Church leaders have hit back at what they claim is “bigotry” shown to would-be Scottish first minister Kate Forbes, after the SNP leadership hopeful came under fire for her religious beliefs.
The Free Church of Scotland condemned “anti-Christian intolerance” shown to the current Scottish Finance Secretary.
Ms Forbes lost a number of high-profile supporters in the race to succeed Nicola Sturgeon earlier this week after she revealed she would have voted against same-sex marriage if she had been an MSP when the legislation went through Holyrood.
She went on to say that having a child outside of marriage is “wrong” according to her religious beliefs as a member of the Free Church of Scotland.
A number of MSPs and Scottish ministers then withdrew their support for her leadership bid, while Deputy First Minister John Swinney said SNP members would have to make a “judgment about those views and whether they think those views are appropriate for someone to hold if they are leader of the SNP and first minister”.
The row over Ms Forbes’s views has dominated the early days of the leadership campaign.
But a spokesperson for the Free Church of Scotland said it was “concerned at the level of anti-Christian intolerance which has been displayed on social media, and by some political and media commentators”.
They added it was “lamentable that Kate’s honest adherence to simple traditional values would, for some, disqualify her from contributing to the public good of Scotland”.
The statement declared: “Kate Forbes is standing on the basis of her policies – the fact that she is being criticised for her Christian convictions shows a level of bigotry that has no place in a pluralistic and diverse society.”
The Free Church of Scotland confirmed its “historic Biblical position on marriage” that it should only be between a man and woman.
The spokesperson said: “As a nationwide denomination, the Free Church of Scotland is composed of people from all political persuasions, some of whom will not share Kate’s politics, particularly over an independent Scotland.
“Regardless of these differences, Kate is highly respected within the church as a skilful, hard-working and competent MSP.
“Furthermore, she is consistent about what she believes, irrespective of the consequences, a quality which makes for an honest politician.”
The reaction to Ms Forbes’ comments has “displayed a level of intolerance that we believe is uncharacteristic of the wider ordinary Scottish population”, the spokesperson said, adding that this “does not represent authentic Scottish identity which is historically grounded on hard work, common sense, respect, truthfulness and the family”.
Ms Forbes is running against Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and former community safety minister Ash Regan for the leadership.
Mr Yousaf and Ms Regan – who will formally launch her campaign on Friday – have declared their support for same-sex marriage in light of Ms Forbes’ comments.
Ms Regan said she is “proud” same-sex marriage is legal in Scotland, while Mr Yousaf has insisted he would not use his Muslim faith as a basis for legislation.