BY DAN FRANK
THE LEADER of Scotland’s Catholics has called for a boycott of the National Lottery in protest at its funding of charities that help women to have abortions.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien accused the lottery of a “blatant misuse of funds” for giving £3.3 million to two organisations that offer advice on contraception to young people and refer pregnant women to abortion clinics.
The lottery has made 17 awards to Brook Advisory Centres, totalling £1.7 million, and eight awards to the Family Planning Association worth £1.6 million.
Cardinal O’Brien, the archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said: “I remain concerned at what I believe to be a blatant misuse of funds given in good faith by members of the public who hope to buy a winning lottery ticket but equally want to give to good causes.” “I am quite staggered at the volume of funds provided to these agencies, which is in stark contrast to the lack of support for organisations offering alternative approaches,” he said.
He also claimed that Christian agencies that encourage pregnant women to keep their babies have been discriminated against by the lottery.
“I am at a loss to understand the criteria used by the National Lottery when determining whether or not to give such vast sums of money to agencies which have such lamentable track records. At the same time, I know of Christian agencies excluded from the funding process because their religious ethos marks them out as non–inclusive organisations,” the Cardinal said.
He argued that it was a “single incontrovertible fact” that the current approach to sexual health and education was a failure, citing rising abortion and sexually transmitted disease rates among young people.
“Yet we continue to fund, on an enormous scale, the very work which has so demonstrably failed,” he said.
Asking Catholics to boycott the lottery, Cardinal O’Brien said: “I would urge anyone concerned with the sexual health of future generations to think very carefully before supporting the National Lottery, at least until they provide an assurance of funding parity in their grant-making process.” A spokeswoman for the Big Lottery Fund, which distributes much of the money raised through ticket sales, said: “We are open to everyone who wants to apply for lottery funding and we respect the right of individuals to decide whether or not they purchase lottery tickets or apply for lottery grants.
“Information on grants is publicly available, which allows people to make a informed choice.” Another spokeswoman explained that pro-life pregnancy advisory groups would not be eligible for lottery grants because they did not offer abortion advice.