The Christian fundamentalists behind the fight to prevent Scotland’s ban on smacking
Revealed: the Christian fundamendalist groups behind Scotland’s pro-smacking lobby
PRO-SMACKING lobby group Be Reasonable Scotland is funded by a network of the fundamentalist Christians, the Sunday Herald can reveal.
One organisation paying for the work of Be Reasonable Scotland is The Christian Institute, based in England, which has also paid for legal action against the Scottish Government over plans for a named person scheme.
The Christian Institute has thrown its considerable financial heft behind blocking a bid to ban smacking in Scotland – hailed by many as a watershed progressive policy.
The institute is “committed to the truths of historic, biblical Christianity”, according to its website.
It believes the Bible was inspired “in its entirety by God’s Spirit through the human authors” and is “without error” including “when it speaks of history and the cosmos”. Christians must submit to the Bible’s “supreme authority”, it states.
The institute also believes Jesus will “raise the dead and bring salvation and judgment to final completion” meaning “evildoers will suffer eternal punishment”.
The Be Reasonable Scotland campaign is also backed by the Family Education Trust, which has campaigned against the named person scheme, the promotion of same sex marriage, sex education and the morning-after pill.
The campaign sprung up north of the Border when Scottish ministers endorsed a bill brought forward by Green MSP John Finnie to remove the defence of justifiable assault which allows parents to use physical punishment to discipline a child.
The public face of the Be Reasonable Scotland campaign, Lowri Turner, 32, is from Wales. Turner claims the pressure group, which began in Wales, is “expanding” to cover Scotland but she was unable to say how many people are involved north of the Border.
She said they turned their attention to Scotland “a couple of weeks ago” and are trying to “get the grass-roots campaign off the ground”. An Edinburgh conference chaired by Turner is planned for December 8.
She said: “At the moment it’s the same sort of team that’s been working with Be Reasonable Wales and we are in discussions with other people about coming on board and helping us and supporting us in different ways, but it’s very much an early stage grass-roots organisation at the moment.”
When asked whether she budget provided by well-financed backers The Christian Institute and the Family Education Trust, she said: “That’s not, kind of, my function in the campaign.
“I’m the, sort of, face and voice. There are other people who deal with it. There’s Tom [Hamilton, former Daily Record and Sunday Mail journalist] who does the PR. There’s other guys who deal with the kind of bigger things like the policy and budgets, that kind of thing.”
However, she did confirm that the campaign in Scotland is being paid for by The Family Education Trust and The Christian Institute. “Yes, yes,” she said. “They are the main supporters behind it.”
A member of the Free Church of England, Turner said: “My connection to the campaign has come through The Christian Institute. I am a Christian. They’re an organisation I’ve supported for some time.”
Turner, who describes smacking as the “best method” of disciplining children, said: “I was smacked when I was a child and although I didn’t enjoy it at the time I look back now and think I’m glad my parents did that. I knew what was right and wrong, what I should and shouldn’t do, and it was for my own good.”
She has a baby daughter and fears parents “will be criminalised” by proposals for a smacking ban, admitting that she plans to smack her child “when she gets to an age that it’s appropriate” – but underlined that she has not yet smacked the infant.
Turner initially refused to discuss the “appropriate” age to smack a child before stating that it would not be appropriate to smack teenagers.
She said: “I imagine at the age of 15 a smack probably wouldn’t be as effective a method.
“The purpose of smacking is to teach a child not to do something again … you shouldn’t have to keep smacking them.” Turner said it would be more appropriate to “ground” teenagers.
When asked the youngest age that a child should be smacked, she admitted “it’s difficult to say because each child and each parent is different”.
She would not be drawn on whether parents should be permit- ted to use implements – such as a belt – to discipline children. “We’re not trying to prescribe an exact method,” she
said. Turner, however, did admit: “I don’t think it’s Chris - tian to hit children.” She went on to make a distinction be-
tween hitting and smacking. I think my Christian beliefs support the view that I can discipline my child using reasonable chastisement,” she added. “I don’t think it’s right for anyone to hit a child.”
John Finnie said: “I think it’s fair to say concerns have been raised with me [about the funding of opponents of the bill].
“The challenge that lies with them is the basis for their objections, which sometimes people would take exception to. I think people are wary of the basis for some of the views that have been expressed.”
Finnie questioned the view that there may be a “theological basis” to arguments against a smacking ban.
He said: “If people would profess there’s a theological basis to this, that’s counter to some of the positions of some of the mainstream religions. I don’t want to get involved in dispute about theological teaching. I’ve been described as a man with no faith. I have great faith in humanity and that appropriate judgments will be made.”
The former police officer also revealed his office has received sinister anonymous phone calls and letters since he began his campaign. Finnie did not name any groups but added: “I’ve certainly had some interesting correspondence sent anonymously to me. My office has received anonymous phone calls from people unwilling to say who they are.”
The Sunday Herald asked Tom Hamilton to reveal the number of people involved in Be Reasonable Scotland and the budget the organisation has been given The Christian Institute and the Family Education Trust.
He said the campaign is “a loose, non-party political alliance of religious and non-religious people from across the philosophical spectrum with the single goal of preserving the current law on smacking” and all funding comes from “UK donors”.
Hamilton said it will be “formally launched” at the Edinburgh conference and criticised the Scottish Government for backing Finnie’s bill which he said is “well out of touch with the views of ordinary mums and dads across Scotland and threatens to ruin the childhoods of children from well-adjusted families”.
The Sunday Herald also contacted The Christian Institute and the Family Education Trust but both organisations said no-one was available to comment.
Be Reasonable Scotland campaign, Lowri Turner, pictured left, is keen to make a distinction between hitting and smacking