The National Secular Society is underwriting a funding drive to try and open Lewis
Sports Centre on Sundays.
Families into Sport for Health (FiSH) group launched an internet crowdfunding appeal
after the comhairle voted against testing out seven-day opening of the facility.
The council stresses Sabbath observance is not the reason why councillors voted against
seven day opening.
Councillors said the bid was not feasible due to the lack of staff willing to work
as well as costs, estimated up to £17,000, at a time when council services are under
The National Secular Society (NSS) said the attempt by “religious fundamentalists
on the Western Isles of Scotland to stop families using a swimming pool on the Sabbath
is not the first time the local council... has imposed its religious dogmatism on
the whole community.”
With 24 hours to go it was looking doubtful if the high profile campaign would gather
sufficient support to hit its target £11,400.
The NSS said it intervened and paid the outstanding amount to “ensure success” for
the crowdfunding initiative.
Pauline Matterson of FiSH said: "We are delighted to receive the support of the National
Secular Society who recognise that the FiSH campaign for Sunday opening of ISL [sports
centre] has been persistently thwarted on religious grounds.
"FiSH has worked respectfully within the council's processes and procedures for the
last decade in raising the issue of Sunday opening.
“While FiSH is a health focused, community organisation, the Western Isles has a
history of Sabbath observance, and some councillors have stated that the issue of
Sunday opening is one with religious connotations.”
She added: “Prior to the introduction of the Equality Act in 2010, the local council
stated religion as a reason for the absence of Sunday operations. Recently, it has
stated the reason for not opening is financial.
"FiSH is pleased to help the council overcome their stated financial shortfall. The
1,550 plus members of FiSH and other supporters are hopeful that this financial contribution
will be treated in the same manner as other local groups who were successful in their
request for additional week day hours."
Alistair McBay, the National Secular Society's spokesperson for Scotland, said, "We
are delighted to be able to support these families in the Western Isles and their
“As secularists, we have no objection to Sabbatarians staying indoors on Sunday and
observing the Sabbath according to their custom but they need to understand that
not all islanders share their religious beliefs. The local council now has no option
but to open the leisure facility for the trial year.”
Sports centre Sunday opening internet appeal reaches target