Thursday, 4 July 2013

Say no to the Church of England's grab for schools!

With the world's attention currently focused on the divisions between modernisers and secularists against the encroachment or imposition of "conservative Islamist" values in Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt, I was surprised to see the announcement that the Church of England was to  expand it's role in British education.

The Times reports:

Thousands of secular state schools could be run by the Church of England after the Government agreed  a deal to expand its role in education.

Bishops will be given the power to appoint governors at the schools in a change to academies policy negotiated by church leaders.

The Church will be legally obliged to preserve the character of non-faith schools but the decision provoked outrage among secular groups.

Hardly a surprise in this day and age I would opine.  Western and especially British society has been headed in a secular direction which up until now has only been interrupted by the rise of militant Islam. While the Church of England has been a part of the state, with the Queen at it's head and a handful of Bishops taking seats in the House of Lords, such religious intrusiveness had been on a back foot.

The National Secular Society has issued a statement:

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: "The Church of England is rapidly changing its focus from its primary purpose — church worship — which has failed spectacularly with empty pews all over the country, to getting its message out in schools.
"Schools are the perfect platform for proselytising because children are bound by law to be there. Once inside a religious school, the law allows the Churches to teach children whatever it wants about religion and in any way it wants. The Church of England has made clear it intends to make its religious education far more evangelical in nature.
"This is not what schools are for, and yet Michael Gove blithely hands our nation's children over to religious interests so that they can be subjected to religious propaganda day after day. And what could be less appropriate in a society where Christian worship and belief has been rapidly declining for decades? The non-religious and religiously unconcerned majority are being betrayed by this Government, which is obsessed with "faith"."
The Times also tells us that Michael Gove backed the expansion and he "valued sending his children to a church school. Meanwhile Bishop Pritchard ominously says that this will "enhance the educational experience of millions of children. Yeah right.

The British Humanist Association takes up the fight with Mr Gove:

This is potentially at odds with Mr Gove’s previous statement that ‘I do not believe that the Government’s policy of promoting autonomy, encouraging schools to convert to Academy status and establishing new Free Schools and Academies will alter the balance between faith and non-faith schools in this country.’ However it fits in with the Church’s previously announced expansion plans, with the previous Archbishop of Canterbury having declared that because of the Academies programme, ‘We are looking at the middle-term future, where the Church of England will be quite conceivably the largest sponsor and provider of secondary education in this country, which is a rather startling and breathtaking proposal.’

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘We are deeply concerned to hear it reported that the Church of England is to be able to take control of schools without a religious character, incorporate them into their Academy chains and appoint governors. While it is reported that there will be safeguards to stop religious discrimination in admissions, employment or teaching, it is hard to see how these safeguards would be great enough to offset the Church having control of a school’s governance.

‘Already the Academies programme is allowing the Church to extend its influence over other schools in ways never previously possible and it is vital to social cohesion that these new avenues are not extended even further.’

We need to set an example to the rest of the world by extending secularism by saying no to these nefarious proposals and go further. The time has come for the disestablishment of the Church and State. 

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