Friday, October 27, 2006

Another victory for bigotry and communalism

Education Secretary Alan Johnson's withdrawal of plans to force religious schools to take 25 per cent non-faith pupils is yet another victory for the increasingly assertive religious lobby in Britain. This time the assault was led the Roman Catholic church, heading up a united front of Muslim and Jewish communalists. It is a victory for bigotry and sectarianism that will inevitably result in increased communal division. How the hell this government, actively promoting sectarian education (aka "faith schools"), thinks it can possibly be a good idea to have still more state schools that promote one particular religion, excluding pupils who do not 'belong' to that religion, when it recognised that an important part of the fight against sectarianism in Northern Ireland was to get rid of such schools, simply defies logic.

However, Johnson's quota scheme was always a half-baked nonsense. Where is the sense in encouraging "faith" schools, only to demand that some children of the faithful must be turned away in order to shoehorn in a quota of unbelievers? It was never clear, either, whether the proposed quota would apply only to "new" (ie: Muslim) faith schools, or all of them.

It was clearly unjust that there should be 6,850 Christian and Jewish state schools, while Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and other religions were denied that right. The answer is obvious: no new state-funded "faith" schools, and the existing ones to be secularised. Faith is no more acceptable a criterion for running or attending a school than race.


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