Bi­ble thumpers

The Chris­tian fun­da­men­tal­ists be­hind the fight to pre­vent Scot­land’s ban on smack­ing

The Herald on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY PETER SWIN­DON

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

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