Powys community school children told: trust God, not feelings

Posted: Tue, 2nd Jul 2024

NSS raises concerns about evangelical assemblies and homophobic and sexist views of head teacher's church.

Llanidloes High School

The National Secular Society has given further evidence to a local council of a campaign of evangelism at a Welsh community school.

Videos on the Facebook page of Llanidloes High School in Powys reveal children were evangelised in regular "Scripture Slots" in online assemblies apparently made during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

The school is already being investigated after the NSS uncovered large murals with creationist messages around the school, children being directed to a Bible studies course, and children given Bible references as "help" for issues including abuse and suicide.

The school's head teacher Dan Owen (pictured, right) is an Elder at Newton Evangelical Church, which believes the Bible is the "infallible Word of God", "God created the world in six days" and "unbelievers and all who reject salvation will find themselves in the eternal sorrow and torment of hell".

Parents have told Cambrian News they fear the issue is being "swept under the carpet".

Children told about exorcisms and to thank God for sacrificing Jesus

In one assembly, Owen talks about the "authority" Jesus has over "evil spirits", before cutting to a Sixth Former reading a passage from the Bible about Jesus exorcising people "who had demons in them".

Exorcism beliefs can sometimes contribute to 'spiritual abuse' of children.

In a second assembly, Owen introduces John Price as a "guest speaker" who is a "regular visitor to the school". Price (pictured, left) says the Bible tells us "not to trust in our emotions that can be fickle and that can change every day", but to "trust in God". He then prays for God to "help us to think about what it means to trust in you".

In a third assembly, "guest speaker" Monica O'Day (pictured, centre) tells a story about a man who sacrificed his hands for his brother, and says Jesus "endured much more than just damaged hands" for "our sakes", because he "sacrificed his very self". She concludes: "Thank God for showing us how much he loves us and cares for us and especially for sending his son Jesus for our salvation".

Another video uploaded to the school's Facebook page features Dr Christoph Schultz, a governor at the school and a GP, which features "tips" for pupils' mental health. Dr Schultz says: "I sometimes see my faith as having a premium version of some kind of app that unlocks features that you wouldn't otherwise have access to".

On struggling with anxieties about the future, Dr Schultz advises: "God wants to have these things and deal with them.

"He is much more powerful and much better equipped to do that than you are".

Dr Schultz has apparently evangelised at the school before. In one assembly uploaded on a previous date, Owen mentions that Dr Schultz had said in an assembly the week before that Jesus "had authority over illness itself".

Head teacher's church: homosexuality is "broken sexual desire", women should "submit" to their husbands

The NSS also raised concerns about the homophobic and sexist views expressed on Newton Evangelical Church's website.

The website's "What we believe" section says: "Sexual intimacy between a man and woman who are not married to each other or between two people of the same gender, regardless of any commitment they have made to each other, is sin."

In a sermon entitled "God's Good Design and Homosexuality", Elder Tim Gill says "all homosexual sex is sinful – no exceptions." He says the "sinful choice" of same-sex relationships "will keep you out of Heaven", and describes homosexuality as "broken sexual desire". He also says God "may" change one's sexual orientation to straight – an idea which can underpin 'conversion therapy'.

In another sermon entitled "God's Good Design for the Workplace", former Associate Pastor Lloyd Pritchard says women are "free to exercise and to rule over men in the secular workplace, provided they don't undermine the authority that a man might have at home, or a man might hold in church".

He says: "If you're a woman and you're in a leadership role at work, the way you treat your male subordinates will inevitably affect the way you submit to your husband".

He tells women, "you can make life easier or harder for men by the way you act, speak, and dress".

The NSS told Powys County Council: "It is alarming that the leader of a church which holds such views is attempting to impose his beliefs, including creationism, on the school he leads".

Councillor Pete Roberts, Cabinet Member for a Learning Powys at the council, said in response that local authority officers "are currently in discussion with Welsh Government, the headteacher and Chair of Governors to address concerns raised through the appropriate processes".

NSS: Collective worship law "easily used to turn school assemblies into mission fields"

In a communication to parents and carers last month, Owen defended his evangelism by saying the school is "careful to comply" with the law requiring daily acts of "broadly Christian" collective worship in all state schools in Wales.

The NSS argues this law should be abolished.

NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson called the videos of the school's assemblies "alarming".

She said the videos "reveal the scale of the evangelism that's been happening at this school, often engaging external speakers with a proselytising agenda.

"The disturbing views promoted by the head teacher's church make the issue even more concerning.

"The assemblies also demonstrate that the law requiring Welsh schools to hold daily acts of collective worship is easily used to turn school assemblies into mission fields.

"The government must now look to remove the archaic collective worship law. The majority of people in Wales are not religious: imposing worship on children in such an irreligious and diverse society is illiberal and increasingly unjustifiable."

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Tags: Collective worship, LGBT, School evangelism, Women