The Great Debate
The Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, will play host on Friday, 25 October, 2019, to one of the most significant debates in recent years on the role of Christianity in Scottish public life. It will tackle the vital questions of Christianity’s relevance to modern society, the use of Christian principles in medicine, and the Christian understanding of free speech.
The first question is whether Christianity is relevant to modern society. It certainly was so in the past. In the last 200 years the Christian population has increased fifty percent faster than the global population while tremendous economic development, improvement in health and life expectancy, and the global growth of literacy have followed the rapid growth of the church.
Scotland, however has witnessed the precipitous decline in church attendance and profession of Christian faith in recent years. This has been described as one of the most “rapid secularisations in history”. Scotland is today questioning the role of Christianity in public life as never before.
To debate this issue, the audience will hear from Donald Findlay QC, twice Rector of St Andrews University, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Mr Findlay is a noted authority on forensic medicine and science as they related to criminal law, and is a self-professed atheist. Across the floor from him will be Dr Andy Bannister, director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, and an adjunct lecturer at the Wycliffe College at University of Toronto. Dr Bannister also has a PhD in Qur’anic Studies.
Contemporary Western medical ethics have been deeply informed over the centuries by Christian thought and practice, particularly on issues such as the duty of care of the weak and sick, and the sanctity of human life.
Addressing the question of whether Christian principles should be dropped from medicine, the audience will hear from Professor David Galloway, the past president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and Lord Purvis of Tweed, former Scottish Liberal Democrat shadow finance secretary.
Finally, the debate will focus on the ethics of the criminalisation of ‘hate speech’. The Bracadale Report recommends new legislation on hate crime. The debate will consider whether such legislation is incompatible with freedom of speech, and would drive honest discussion of religion out of the civic arena.
To debate whether Christians should support the criminalisation of hate speech the audience will hear from Dr Donald Macaskill, the chief executive of Scottish Care, the membership organisation of independent providers of care homes and care support services in Scotland, and Paul Coleman, a solicitor and executive director of Alliance Defending Freedom International.
The three debates will be chaired by Mona Siddiqui OBE, Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh. Professor Siddiqui is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the American Academy for Arts and Sciences, and regularly appears in the media as a commentator on religious affairs.
“This will be a great opportunity to talk about crucial values of modern society,” said Janys Scott QC, one of the organisers.
The event is sponsored by the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, the Christian Medical Fellowship, and the Christian Dental Fellowship.