After a priest was spat at, verbally abused, and lunged at with a pole while an “Orange walk” passed by his parish in Glasgow Saturday, there have been widespread calls to regulate further or to ban outright the Protestant processions.
“Canon Tom White was meeting and greeting parishioners” following the anticipated Mass at St. Alphonsus parish in Glasgow July 7, according to a Facebook post by the Archdiocese of Glasgow.
“An Orange march approached. Police - who had been guarding the church - were called away to deal with another nearby incident … Canon White and parishioners were subjected to vile abuse ... ‘Fenian bastard’ being the most typical.”
The archdiocese reported that “Spittle landed on the back of [Canon White's] head. He wiped it away. Another mouthful of thick spittle was spat into his eye socket. Again he wiped it away leaving his hand full of the vile liquid. He was then further insulted and lunged at by a man carrying a pole before police arrived to restore some kind of order.”
The Glasgow archdiocese asked Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council “What kind of society is it that allows ministers of religion and church goers to be intimidated and attacked by a group which has a long history of fomenting fear and anxiety on city streets?”, and “Why is the Orange Order still allowed to schedule its intimidating parades on streets containing Catholic Churches at times when people are trying to get in and out for Mass?”
Orange walks are organized by the Protestant fraternal group the Orange Order, largely in Northern Ireland and Scotland, to commemorate the defeat of James II by William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
James had been deposed as king of England, Ireland, and Scotland in a 1688 revolution by the Parliament of England after he had expanded toleration of Catholics and Protestant nonconformists in the officially Protestant kingdoms.
According to the Scottish Sun, Glasgow's Orange walk included thousands of marchers, and four arrests were made in connection with the demonstration, though none were related to the attack on Canon White.
Scotland has experienced significant sectarian division since the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century, which led to the formation of the Church of Scotland, an ecclesial community in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition which is the country's largest religious community.
Sectarianism and and crimes motivated by anti-Catholicism have been on the rise in Scotland in recent years.
Police Scotland are investigating the assault on Canon White as a hate crime. A spokeswoman said that “Whilst the parade was passing the church at the time, any involvement, if at all, by someone from the Orange Walk, is still to be established.”
The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland has denied any involvement in the assault.
“We understand that abusive comments were directed at a local Priest from a group of young men who were not part of the parade,” read a statement from the fraternal order. “We can confirm that no members of the parade were involved in this or any of the reported incidents. The Orange Order is founded on the principle of religious liberty and respect for people of all faiths. We totally condemn the bigoted actions of those involved and hope that they are dealt with to the full extent of the law.”
St. Alphonsus parish, along with nearby St. Mary's parish, have issued a statement which welcomed the Orange Order's condemnation of the assault, while adding that “we are distressed and deeply saddened that, in the 21st century, we are unable to exercise our human rights of freedom of association, freedom of assembly and the right to celebrate our faith free from intimidation and violence.”
They asked the Scottish Parliament “to ensure all those exercising their right to religious freedom will be protected by the appropriate statutory authorities.”
A petition calling on the Glasgow City Council to end the Orange walks has garnered more than 70,000 signatures.
The petition at change.org said that now “is the time to have a real debate on how we can stop this outdated and repressive display … They have a long history of spreading anxiety and fear amongst everyday Glaswegians.”
“There is no room in our society for this type of bigotry and division. Sign the petition and call time on the Orange Order marching on our streets!”
A variety of Scottish politicians have condemned the assault on Canon White.
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, tweeted that “behaviour like this — hate crime of and kind — is simply unacceptable, and we will always sonider what more we must do to eradicate it.”
Annie Wells, Member of Scottish Parliament for Glasgow and a member of the Scottish Conservative Party, said that “This was a shocking attack against a respected member of the local community. Police Scotland must move quickly to identify those involved and bring charges.”
Monica Lennon, an MSP of the Scottish Labour Party, lamented that “Anti-Catholic hate crime remains prevalent in Scotland, accounting for 57% of religiously aggravated charges in 2016-17 … Scotland must do better.”
And Caron Lindsay, equalities spokeswoman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said, “No-one in Scotland should feel threatened or intimidated as they go about their daily business.”
An April poll of Catholics in Scotland found that 20 percent reported personally experiencing abuse of prejudice toward their faith; and a government report on religiously-motivated crime in 2016 and 2017 found a concentration of incidents in Glasgow.