6 Personal Experiences of Religious Discrimination or Exclusion
- 14% of people in Scotland say they have experienced some form of religious discrimination or exclusion at some point in their lives. This includes 5% who did not attend or were not invited to a social event, 5% who believe they were refused a job or promotion and 7% who say they have been harassed or threatened because of their religious beliefs or background.
- Catholics were more likely to say they had experienced some form of discrimination or exclusion based on their religion than were Protestants.
- Catholics who described themselves as 'very' or 'fairly' religious were more likely to say they had experienced job discrimination or exclusion from social events than were Catholics who felt less strongly religious.
- Fans of Celtic football club, those with family connections to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and those living in the West of Scotland were all more likely to say they had experienced various forms of discrimination at some point in their lives.
- More people aged 18-24 than those aged 65 and over said they had experienced harassment or threats at some point in their lives.
- A minority (14%) has ever thought twice about revealing their religion or lack of it to others.
- Those more likely to have thought twice about whether to tell others about their religion (or lack of it) included 18-24 year olds, men, people with family connections with Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland and those who agree that religion is an important part of their identity.
- Out of all religious groups, Protestants were the least likely to have doubts about telling others about their religion (6% compared with 11-26% for other groups).
Experiences of religious discrimination in Scotland
6.1 The previous chapters have explored people's perceptions of the levels of prejudice and of specific forms of discrimination against Catholics and Protestants. This chapter moves on from perceptions of prejudice against others to explore people's own personal experiences of religious discrimination and exclusion.
6.2 SSA 2014 asked respondents whether any of the following situations had ever happened to them because of other people's attitudes towards their religious beliefs or religious background:
- Not attended or not been invited to social events (such as weddings, going but with friends, or children's school-based activities),
- Been refused a job, overlooked for promotion or treated unfairly at work,
- Been harassed or threatened, or
- None of these.
6.3 5% of all respondents said that they had not attended or been invited to social events because of their religion or lack of it, 5% had been refused a job or overlooked for promotion because of their beliefs, and 7% said they had been harassed or threatened. Overall, 14% of all respondents said they had experienced one or more of these kinds of religious discrimination or exclusion.
6.4 Even though the prevalence of religious discrimination or exclusion reported above is relatively low, it is nonetheless higher than that found in other Scotland-wide surveys. However, this is likely to be a result of differences in the time frames different surveys ask about, as well as differences in the precise kind of discriminatory behaviour covered. For example the Scottish Crime survey asked about the incidence of crime in the last 12 months and found that, overall, 10% of people had been insulted, pestered or intimidated in that period. Of this 10%, only 3% said it was because of sectarianism and 3% because of their religion (Scottish Government, 2014). Similarly, the Scottish Household Survey asked about experience of discrimination or harassment in the last 3 years and found that 7% had been discriminated against and 6% harassed (Scottish Government, 2014). Again only a fraction of these were attributed to sectarian or religious reasons. However, the much longer time-frame asked about by SSA appears to identify more widespread historic experiences of historic religious discrimination or exclusion in Scotland.
Who is more likely to say that they have experienced discrimination?
6.5 Out of all religious groups it was Catholics who were most likely to say they had been refused a job or promotion (14% compared with 1-5% for other groups) and experienced harassment or threats (15% compared with 2-10% for other groups) because of their religious beliefs. This suggests that the general perception (reported in Chapter 3) that Catholics are more likely to experience such discrimination has some basis in reality (at least historically - we cannot infer from responses to this question how recent such experiences are). Interestingly, people who described themselves as Christian but not Catholic or Protestant were more likely than Protestants to say they had experienced harassment (Table 6.1).
6.6 Catholics who feel more strongly religious are particularly likely to say they have experienced discrimination - nearly 1 in 5 Catholics who say they are 'very' or 'fairly' religious said they had experienced job discrimination at some point in their lives, compared with 7% of those Catholics who said they were 'not very' or 'not at all' religious. More religious Catholics were also more likely to say that they had not been invited to or attended social events because of their religion (10% compared with 5% for less religious Catholics). However, people's strength of religious feeling did not make a different to their reported experience of harassment or threatening behaviour - both more religious and less religious Catholics were equally likely to say they had been threatened or harassed at some point in their lives (14-15%).
|% Not been invited or not attended social events||% Been refused a job or promotion||% Been harassed or threatened||Sample size|
|More religious* Protestants||5||4||2||230|
|Less religious* Protestants||3||3||2||289|
|More religious Catholics||10||19||14||120|
|Less religious Catholics||5||7||15||79|
|More religious other Christians||6||8||10||105|
|Less religious other Christians||3||3||10||145|
* 'More religious' includes those who said they considered themselves to be 'very' or 'fairly' religious, while 'less religious' includes those who said they were 'not very' or 'not at all' religious
Given the strong links between Celtic football club and Catholicism, it is not surprising that fans of this football club were more likely to say they had personal experiences of sectarianism. However, even after this link is taken into account,  fans of Celtic are significantly more likely than fans of other clubs or none to say they have experienced sectarianism. 16% of Celtic fans have experienced job discrimination, compared with only 2% of Rangers fans and 3% of those who support other Scottish clubs. Celtic fans were also more likely to say they had been excluded from social events because of their religious beliefs than were fans of Rangers (8% compared with 3%). 22% of Celtic supporters compared with 4-8% for supporters of other teams said they had experienced harassment or threats at some point in their lives because of their religious beliefs or background.
Sample sizes: Rangers=160, Celtic=154, Other club=872, Other club =237, No club= 872
6.7 Other groups who were more likely to say they had experienced harassment and threats include: those with family connections to Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland (14% compared with 5% of those without such connections); those in the West of Scotland (11%, compared with 4% in the rest of the country). Those in the oldest age group were least likely to say they had ever experienced harassment or threats relating to their religion (1% of those aged 65 and older, compared with 8% of 25-64 year-olds, and 11% of 18-24 year-olds). Given that the questions ask about lifetime experience of harassment or threats, it is perhaps surprising that younger age groups were more likely to say they had experienced this (since they have had less time in which to experience such behaviour). Perhaps one explanation of this (suggested by the previous chapter) is that younger people are less accepting of sectarian language which may not be viewed as 'harassment' or even as 'sectarian' by some members of older generations.
6.8 Job discrimination was a more common experience among those from the West of Scotland (8%, compared with 3% for other regions) and for those with family connections to Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland (9% vs 3%).
Do people think twice about revealing their religion (or lack of it) to others?
6.9 The discussion above focuses on direct experiences of religious discrimination and exclusion. However, experiences of exclusion can also be more subtle and may reflect self-imposed exclusionary behaviour based on concerns about the responses of others. Such behaviour is arguably an indication that people still censor themselves as a result of perceived religious division and discrimination, whether or not such division or discrimination actually exists. SSA 2014 tried to address this more subtle form of religious difference by asking:
Have you ever thought twice about telling someone you are a (RELIGION)/have no religious beliefs because of concern about what they might think?
6.10 Only a minority of people said they had ever thought twice about telling others about their religion or lack of it - 3% said they had done it often, 11% occasionally.
6.11 Regression analysis shows that some groups are more likely than others to think twice about telling others about their religion. In particular:
- Catholics and those with no religious beliefs were significantly more likely to think twice about sharing their religious views with others (27% of Catholics and 15% of those with no religion compared with 6% for Protestants)
- 18-24 year olds were more likely than those in other age groups to think twice about telling someone about their religion (28% of 18-24 year olds compared with 8-15% for older age groups)
- Men were more likely than women to think twice about telling someone about their religion or lack of religious beliefs (17% of men compared with 11% of women)
- Those who agreed or strongly agreed that their religion or lack of religious belief is an important part of their identity were more likely to have had second thoughts about revealing their beliefs than those who did not feel religion was important to their identity (18% of those who agreed/agreed strongly compared with 9% who disagreed)
- People with family connections to Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland were more likely to have thought twice about telling someone about their religion than were those with no relatives in Ireland (22% compared with 11%).
There were no significant differences by region, area deprivation, education, church attendance, football support, or the nature of people's social connections with Catholics and Protestants.
Email: Linzie Liddell