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Dawkins attacks Scottish Church over sacking of referee chief

By on Friday, 3 December 2010

Stewart Regan, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, left, and its president George Peat (Photo: PA)

Stewart Regan, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, left, and its president George Peat (Photo: PA)

Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, has attacked the dismissal of a prominent Scottish football official and four referees over an email containing a joke about the Pope.

The Scottish Football Association fired Hugh Dallas, its director of referee development, and four other employees, over the circulation of an email containing a joke linking the Pope and clerical child abuse, sent from Mr Dallas’s SFA email address.

The decision to sack Mr Dallas followed a call for his dismissal from the head of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, Peter Kearney, but also following controversy over a refereeing decision at Tannadice Park stadium, the home of Dundee United Football Club.

Controversy arose when referee Dougie McDonald was accused of lying over a disallowed penalty at a match at Tannadice last month, which led to a formal warning for Mr McDonald, and the dismissal of assistant referee Steven Craven. Mr Dallas supported the decision by Mr McDonald, as did referees’ union chief Martin Cryans, but accusations of a cover-up have nevertheless persisted.

Prof Dawkins, an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, attacked the decision to dismiss Mr Dallas, saying that it was “craven giving-in to Catholic censorship”, and calling the SFA chief executive Stewart Regan a “coward”.

Prof Dawkins also said of the decision to sack Mr Dallas: “His dismissal was called for by a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland. This nasty little weasel is called Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office.”

The former Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science then exhorted his readers to send the joke contained in the original email to both Mr Kearney and Mr Regan, and gave the work email addresses of both men.

He said: “My suggestion is that we should do our best to make this joke go viral, beginning by sending hundreds of copies of it to these two addresses.

“But there are probably funnier jokes along the same lines, and I would encourage you to send as many as you can find.”

Prof Dawkins’s comments were published in an article on his personal website. Some commentators, writing below the article, criticised his suggestion on the basis of the infamous rivalry between Celtic and Rangers’ football clubs supporters.

Prof Dawkins responded by saying that sectarianism in football “should not lessen our contempt” for Mr Kearney. “Kearney was cynically exploiting Glasgow’s traditional sectarian enmities in order to further his Catholic agenda and ruin a man’s career.

“There is no reason to suppose that Dallas was being sectarian in forwarding the joke. Most plausibly he was as revolted as all decent people are by the Pope’s illegal protection of Catholic child-rapists.”

Prof Dawkins also that Mr Kearney had “a track record of doing this kind of thing”, citing Mr Kearney’s statement in 2008 that the Hokey-Cokey dance was a parody of the Mass and therefore a “faith hate crime”.

Prof Dawkins added: “Perhaps I went too far in describing the action of the Scottish Football Association as cowardly. But if anything I didn’t go far enough in expressing contempt for Peter Kearney”.

Mr Kearney responded to Prof Dawkins’s criticisms by saying that “Dawkins demonstrates again that his intolerance knows no bounds”. The Scottish Football Association has so far refused to comment on the matter.

  • GFFM

    Why does the Catholic press pay such shrift to the likes of Dawkins? He is a Church hater plain and simple. Nothing he says is a surprise. Every story he tells is the same story. The God Delusion is sophomoric in its rantings and no one with an ounce of intellectual depth takes its arguments seriously. My generation has grown up with the ravings of Madalyn Murray O'Hare–who has literally disappeared into the night. What is noticeable in Dawkins' comments here is the name calling and the childish burbling. So I say again, why even cover his ravings?

  • Ratbag

    An empty vessel makes the loudest noise…someone throw Master Dawkins a large dummy…PLEASE!!!

  • The Moz

    I knew that Dawkins was intolerant of opposing views but I had not idea he was also such a bigot. Why would he be promoting intolerance and adding fuel to the fire?

  • scotspape

    Well it was the right thing to do if the lovely Prof Dawkins did nt like it!

  • MH


    'Emeritus' is a polite way of saying 'retired'. Free-thinker with free bus pass. Mortality beckons. Meanwhile, the Pope's visit was organised by the Chancellor of Oxford University, the still professionally active, ex-boss of Prof Dawkins. That's got to hurt!

  • Karmenu of Malta

    Dawkins is free to say whatever he likes. We are free to ignore what he says.

  • Diffal

    I do think that Mr Kearney is a bit over sensitive at times but this rant by Prof Dawkins, while expected, is totally vitriolic and hate filled. they say with age comes wisdom… I 'm told the exception proves the rule .

  • Andyclarag

    The ild Dawker again shows his Goebbels-like smear of the CatholicChurch. As a Scottish Catholic one is very much aware of the strong hold the anti-Catholic culture that prevails in our society. James McMillan called the anti-Catholic bigotry 'Scotland's secret shame'. Now it is no longer such a secret – Dawkins, Dallas and the SFA show this ugly facet of our country 's character.

  • Jamie MacNab

    He is greatly to be pitied.

  • Gregg

    Great. I love imagining Dawkins sat frothing at the mouth every time religion is mentioned. Strange he isn't as vitriolic about Islam though isn't it?

  • Tom Jefferson

    No one with an ounce of intellectual depth believes in invisible sky fairies, either.

  • Toby

    True, which is why it was helpful that we had God incarnate here on earth to help us in our unbelief.

  • Tom Jefferson

    Yes. All praise to Our Noodly Master, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Hard to disbelieve with marinara stuffing our mouths in glorious goodness.


  • Ratbag

    That's because Master Dawkins would cack in his pants at the thought of a fatwa (think Salman Rushdie and the Danish cartoonists) and mujahedeen/ taliban reprisals…

    He would be permanently looking over his shoulder…with that chip firmly on it!


    Yes he is.

  • Rainworthryan


    you are a pratt! We live in a democracy and Jesus is thus entitled to his opinions. You said creationists who denied evolution were equivalent to holocaust denyers. you are a christianity denyer- deluded!

  • Ratbag

    What a pity Master Dawkins does not live in Pakistan. Christians are being persecuted and killed for so-called 'blasphemy' right now. Would he be so brave to mock Islam out there? No. He hasn't got the wotsits, has he?

  • Ratbag

    Do you believe in the Cookie Monster? Coookeeeee!!! Nomnomnomnomnom…..

  • GFFM

    You've learned your clever responses from Dawkins. I am impressed.

  • thomaspoovathinkal

    True Catholics have a sense of humour. They are understanding and discerning. They conquer by Love rather than by revenge and retaliation. They are not ready to get hurt at every turn of an event. For these very reasons malice need to be won over.

  • Kdun1626

    Dawkins sounds off his head – why am I not surprised?

  • Robthydrum

    While I agree with you completely, it's typical of Dawkins to inject himself into something that has absolutely nothing to do with him. Nothing that the church does has ANYTHING to do with him or anyone else that is not part of it, or doesn't want any part of it. Dawkins is a sub-intellectual busybody and should be retired to the dustbin of history where he and his dummy atheist pals belong.

  • Christopher

    This action by Dawkins clearly shows his ignorance regarding the very real problem of sectarianism in certain parts of Scotland. As a cradle Catholic I've enjoyed my share of jokes which involve the pope du jour, but one concerning the pope and child abuse is simply distasteful.

  • Dextrase

    And what about his stand on Judaism? I bet he hasn't got the 'wotsits' there either?

  • xmaseveeve

    Go onto and read all the comments. There’s a search button at the top. As always, several great discissions.