Secular society challenges Sunday swimming ban

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​Council challenged over shutting public pool on the Sabbath 

21st February 2017 by Robert Armour 4 Comments

For generations Scotland’s Western Isles have strictly forbidden any work or activity on a Sunday – in line with what the fiercely religious islanders say is god’s will.

But now that the unthinkable is being challenged in the capital Stornoway after a charity took on the local council asking for pool access on a Sunday.

Tension has been building after community organisation Families into Sport for Health (FiSH) took on local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES) for Sunday pool access at the sports centre (ISL) last year.

The CnES has continually denied the group’s request but repeated denials have been running thin with each round of pressure from the community.

Now the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) has lent its weight to proceedings in what was formerly a very local issue.

Megan Crawford, chair of the SSS, said, “It is disheartening to watch a community come together for the betterment of their families, only to have their efforts thwarted by elected representatives abusing their powers." 

When FiSH submitted a follow-up request, CnES allegedly changed the circumstances and reported a lack of funding for another day of opening.

However FiSH raised the necessary £11.4k directly from their community - along with donations from the SSS and the National Secular Society - for a 12 month, half day Sunday trial.

When approached with the funding, council leader Angus Campbell denied their request, but saying ISL closed on Sundays “represent the views of the majority of people” in their wards.

With the necessary funds now available, FiSH will be presenting a cheque for £11.4k to the CnES in Stornoway.

Councillors initially denied Sunday access on grounds of religious belief. One councillor responded: “It is a matter of conscience for me as I have to stand up for what I believe in and that is in god.

“Before my election, my personal leaflet distributed to the electorate stated a commitment to uphold Christian values "if elected" and I believe the fourth commandment.

"Remembering the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" is one such value.”

Religious domination has no place in modern society - Megan Crawford

Crawford added: "Stornoway is no stranger to Sabbatarian influences, where parks are still locked shut on Sundays. Religious domination has no place in modern society.

“The SSS has supported FiSH in their most recent efforts, and will continue to do everything we can to help their community flourish.”

A FiSH spokesperson said: "We feel it is necessary to hold a public event for this offering as throughout this campaign there has been public confusion.

"The community saw the crowdfunder as a solution to the stated financial problem as precedent had been set with the swim club.

“We would like the CnES to provide an official and public statement in light of funds now being available as reasons against opening on Sundays have been ever-changing and the process for achieving community engagement ambiguous.”

21st February 2017 by William Douglas

Some years ago, I visited Jerusalem. Not being very well organised, we chose the Arab area to look for a meal on the Friday evening. The next day, we chose the Jewish quarter. on both occasions, we found the restaurants closed.You might think that for the Sunday we would have got the message, but sure enough, ... OK, you are ahead of me.The Jews, the Muslims and the Christians have their holy days and are entitled to have a day of rest.Which day do the Secular Society recommend for their day of rest?Oh! We ate one of the best meals I have ever had in a Japanese restaurant on the Sunday evening.

21st February 2017 by Duncan Lundie

William Douglas, people can rest on any day they like. This is telling people they have to "keep the sabbath" whether they want to or not

22nd February 2017 by RealFreedom

This is respecting the cultural traditions of local communities - the SSS are clearly cultural imperialists determined to impose their anti-democratic will on the less benighted.

22nd February 2017 by Elspeth Nicol

The cultural traditions of a community that raised £11,400 to open the centre on Sundays. I remember Sundays in Skye and Raasay. Unchristian nightmare. Those whose old testament beliefs leads them to wish not to do anything on Sundays, should not have to do so. Those who do wish to be able to engage in leisure activities should also be able to do so.