Faith Schools Pledge to Broaden R.E. is Diversionary Tactic

The statement by religious leaders that they intend to teach about all religious traditions in “faith schools” is nothing more than a diversionary tactic, says the National Secular Society (NSS).

“The heat is on faith schools at the moment, and this new announcement is merely an effort to counter accusations that single-faith schools are divisive and a menace to social cohesion. The announcement is, in effect, an admission by the churches that they have used these schools as a means of proselytising their particular faith,” said Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the NSS. “Simply devoting a few hours to talking about other religions does nothing to stop the real divisiveness of these schools – which comes from separating children on grounds of religion at an early age, and keeping them separated until they leave school.”

Mr Wood said that two major surveys had indicated that around two thirds of children in secondary schools define themselves as atheist or agnostic*. “With so much emphasis on religion in schools,” he said, “Who is going to help these children understand that it is perfectly OK not to have a religious belief at all? After all, many of them are in faith schools because their parents want it, or because they live in an area where there is no alternative.”

Mr Wood added that the Government’s plans to extend the number of faith schools – particularly minority religious schools – was by far the most dangerous threat to social cohesion. “We shouldn’t be misled by self-interested religious bodies who try to convince us that faith schools are somehow inclusive. If we are to have a truly united society that understands its many cultures, then people need to mix with their peers from all races and religions from an early age. Faith schools increasingly stand in the way of that.”

* (Extract from page 10) and The Fourth R for the Third Millennium – Education in Religion and Values for the Global Future by Ed L J Francis J Astley and M Robins Publ. Lindisfarne Books (2001) for Intnl Seminar on Religious Education and Values Pages 50 – 53: “25% claim to be atheists and 33% claim to be agnostics”