Why SNP leader hopeful’s religion is being scutinized

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon walks to the chamber with Kate Forbes MSP Minister for Public Finance in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain February 6, 2020. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

Nicola Sturgeon (R), Scotland’s first minister, with Kate Forbes. Forbes has made it clear that she will be seeking to replace Sturgeon in the role of Scotland’s first Minister. (Reuters)

The race to replace Nicola Sturgeon As Scotland’s first minister, things are heating up. Kate Forbes This is the latest MSP who has thrown her hat in the ring.

Forbes returned early Monday morning from maternity leave to announce her bid to lead the SNP. She described herself as “unifier” and said in her campaign video that “strong, competent leadership” was what she could offer.

She is the third to be interviewed. announce their candidacyTogether with Humza Yousaf (Scottish health secretary) and Ash Regan (previously held the position of community safety minister), Regan resigned her post as minister over the Gender Recognition Bill, which was backed by Sturgeon.

John Swinney, the deputy first minister, and Angus Robertson (ex-SNP Westminster leader) are among those who have ruled them out.

Forbes’ announcement was questioned over whether her membership of The Free Church of Scotland would influence her agenda. The Guardian, The National The New Statesman One of the many who shared concerns was her religious beliefs and how they impact her views on abortion and same-sex marriage.

What is the “Wee Free” church?

23rd May 1843:  'The Disruption of the Church of Scotland' by David Octavius Hill.  In May 1843, 474 ministers (out of 1200 practising) signed a Deed of Demission to create the Free Church after prolonged debates about the Church's liability to the operations of statute law and judgments of the courts. The painting, based on a photographic montage, depicts nearly 200 persons and is approximately five square yards in size.  (Photo by David Octavius Hill/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

474 ministers signed a Deed to Demission in May 1843 to establish the Free Church (Getty Images).

Forbes is a member of The Free Church of Scotland (the FSC), also known as the Wee Frees, which is well-known for its conservative views regarding gay marriage and reproductive freedom. According to the evangelical Calvinist church, “everything, from our worship patterns to our church structures, seeks to reflect clear Biblical doctrine.”

According to the church’s website there are approximately 100 FSC congregations in Scotland with around 13,000 residents of Scotland worshipping with the Wee Frees.

FSC members are encouraged to actively participate in the spreading of the gospel throughout Scotland and the wider globe, which is a departure from many other churches.

The self-described modern gospel church has not been afraid to share its views on gay marriage and abortion. In 2015, reverend David Robertson (FSC moderator) compared abortion to slavery.

“Today we look with horror at how “civilised” society could acquiesce in and support the evil of slavery,” he said. “In the future I believe that we will be horrified at how society, despite increasing scientific knowledge about the condition of the baby in the womb and the evils of abortion, has done.”

Robertson was elected after the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to expand its definition of marriage and include same-sex couples. wrote in an op-ed The decision should be “mourned”.

“I have discussed many times the biblical position on marriage – summed up simply in the teaching of Jesus that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. To turn from this teaching is something to be mourned by those who claim to be his followers and not celebrated.

Politics and religion

Forbes is not the only SNP politician who has joined the FSC. Most notable, Forbes is not the first SNP politician to join FSC. SNP’s former Westminster leader Ian Blackford He was a member the Wee Frees.

The church however, called his membership into question after he voted to support same sex marriage and reproductive freedoms in Northern Ireland in 2019.

Leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons Ian Blackford speaks during a Prime Minister's Questions session at the House of Commons, in London, Britain, March 16, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. IMAGE MUST NOT BE ALTERED.

Ian Blackford, a former leader of the SNP in House of Commons, was censured by the FSC for his voting record. (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via Reuters)

At the time, the FSC suggested it considered fining Blackford over his vote, with former moderator Robertson suggesting Blackford was “putting forward an elitist ‘progressivist’ agenda which will be the death of Scotland”, adding: “You have put us, at best, on the road to nowhere, at worst it is a highway to Hell”.

Blackford’s church finally requested a private meeting to discuss his stance. He publicly defended it.

Although it is unclear how much her religious beliefs would inform any future leadership position, Forbes’ status as a religious politician saw her comment at a prayer breakfast in 2018 that a “measure of true progress” is how unborn children are treated.

She was also one of the SNP politicians who requested a delay in voting on Scotland’s future. Gender Recognition BillSome LGBT+ party members and their allies raised questions about her plans to tackle these issues in light of her announcement to run for the leader.

Forbes has previously defended any potential conflict between her faith and her politics, saying: “I make my own decisions on the basis of what decision is right and wrong, according to my faith, not according to the diktat of any church.”

The National reports that Forbes does not adhere to the “Westminster Confession” of her church, which is an ultra-strict doctrine that, among other things, calls the Roman Catholic Pope “the Anti-Christ”.

Scotland's Finance Secretary Kate Forbes presents the 2022 Scottish Budget at Scottish Parliament Building, in Edinburgh, Britain December 9, 2021.  Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS

Kate Forbes presents the 2022 Scottish Budget. (Reuters)

Forbes’ family background

Forbes, 32 years old, has served as an MSP in Skye, Lochaber, and Badenoch from 2016, and was reelected to that post in May 2021. He also held the position of Cabinet Secretary Finance and Economy.

Her campaign for election highlighted the gender gap in Highlands pay, and she later led the charge to emphasize the importance of Gaelic language.

Forbes is a graduate of Edinburgh and Cambridge Universities. Forbes was the first woman to deliver the budget for Scotland in 2020, after the former finance secretary. Derek MacKay resigned.

Less than two weeks after her successful handling of the budget, she took over MacKay’s role, and later became the first woman in the Scottish Parliament to go on maternity leave — returning earlier than expected to announce her bid for party leader.

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