THE HEAD of Scotland’s national art agency has been blasted by religious groups after pushing for new laws to force Catholic and Muslim leaders to allow female priests and mullahs.
Ben Thomson, chair of Creative Scotland, linked the current restriction on leadership positions to sexual grooming, genital mutilation and paedophilia in a submission to the SNP.
He urged politicians to address “the elephant in the room” that is “sexual discrimination in religion” in order for women to obtain fairer treatment in today’s society.
But his views did not go down well with various faith groups who are now calling for him to be sacked for his “derogatory” remarks.
Mr Thomson stated in a submission to the Scottish Government: “We would not tolerate murder, violence, racial discrimination, or sexual abuse in any religious organisation, so why do we not only tolerate, but legislate for, gender discrimination?
“There seems to be a huge focus by politicians and media on the importance of the number of women in cabinet or corporate boards but there is little mention that there are no female Catholic priests or mullahs.
“Most of the religions practised in the UK to some extent discriminate on the basis of gender and it is time we stopped supporting this exemption in our legislation.
He added: “If there had been greater gender diversity in the Catholic church, the extent of paedophilia but those in positions of authority within the church would most likely not have been as widespread.
“The attitude towards women created by a lack of authority of women in Islam can create a culture that it is alright for men to treat women not as equals and use this, to some extent, to justify their actions.
“If we want to assimilate Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and the many other religions into our society then, while accepting and celebrating their differences, they should also accept that there is a set of ethics that include prohibiting gender discrimination that should form the basis of every part of our society, including religion.”
Mr Thomson’s views did not go down well with faith groups who branded his submission as almost “laughable”.
A spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Church said: “Religious life is not a ‘workplace’. To suggest otherwise is to demonstrate a lamentable ignorance of religion and belief.
“To suggest gender diversity is an antidote to child abuse is both offensive and absurd.
“The fact that churches with female clerics have faced bankruptcy over abuse claims tends to undermine such preposterous assertions, but does not diminish their noxious nature.
“To ascribe blame for gender imbalance to two minority groups – Catholics and Muslims in a society which is almost entirely secular – is close to laughable.
“These opinions seriously call into question Mr Thomson’s judgement and cast doubt on his suitability as chair of our national arts body.”
Omar Afzal, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Scotland, said he was “disgusted” by the “derogatory, out of date and unfounded” remarks.
The Scottish Government is currently reviewing their gender equality laws.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Scotland is a forward thinking country with equality at its very heart and we do not tolerate any prejudice in any form.
“The nature of public consultation means we receive a wide range of views from individuals and organisations.”