Catholic bishops in Scotland are urging followers not to vote for candidates who support gay equality, abortion rights and assisted suicide.

A message which will be circulated to all Catholic parishes in Scotland urges voters to “vote with your faith to protect human life; to support marriage and the family; to protect religious freedom; to protect Catholic education”.

The message, titled “Make Your Faith Count!” calls on voters to reject candidates who supported civil partnerships or the ban on Catholic adoption agencies being allowed to reject gay couples.

It says the church cannot tell voters who to vote for but urges them to vote for the candidate who “best represents the values we, like our parents and grandparents before us, hold dear”.

The message said: “The political choices we face today are not the choices your parents and grandparents faced. They would never have voted for any candidate who refused to protect unborn human life, who supported experimentation on human embryos, or planned to assist unfortunate people to commit suicide.

“They would never have voted for a candidate who would undermine marriage and family in the way that has happened in recent years with cross-party support. They would never have voted for candidates who rejoiced in same sex unions. They would never have voted for candidates who would stop the church offering adoption services. They would never have voted for candidates who were clearly hostile to the values they held dear.

“As Catholics we know the importance of protecting every human life and of the value that married family life gives to society. These values were once widely shared but times have changed. Many of those standing for election, of whatever party, do not share our basic principles and values.

“That is why we say to you: when you vote, make your faith count. Vote with your faith to protect human life; to support marriage and the family; to protect religious freedom; to protect Catholic education. Vote with your faith, and uphold the right of conscience and religious freedom.”

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, president of the Bishops’ Conference said: “It is crucially important that apathy is not allowed to win in this election, I hope Catholic voters will make the cross count by quizzing their candidates on the important moral matters which affect us and that they use the resources which the Bishops’ Conference.”

The church has also sent a questionnaire to all candidates asking them their views on religious freedom, the family and whether “alternative relationships” should be considered equal to marriage.