Named Persons and Liam Fee

Today, the Scottish Parliament is debating the “Named Persons” legislation.  The BBC is reporting that the governing SNP is “committed” to the legislation.

Last week, two perverse, wicked people were convicted for murdering a two year old boy here in our community.  I’m not going to link to any of the articles on this, because I do not recommend filling your mind with the horrible details published (apparently they can’t publish the worst details).  If you really feel a need to know, use Google for “Liam Fee.”  Avoid the tabloids, the BBC’s coverage is more than enough detail.

Politicising a Tragedy

They’ve run a “trial” of the Named Persons scheme in Fife, and Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, was asked if Liam Fee had a Named Person.  She refused to answer the question, and said people should not politicise tragedy.

The entire Named Persons scheme is a politicisation of a horrible tragedy — some kids are abused and neglected.  Holyrood has seized on that tragedy to push through their political agenda.  Ms Sturgeon’s statement is at best inconsistent and at worst cynical — one can’t help suspect that if Liam Fee had NOT had a Named Person, his tragic death would have been seized upon as a “reason” the scheme was needed.

The Real Question

In any event, whether or not that precious, God-given child had a Named Person is not particularly important.  The child protection authorities knew about Liam Fee and his abusers, whether he had a Named Person or not.  There was more than enough reason to know he was at risk, more than enough grounds to investigate whether crimes were being committed.    Whatever system was in place for identifying the problem, the system for acting on the problem failed.

The question good and decent parents should be asking is this:

“If you lack the resources, integrity, courage, or intelligence to protect known cases like Liam Fee, why are you interfering in the loving parent/child relationship in good families?  Why snoop into my child’s dental records, or keep records of ‘concerning’ items like a two-year-old’s thumb-sucking?  Why should health visitors ask about finances or contraception decisions in good families when you don’t even act in cases where you know something is wrong?

Playing God

The SNP Government needs to stop playing God in the lives of decent people (who obey the law and love their children), and start protecting children who they know are victims of crime.  Parents, and those masquerading as parents, do not have the right to break the law, but those who obey the law should not suffer a meddling government second-guessing every decision they make or snooping into private matters.

Parents do not want to hear Nicola Sturgeon telling them the scheme is “optional” when they know that there WILL be a “Named Person” for their child, and that person will have the authority to pry and to interfere without parental permission.  They do not want to hear John Swinney tell them that the “named person service is for every child — so concerns are picked up early.”

When parents learn what kinds of snooping the Government is authorising, they don’t trust the Government or the “Named Person” to have a proper view of what constitutes a “concern” to be picked up early.  And abusers and murderers like Rachel Treifa and Nyomi Fee show that the real problem in child protection is not “picking up concerns early,” but actually acting on real concerns.

We’ll no doubt be told, once they complete the investigation into how child protection services failed Liam, that they “lacked resources.”  That investigation will proceed at the same time as the Government’s headlong rush to further dissipate resources by starting a huge family-snooping bureaucracy.

Reasonable people will give an elected government considerable latitude in implementing their policies, even if they don’t agree with all of them.  That tolerance disappears rapidly when they feel that government has become a threat to their families.  The SNP Government apparently can’t see that their arguments aren’t working.  The more they talk about this policy, the more opposition in Scotland has increased.  They seem to have decided on this issue that they are going to rule the people, rather than serve the people.

The Real “Named Persons”

Of course, from a Christian perspective, the bigger question is not democratic authority, but the fact that this flies in the face of God’s plan for the family as ordained by Scripture.  The Bible does have “Named Persons” for children:

Proverbs 1:8-9

8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
9 For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.

There are many, many verses that establish the Biblical responsibility of parents to raise and train their children.  Yes, the Bible supports government involvement when parents are injuring their children.  Christians would be among the first to say government should intervene in cases like Liam’s.  But God’s plan for government does not include asserting control when parents are behaving appropriately, or assuming (without evidence) that parents must be monitored because they are presumed to be potential abusers.

Christian parents, who take their responsibility to lovingly care for and train their children, can never support a Government which seeks to interfere, whether the Government claims to have good motivations or not.

Praying for Those in Authority

There is another Scripture that applies to Christians in Scotland as we consider this issue.

I Timothy 2:1-2

1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

We are told to pray for “all that are in authority.”  That includes the politicians debating this issue at Holyrood today.

But note the last half of verse two:  “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”  Those who raise their children in a good, godly, honest way should be able to do so peaceably, without interference from those “that are in authority.”

There is nothing peaceable about someone appointed by the government coming to your home and objecting because your son misses some of his football team’s matches to go to church on Sunday.

I will continue to pray for the SNP Government, but I will also pray that this scheme will be abolished.  If the current government persists in its misguided proposals, I will pray for its replacement by one which does not believe government officials should be control freaks, a government which has the decency and humility to acknowledge there are areas in which it should not interfere.

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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