Extent of protection afforded for religion under Scots law to be reviewed

Issued: Mon, 03 Nov 2014 10:12:00 GMT

The first project undertaken in Scotland since the Victorian era to assess the effect to which Scots law provides a place of privilege for religion is being launched at the University of Glasgow.

Running in conjunction with Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) the 10 month project will audit Scots law to provide an authoritative guide to the extent to which it makes special provision for religion and religious organisations.

Some of these legal provisions and cases may stretch back to the 16th and 17th centuries, but others are likely to be more recent. The project report will provide a firm basis for understanding the place of religion and the extent of religious influence in the contemporary legal system of Scotland.

The project is being funded by Humanist Society Scotland (HSS). The research is centred at the new Humanist Studies Hub at the University of Glasgow, and is led by Professors Callum Brown (History, School of Humanities) and Jane Mair (School of Law), with the support of a research assistant, Dr Thomas Green.  The work will include a detailed study of contemporary and historical legal sources leading to the publication of a report in the summer of 2015.

HSS Chief Executive Douglas Mclellan said: "I am delighted that this opportunity has arisen. The HSS is investing £40,000 in this project to provide an exceptional level of research into the privileges enjoyed by religion in Scots law. The HSS believes that for Scotland to progress as a fair and equal nation, it needs to be a nation with no special laws, practises or exemptions for religions or religious organisations. We are supporting this project to demonstrate where religion currently has privileges which will then allow us to work with the Scottish Government and MSPs in the Scottish Parliament to take opportunities to amend legislation and reduce religious privilege."

Callum Brown said: “This is a most important research undertaking. No complete guide to religion in Scots law has been compiled since the Victorian period, and there have been so many changes in church, religion and the law since then that there is a need to provide a one-stop resource for lawyers, Humanists, church people, journalists and academics. We are delighted with the funding HSS is providing, and hope this will expand into a wider relationship between the University and Humanist organisations.”

Media enquiries:

Callum Brown: callum.brown@glasgow.ac.uk  Tels:  Monday 10th Nov: 01485 529067; thereafter 0141 330 3382; 01786 841632;

Jane Mair: jane.mair@glasgow.ac.uk: 0141 330 6841

Douglas Mclellan: douglas.mclellan@humanism-scotland.org.uk