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July 20, 2009

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Island's sacred Sunday threatened

AN unholy row has broken out over a ferry company's decision to sail yesterday between a remote Scottish island and the mainland.

Residents on the Isle of Lewis who keep a strict Sabbath - no television, no housework, no shopping - are angry that the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry company is to start running services between Stornoway, the island's capital, and Ullapool on the Scottish mainland.

The company, known as CalMac, says it has no choice because not to run the service would potentially put it in breach of European laws on equality. Presbyterian residents on the predominantly Gaelic-speaking island say the service is threatening both their faith and their lifestyle.

"This is an affront to the wishes and religious beliefs of the people of the island and CalMac has run roughshod over us," said John Roberts, spokesman for the Lord's Day Observance Society.

"The Sunday ferry service is a direct threat to this way of life which stands for Christian beliefs, the Bible and the word of God. We'll end up with Sundays like they are in the rest of the UK or the US where it is just, go to church on Sunday morning and the rest of the day is yours."

That's not what Sundays on the island, part of the Hebrides archipelago about 400 kilometers northwest of Edinburgh, are for. The majority of the 18,000 islanders strictly adhere to the books of Genesis and Exodus from the Old Testament, in which God declared the seventh day reserved for rest and worship. So after church services, they don't use electricity, play games, shop or even hang out laundry to dry.

The fight to prevent the ferry from docking in Stornoway dates back decades. In 1965, Reverend Angus Smith - a retired Free Church of Scotland minister - lay down on a pier to block a ferry from trying to dock on a Sunday.


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