petitions from the Scottish Secular Society seeking to advance fairness and equality in Scottish Education have now reached the eyes of senior educationalist Ken Cunningham and both have subsequently been refuted. All of this within his official capacities, of course, through consultation requested by the PPC and Education and Culture Committee.
So back to the subject of Trojan horses and David Robertson…
Robertson is audacious enough to accuse the SSS of attempting to plant Trojan horses. This is gobsmacking hypocrisy, given the alleged murky and sinister interconnectivity of certain individuals who share components and missionary objectives of his faith!
It is not the SSS who hold friends in high places; especially those Mr Robertson so eagerly couldn’t wait to quote. Why doesn’t he actually read the petition and see what our “true intentions” really are? Secularists, unlike some other groups, don’t seem to have many political or influential friends across Scotland’s national institutions.
Scottish secularists, like many other campaign groups, merely seek to highlight the glaring inequalities and privilege religious groups are afforded in this country, What’s worse such religious privilege is also protected by antiquated legislation that does not reflect nor properly serve a diverse and modernising Scotland. Such legislation as acted by Falkirk council to ensure Catholic children can attend any school they so wish, unlike children of other faiths and those with none.
I also look forward to the day our government break up the 100% monopoly that Christianity enjoys with Religious Observance in Scottish Non-denominational schools. Is it not time to invite other faiths into assembly such as the Buddhism, Paganism, Sikhism or Islam? Or Humanism, more suitable for those with no faith?
The SSS are not ‘militant’, nor are we ‘aggressive’. Many of our members (including myself) have suffered from religious zealotry for far too long and we make no apologies if we are perceived as an irritant or obstacle to others. Unfortunately every time we challenge religious privilege in Scotland it’s like navigating through a dark room full of strangers but you’re the only ones who actually can’t see, you also can’t see them smirking at each other as you fumble your way around.
Finally, as for Mr Cunningham’s submission and his undisclosed association with Noble, I sincerely hope the PPC bear in mind this simple fact – referees in Scottish league football are not allowed to referee games where they may support one of the teams on the field of play. It removes the suspicion that they may seek to influence the outcome through their own bias.
2014. Spencer Fildes is Chair of the Scottish Secular Society