Pagan Discrimination Survey Initial Results
By Steffy VonScott, March 2021
I would like to report to you about the Pagan Discrimination Survey in Scotland which took place in 2020. We have recently carried out an initial review of some of the preliminary responses to our first Pagan Discrimination Survey, and we feel deeply saddened to have to report to you that they are harrowing to read.
We have received over 500 responses so far to our surveys (four surveys in total), and from the figures received we can confirm that in Scotland:
- Over 40% (41.46%) of respondents, members of the Pagan Faith Community, stated they had been directly discriminated against because they are Pagans.
- Over 60% (63.24%) of respondents know friends in the Pagan Faith Community who have suffered direct discrimination because of their faith.
- Over 40% (40.86%) of respondents have felt anxious or depressed because of other people’s attitudes towards their faith.
- Over 50% (50.67%) of respondents said they due to people’s comments on their faith, they have been made to feel ashamed.
- Over 40% (44.74%) of respondents fear their children would be bullied or harassed if their children’s schools knew the family were Pagans.
- Almost 40% (39.3%) would be less likely to report incidents of discrimination in the workplace because they are a Pagan and feel they would not be taken seriously.
- Over 60% (66.67%) of respondents have had members of other faith communities try to convert them.
- Over 70% (74.62%) of respondents have been told they “Worship the devil”.
- Over 60% (66.15%) of respondents have been told they will go to Hell because of their faith.
- Over 90% (90.73%) of respondents feel that Paganism is treated less seriously than other faith traditions / religions / belief systems.
- Over 90% (96.60%) of respondents believe that Paganism should be taught in Non-denominational Schools to help reduce discrimination.
On the more positive side, almost 50% of our community are 'out as Pagans’. However, going by initial comments received, we are now concerned that if the other 50% were out, that the percentage of abuse being faced by Pagans in our society could be higher. We think we can all agree that this level of abuse is not acceptable in modern Scotland.
We were also deeply shocked and saddened at the number of complaints coming in from High School students. Some have not only suffered bullying and harassment from fellow students but have also reported that teachers have actually allowed this to happen; in some cases, teachers have actually joined in, particularly in a Religious Education setting. The SPF cannot and will not allow this to continue, and we will be taking urgent action once all the findings are published.
Following on from this, we can confirm that we have formally written to the Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon asking for her help in tackling these issues. We have also formally written to the Scottish Minister for Justice Humza Yousaf MSP, Secretary for Education and Skills John Swinney MSP, Minister for Community Safety Ash Denham MSP, Minister for Further Education Richard Lochhead, Freedom of Religion or Belief Cross Party Group Conveyor John Mason MSP, and the Head of Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone QPC, asking them all for their urgent action.
We have also written a formal request to the Director of Interfaith Scotland, Executive Director of Edinburgh Interfaith Association, and the Chief Executive Officer of Interfaith Glasgow urging their help and support. We have had initial responses recently from the Scottish Government. We aim to work with them hand-in-hand, towards a solution and strengthening Pagan rights and recognition.
For too long Pagans have been an ‘invisible faith community’ in Scotland. Too many of us have no choice but to simply live with the prejudice we face on a regular basis, as if it is something we just have to keep silent about and tolerate as part of everyday life; the cost for ‘practicing our faith’. This position is not acceptable, nor should it be. Discrimination and prejudice should never be tolerated. We have a long journey ahead of us, but we take these first steps on that path together. We thank you for your strength, support, and your membership. Without that, these advances would not be possible.
Steffy Von Scott is the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Pagan Federation.