Catholic voters urged to focus on family and schools
Members of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland are being urged to ìvote with their conscienceî on May 1 for candidates who defended ìtraditional family valuesî and denominational schools.
The Church insists that its intention is not to tell members which party to vote for but it is clear from the agenda highlighted that Labour, and the Liberal Democrats in particular, could come off worst in the elections to the Scottish Parliament.
In what could be a blow for Labour, which historically draws support from the Catholic community in the west of Scotland, church members are being encouraged to cross-examine candidates on policies that relate to contraception, sex education and drug abuse.
Over the next two weeks a letter from Scotlandís Catholic bishops is being sent to all 477 parishes to ìremind people of their duty to apply their faith in every aspect of lifeî.
Such a technique for putting candidates on the spot has been employed on several occasions by a number of groups such as the Movement for Christian Democracy which has sent suggested questions to churches at the last three general elections.
However their questions have generally been on a broad range of issues from environmental policy to taxation.
The letter from catholic bishops will outline just eight questions for churchgoers to ask candidates before deciding how to vote.
John Deighan, the Churchís parliamentary officer said; ìThe bishops have asked each voter to weigh up the policies and views of the political parties in relation to the teachings of the Church.î
High on the list of priorities is the importance of protecting family life against perceived attempts by the Scottish Executive ìto undermine it and weaken the bonds of marriageî.
On this issue the Church claims that Labour and the Lib Dems have a ìblind spotî and refers obliquely to the abolition of Section 28, which allows for the promotion of homosexuality in schools.
On the issue of Catholic schools, the bishops congratulate three of the parties for their supportive stance, but suggest that the Lib Dems are lukewarm on denominational education.
ìWe see attacks on the Catholic school system as attacks on the Catholic faith itself and urge voters to examine closely the views of their candidates on this issue,î the letter states.
On drug abuse the Church urges voters to back politicians who ìhave not been tempted to soften their approachî.
Mr Deighan said: ìWe are leaving the final decision to the voters but we want them to put candidates under pressure. We want Catholics to think about what values will make society better and then to put them to the politicians and see how they measure up.î