Newsletters from 2018

Coventry & Warwickshire Humanist

Issued by Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists

4 Collett Walk, Barrowfield Lane, Kenilworth CV8 1GZ

Website: cwhumanists.org Twitter: @CWHums

FB and Newsletter Editor: Derek Franklin

Tel: 01926 258413

Email: cwhumanists@gmail.com

A self-governing voluntary association affiliated to the International Humanist and Ethical Union [IHEU] and to the National Secular Society [NSS].

freedom / happiness / virtue
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April 2018

Humanists UK’s exposé on illegal faith schools.

Over the last few years, we have led the national campaign demanding greater action against illegal religious schools. Working closely with former pupils of these schools, we have forced the authorities to pay attention to their appalling experience of indoctrination, isolation, and abuse.

As a direct result of our work, Ofsted now has a dedicated team of inspectors investigating illegal schools. Hackney Council – where thousands of children are trapped in such settings – have held a public inquiry, taking forward all the recommendations we made to them. But for these schools to be shut down, we believe the Government needs to change the law – which it is currently opposed to doing.

In recent weeks, we have been working with the BBC on an in-depth investigation on illegal religious schools.

We’ve passed on information from our whistleblowers to reporters about the whereabouts of illegal schools and the experience of pupils within them, and we’ve exclusively revealed to the BBC the historic inaction of the Department for Education in tackling the issue.

Humanists UK is the only organisation actively speaking up for the thousands of children trapped within illegal religious schools, and their stories must be known.

Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy, Humanists UK

NSS criticises admissions policies that push parents into church

The National Secular Society has criticised policies that require parents to attend church to get their children in to local schools after a poll showed public disapproval of ‘cheating’ the system.

A YouGov survey revealed that 56% of people in the UK believe it is ‘unacceptable’ for parents to attend a church in order to get their child into a faith school. Only 22% think it is ‘acceptable’.

Those most likely to find the practice ‘unacceptable’ are the elderly, with 70% of those over 65 disapproving compared with 18% finding it ‘acceptable’.

In contrast, only 37% of people aged 18-25 think it was wrong. Twenty-four per cent said it was acceptable and 39% said they didn’t know.

Conservative and UKIP voters were slightly more likely to condemn the practice than others.

The figures are a blow to government plans to allow new faith schools to select 100% of their pupils based on the religion of the parents.

In 2013 the Sutton Trust found six per cent of all parents with a child at a state school admitted to attending church services specifically to get their child into a faith school, with wealthier families more likely to do this.

Most parents do not consider religious instruction to be a priority when selecting a school for their children. In 2013 a YouGov survey found that 70% would choose a school on the basis of its academic standard; 23% would choose on the basis of ethical standards; five per cent would choose on the basis of giving a ‘grounding in faith tradition’; and only three per cent for ‘transmission of belief about God’.

The NSS is campaigning to end faith-based discrimination at state schools, where surveys show that the majority of the public oppose faith-based selection. According to a survey by Populus, 72% of voters oppose state faith schools being allowed to discriminate against pupils on religious grounds in their admissions policy, including 68% of Christians.

Alastair Lichten, the NSS’s education and schools officer, said: “No parent should be pushed into a church simply to get access to their local schools. We see a lot of this in our casework and need to empathise with those who feel pushed into this position.

“That more affluent families are more likely to do this helps explain the social and economic discrimination which comes along with religious discrimination in school admissions. At every turn, faith based admissions simply create confusion, consternation and inequity.”

Faith Schools

I support the National Secular Society’s campaign to end the segregation and discrimination in our state schools. The idea that we should be segregating children based on the religious beliefs of their parents is wrong, outdated and damaging to our society. It is extraordinary that, in 21st century Britain, we should allow taxpayers’ money to be spent on state schools that discriminate against children based, not on their ability or need or where they live, but simply on their parents’ religious beliefs. While many parents believe faith schools are better than other schools, the evidence is clear that this is simply not true. Only faith schools that use faith as a way to select more academic pupils by the back door get better results. Faith schools serve no purpose other than to divide our children and our communities and they should be consigned to the rubbish bin of history.

Julia Hartley Brewer, Broadcaster and journalist.

Ireland plans to end religious discrimination in school admissions

The National Secular Society has called on the Department for Education to “follow the lead” of Irish ministers who are preparing to end a rule which encourages faith-based school admissions.

According to Monday’s Belfast Telegraph, the Irish government’s plans to lift the so called ‘baptism barrier’ are “at an advanced stage”. The barrier allows church-run schools to prioritise pupils for admissions based on the faith they have been baptised into.

The Department of Education in Dublin told the paper that minister Richard Bruton is expecting to announce proposals to carry out the plan shortly.

Churches run approximately 96% of Ireland’s primary schools and 50% of its secondaries. The Catholic Church runs around 90% of the country’s primary schools. The schools have legal protection for the ‘baptism barrier’ under Ireland’s Equal Status Act, which the government is now expected to change.

Bruton has previously said the admissions rules are unfair and put some parents “under pressure to baptise their children in order to gain admission to their local school”.

Catholic interest groups are expected to oppose the measure vociferously. A report in The Irish Times in January suggested several were prepared to take cases to court if the government tried to alter the current rule.

The news comes as ministers in England prepare to lift the cap on faith-based admissions to new faith schools. In February Damian Hinds, the education secretary, told The Sunday Times he would abolish the current rule that new faith schools must admit no more than 50% of children on the basis of their parents’ religion.

The NSS is campaigning against that change, and education and schools officer Alastair Lichten said Ireland’s stance should prompt a rethink.

“It’s incredible that the Irish education minister is looking to remove a faith-based barrier to school admissions just as the secretary of state for education in England seeks to erect more of them.

“The Irish are well placed to recognise the harm and injustice of divided and sectarian schooling. England’s DfE would do well to follow their lead and seek a move towards an inclusive education system where children are schooled together, irrespective of their parents’ religious outlook.”

Ireland’s government is also planning to ask parents to decide who should run Catholic primary schools. The move could mean a number of those schools being handed over to multi-denominational patrons.

Earlier this year the Irish government announced that schools would be expected to offer alternatives to religious instruction, which has tended to be dominated by Christian doctrine.

Last year Ireland indicated its willingness to tackle the Catholic Church’s control of hospitals when the minister of health said there would be “no religious involvement” in a new publicly-funded national maternity hospital.

The country is also due to hold referenda this year on repealing its blasphemy law and eighth amendment, which outlaws abortion in almost all cases.

Abner Kneeland

In APRIL, 1774, Abner Kneeland was born in Massachusetts to a Congregationalist family.

As a founding member of the Universalists, Kneeland served as a Universalist minister from 1804 to 1829. When freethinker Frances Wright embarked on her famous lecture tour, becoming the first woman to speak in public in the United States, New York City halls were closed to her. (Another fine example of Christian love)

Kneeland invited her to speak from the pulpit of his Second Universalist Society in New York City in 1829, consequently lost his position and was later dis-fellowshipped by the church.

Kneeland’s lectures against Christianity in August 1829 were published as “A Review of the Evidences of Christianity.” Kneeland founded a group of freethinking New Yorkers, which met in Tammany Hall for a decade. Kneeland’s Rationalism of the Enlightenment made him a leading proponent of universal public education & the Workingmen Party.

Moving to Boston in 1830, Kneeland founded the Boston Investigator, the oldest 19th-century freethought newspaper in the United States. His Sunday lectures to the First Society of Free Enquirers attracted hundreds, as well as the attention of influential critics.

Kneeland was charged with blasphemy in 1834 for saying he did not believe in God, undergoing three trials. The prosecuting attorney for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts told the jury that if Kneeland was not punished, “marriages [will be] dissolved, prostitution made easy and safe, moral and religious restraints removed, property invaded, and the foundations of society broken up, and property made common.”

His appeal to the state Supreme Court concluded with a split verdict of guilty in1838. Kneeland, despite the intervention of prominent Americans, served a 60-day sentence.

Kneeland moved to the Iowa territory, co-founding a freethinking settlement known as Salubria (near present-day Farmington) and becoming chair of the Van Buren County Democratic convention in 1842.

An anti-infidel opposition party burned Kneeland in effigy and defeated his ticket, which was known by missionaries as “Kneelandism.” His versatile writings included a popular spelling reader, an annotated New Testament, an edition of Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, and the 2-volume The Deist (1829).

Kneeland, who died in 1844, wrote in a letter to Universalist editor Thomas Whittemore: “Universalists believe in a god which I do not; but believe that their god, with all his moral attributes, (aside from nature itself,) is nothing more than a chimera of their own imagination.”

The letter was published on December 20, 1833 in the Investigator, and this led to him being tried and convicted of blasphemy.

Source: Freedom From Religion Foundation

March 2018

The “Humanist Viewpoint” below was published in the Courier Series of newspapers (Kenilworth, Leamington and Warwick)on Friday 9th March 2018.
Reform of the House of Lords

Reform of the House of Lords is in the news again with the publication of a book about it and, like many others, Humanists are in much in favour of it being made democratic.

One glaring example of its lack of democracy is the presence of Anglican clergy. The United Kingdom is unique among Western democracies in giving Anglicans seats in its legislature. Two archbishops and 24 bishops of the Church of England currently have seats, as of right, in the House. Any serious reform proposals must address this unjustified privilege.

After over a century of decline in religious attendance in Britain the claim that Bishops speak for any significant constituency is clearly far off the mark. Less than 2% of the British population now attend Anglican services on the average Sunday. By 2050 this figure is forecast to drop to just 0.3% of the population.
In an increasingly secular society the role of religious representatives in our legislature has become irrelevant, and has in fact stood in the way of progressive legislation.

Humanists reject the implication that the archbishops and bishops somehow provide special moral insights denied to other members of the House.The idea that they or any other religious leaders have any monopoly on issues of morality is offensive to Humanists and other non-religious citizens. Humanists contend that those without religious beliefs are no less capable of making moral and ethical judgements.

In this connection, Humanists warmly welcomed the Queen’s statement when addressing the Church of England General Synod: “It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue and that the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation depend on the contribution of individuals and groups of all faiths and none”.

George Broadhead: Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists

In The USA Generation Z Is Less Religious Than Ever, and Evangelicals Don’t Know Why.

Earlier this year, the Barna Group, a Christian polling organization, released a new survey finding that Generation Z (born after 1999) was the least Christian generation ever. One of the biggest findings was that nearly twice as many teenagers in Gen Z (13 percent) claimed to be atheists than Millennials (7 percent).

It was a huge jump and evangelical Christianity has only taken a bigger hit since that survey was done thanks to white evangelicals’ overwhelming support for Donald Trump.

Jonathan Morrow of Fox News — and someone who worked on the survey — can’t believe these changes are happening. To him, they signal a problem with churches in that they’re not properly preparing children to enter the real world where their faith will inevitably be challenged.

So why is the fact that Gen Z is less Christian than ever good news again? Because we need to stop pretending and start living in reality.

We need to stop pretending that if we entertain teenagers then they will stick around after they graduate.

We need to stop pretending that if we protect them from everything they won’t question, doubt, or walk away.

And we need to stop pretending that a few minutes of a moralistic, watered down Bible lesson on a Sunday morning will prepare them to stand firm in their faith.

In short, teenagers need a grown-up worldview, not coloring book Jesus.
We can do better.

There’s obvious irony in people who believe Jesus was magic telling fellow Christians they “need to stop pretending and start living in reality.”
Finally living in reality is why so many members of Generation Z aren’t returning to church.

More importantly, the idea that young evangelicals are simply not strong enough in their faith is missing the point. They leave Christianity for a number of reasons, including evangelicals’ warm embrace of the Republican Party, their opposition to LGBTQ rights, their ignorance on the subject of sex education and science literacy, their hypocrisy on opposing both abortion and contraception, their treatment of women, and because Gen Z realizes the myths they’ve been fed are just not true.

Telling the same lies louder and more confidently won’t fix the problem. Whenever those teenagers learn to ask tough questions and think critically, the faith is bound to topple. And there are more resources available now than ever before to help them break the spell.

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2018/03/13/generation-z-is-less-religious-than-ever-and-evangelicals-dont-know-why/#xUgXewlPEcdeKHfb.99

A message from the new president of the National Secular Society, to whom the group is affiliated, Mr Keith Porteous Wood.

It is my great pleasure to present the latest issue of the Bulletin for the first time as President of the National Secular Society.

Firstly, I’d like to thank all of you who have donated to our 2020 fundraising campaign, getting us closer to our target of raising £200,000 by 2020. As you will see in this latest issue of the Bulletin, your generous donations are being transformed into real and effective action. Since our autumn issue, your support has funded some significant successes in our campaigns. Our work led to Amazon withdrawing ‘training kits’ for infant genital cutting, a story that received international attention in the press and cast light on some of the shocking aspects of this practice. We convinced councillors in Lancashire to vote to stop supplying non-stun halal meat to schools.

Our research revealed that many children are forced to wear religious dress at school and found a systemic bias against secular schooling. We’ve also helped parents to resist faith groups’ attempts to take over their children’s education. We’re opposing plans to make faith school admissions more discriminatory. And we’ve made official submissions on: the way religion is taught – opposing a confessional approach; promoting secularism as part of citizenship; the need to legislate against ‘caste’ discrimination; and the protection of existing human rights post-Brexit.

The challenges for secularists are growing in number and complexity and religious lobbying is becoming more assertive. That’s why we’re preparing now and we need your help. Please go to where you can donate securely online. Alternatively, send a cheque payable to the “National Secular Society”. Finally, we’ve announced our shortlist for the Secularist of the Year awards reception, which will take place on 24 March. Now in its 13th year, Secularist of the Year, funded by an anonymous benefactor, gives us the opportunity to celebrate and reward inspiring activists and campaigners and to meet members from around the country, as well as honorary associates. Tickets are just £40 for members, £50 for non-members. I very much hope to meet you at this very special occasion. Thank you as always for your continued support, and I hope you enjoy this issue.
With all best wishes, Keith Porteous Wood – President

Bible contradiction and or inconsistency:

Exodus 34:7; “The Lord God …. visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”
Ezekiel 18:20; “The soul sinneth, it shall not die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither the father shall bear the iniquity of the son.”

FEBRUARY 2018

Admissions to free schools

With regard to the new Education secretary’s plans to lift the 50% cap on faith based admissions at new free schools on the 13th Jan I sent my MP the Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke MP the following letter:

I am concerned and disappointed to hear that the new education secretary Damian Hinds has been a strong advocate for religiously selective schools and the removal of the cap on faith-based admissions to faith schools. The 50% cap on faith based admissions at new free schools is the first serious measure the Government has taken to tackle the discrimination and segregation wrought by religious selection in state schools. Yet the new education secretary seems poised to scrap this measure under pressure from the Catholic Church and other religious organisations to facilitate a new wave of 100% religiously selective schools.

There is no justification for this undemocratic action which will give religious groups carte blanche to turn schools into establishments free to proselytise to a captive audience of impressionable children against the wishes of the majority of parents. According to the latest British Social Attitudes survey 53% of British citizens are now non-religious; the 2011 census on religious affiliation was a fix. (This was because if a citizen entered, Humanist, Agnostic, secularist etc. in the wrong box they were counted as religious.)

The cap was introduced to ensure that all new faith schools were inclusive and met the needs of a broad mix of families. Abandoning the cap has the potential to significantly increase religious discrimination and social and ethnic segregation.

Whilst lifting the cap might benefit the paedophile riddled Catholic Church, (Mr Hinds was himself educated at St. Ambrose College, a Roman Catholic Grammar school which was the subject of the biggest historic sex abuse case ever mounted by Greater Manchester Police.) I urge you to consider the impact it would have on all other faith schools, including minority faith schools.

The policy of lifting the cap has been criticised by The Sutton Trust, which warned that the removal of the cap would be “likely to make faith schools even more unrepresentative of their local areas, reducing the number of good school places available to pupils across the socio- economic spectrum.” Likewise, The Education Policy Institute has warned that if the objective of government policy is to increase social mobility, this policy intervention is unlikely to be effective.

Ofsted’s Amanda Spielman has noted that “admission 100% on faith leads to increased levels of segregation within communities” and has made clear she is “uncomfortable with anything that leads to increased segregation”. A further expansion of religiously selective faith schools is the antithesis of inclusive education. I hope you will make every effort to oppose any proposal to scrap the 50% cap.

Yours sincerely,

Derek Franklin

This is Ken Clarke’s response:

Thank you very much for the letter you sent me expressing your opposition to the idea of the removal of the cap on faith based admissions to faith schools. I can send you a short reply because I agree entirely with your views. When the then education secretary first announced the intention of the Government on this subject in Parliament I immediately made it clear that I was opposed to it. I agree with you that it is desirable that children should not be cut off entirely from people of other backgrounds and faiths even when, as I accept, their parents are entitled to send them to a good faith based school. I will do my best to try to get a re-think of this policy but Damien Hinds has been a strong advocate of it.

Sincerely: The Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke, CH, QC, MP.

JANE FLINT: ‘HAVING AN ATHEIST CHAPLAIN IS ABOUT PATIENT CHOICE’

The first non-religious pastoral carer in the NHS on why patients need someone to just be there – to hear their stories or bear witness to their pain, whatever their beliefs Jane Flint, humanist chaplain at University of Leicester hospitals NHS trust: ‘A lot of people – not just the older people – will say ‘nobody has the time to give me time.’’ The stress of coming into hospital can take its toll on patients and relatives alike and Jane Flint’s role as a member of the chaplaincy at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS trust is to offer emotional and spiritual support to patients, visitors and staff.

The difference between her and the other 12 chaplains is that she is an atheist. Duties are the same as for the other chaplains bar offering prayers, rituals or a religious perspective. “It was wonderful to have you with me. Just knowing that there was someone available who had similar beliefs to mine and that you were coming to see me or I could ask for a visit made such a difference to the rest of my time in hospital,” wrote a former NHS patient.

Like them, Jane will see non-religious and religious people alike who request her services. The role, says Flint, is about “just being there”, whether to hear people’s life stories, to provide a sounding board, or to bear witness to somebody’s pain. It can be about conducting a service for a miscarried child, or for a person who was all alone in life; it can be to provide company, or to give someone time.

‘”A lot of people – not just the older people – will say ‘nobody has time to just give me time. The nurses are so busy I don’t like to bother them – they don’t have that kind of time any more.’ So going and giving somebody one-to-one time says they’re valued and when you’re feeling wobbly in hospital and who knows what you’re contemplating, that can be really important.”

Are hospital chaplains a waste of NHS money? Chaplains have always been part of hospital life. Traditionally a role held by people of a Christian faith, there has been greater religious diversity in recent years following a landmark consultation in 1997. Given the religious association with the term chaplain, Flint is called a “non-religious pastoral carer” to avoid confusion.

Flint and colleagues, who include Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh chaplains, take referrals from the three acute hospitals at the trust and from Leicestershire Partnership NHS trust. Many of the referrals are from palliative care teams. Part of Flint’s time is getting the message out that there is an atheist in the mix. “The thing is getting it known. People can’t ask for it if they don’t know it exists.”

In 2015, NHS England guidance on chaplaincy defined it as a service and profession “focused on ensuring that all people, be they religious or not, have the opportunity to access pastoral, spiritual or religious support when they need it”.

It noted a “growing body of evidence” that appropriate spiritual care has “an immediate and enduring benefit” for people using chaplaincy when facing difficult situations such as infant deaths, a terminal diagnosis or psychosis. The guidance says chaplain managers “must consider how best to determine and deliver spiritual care to those whose beliefs are not religious in nature.”

The National Secular Society has welcomed a call from the head of education watchdog Ofsted for head teachers to confront religious extremists who “indoctrinate impressionable minds”.

In a speech at the Church of England Foundation for Education Leadership, Amanda Spielman told heads they had a responsibility to “tackle those who actively undermine fundamental British values or equalities law”.

Ms Spielman said school leaders should promote “a muscular liberalism” which “holds no truck for ideologies that want to close minds or narrow opportunity”. She contrasted this with “a passive liberalism that says ‘anything goes’ for fear of causing offence”.

She said she was concerned that some schools were being used to espouse “extremist ideology” and Ofsted inspectors were increasingly encountering “those who want to actively pervert the purpose of education”.

“Under the pretext of religious belief, they use education institutions, legal and illegal, to narrow young people’s horizons, to isolate and segregate, and in the worst cases to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology.”

She added that leaders should not assume “the most conservative voices in a particular faith speak for everyone”.

Ms Spielman also put on record her support for the school leaders at St Stephen’s primary school in Newham. Last month they were forced to back down from their policy of restricting hijabs and fasting for young children amid a campaign of intimidation.

“Schools must have the right to set school uniform policies as they see fit, in order to promote cohesion. It is a matter of deep regret that this outstanding school has been subject to a campaign of abuse by those who want to undermine the school’s position.

“Ofsted will always back heads who take tough decisions in the interests of their pupils.”

Ms Spielman also called for “changes to legislation” to give Ofsted more power to regulate out-of-school provision and criticised the Church of England for resisting such changes.

“Some out-of-school settings… operate as illegal schools [and] use the opportunity to… put poison in the minds, hatred in hearts of young people.

“It is a matter of regret that the Church has resisted changes in the law to allow Ofsted to inspect these settings. This is not about infringing religious freedom: no one is proposing a troop of inspectors turning up at Sunday schools. Instead, it is about ensuring that the small minority of settings that promote extremism are not able to evade scrutiny.”

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans described Ms Spielman’s speech as “a welcome intervention”.

“Religious extremists are using schools to narrow children’s horizons and indoctrinate them. It is incumbent upon those who set education policy and run schools to resist them.

“We welcome Amanda Spielman’s commitment to tackling this problem where it exists and Ofsted’s willingness to support school leaders who stand up to fundamentalism. We are also pleased to see her willingness to rebuke the Church of England for its resistance to laws which would help to protect young people in out-of-school settings.

“Fear of offending religious sensibilities is not a good enough reason to let down children.”

Bible contradiction

Solomon had 4,000 stall for his horses and chariots. II Chron. 9:25.

Solomon had 40,000 stall for his horses and chariots. I Kings. 4:26.

 

JANUARY 2018

Hamza bin Walyat

The following letter was recently received from Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK.
Dear George and C&WH members, By now you’ve probably heard the harrowing case of Hamza bin Walyat, the humanist who is being deported to Pakistan for failing a test of his ‘non-religiousness’ that required him to ‘identify classical philosophers’ like Plato and Aristotle. Because Pakistan is one of 13 countries where non-religious people are executed, we need your help today to save Hamza’s life. Hamza’s life is now in serious danger because the Home Office has completely misunderstood the nature of humanism and seems to have forgotten that non-religious people have equal protections from persecution on the grounds of their beliefs. This is unacceptable, and now we must act quickly to save Hamza’s life.
Please, take a minute from your day today to sign our petition to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, backing our demands to save Hamza’s life and re-educate the Home Office about humanism and the basic human rights non-religious people are entitled to in law.
Thank you again for your support, Andrew Copson.

From Humanists UK

A new survey conducted by YouGov for The Times has found that the British public overwhelmingly supports the removal of the bishops from the House of Lords, and more generally thinks that politicians should try not to be influenced by their religious beliefs when making decisions.

The poll, of 1,700 British adults, has found that 62% believe that no religious leaders should have ‘an automatic right to seats’ in Parliament, which 26 bishops of the Church of England currently do.

Only 20% want to keep the bishops in some sense or other, with just 8% saying the bishops should retain their present unique right, while 12% say that other religious leaders should gain the same automatic right as the bishops. The public was also asked whether politicians ‘should feel free to use their religious beliefs to inform their political decisions’, or should ‘keep their religious views separate and not allow them to influence their political decisions’. 65% support the latter option, while just 14% support the opposite.
This year has seen proposals to reduce the number of peers in the Lords, but the proposals leave the bishops untouched – meaning that they will make up a higher proportion of seats in a reformed chamber.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘It’s clear that the public doesn’t currently believe our politics is secular enough, and this includes very strong support for removing the bishops from the House of Lords. With just 3% of young adults saying they belong to the Church of England, how can it be right that the Church maintains its unique privilege of automatic seats for its clergy in parliament? The UK and Iran are the only two sovereign states to afford religious leaders such rights, and it is past time that this and other Church privileges in public life are brought to an end.’

In keeping with this trend this “Humanist Viewpoint” was published on the 5th January in the Warwickshire papers (Kenilworth, Leamington and Warwick), by Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists founder member George Broadhead.

Politics and religion should not mix, according to new survey

A new YouGov poll for The Times has found that a majority of people in the UK want religion kept out of politics and that Anglican bishops should not have an automatic right to sit in the House of Lords.

Sixty-five percent of those questioned in the poll thought that politicians should keep their religious beliefs separate from their decision making, with just 14 percent saying the opposite. The remaining 21 percent chose neither option or said they did not know. Sixty-two percent said that bishops should not have an automatic right to seats in the Lords. Only eight percent of people said they should retain their seats. The British Social Attitudes Survey found this year that the proportion of Britons professing to have “no religion” is at a record high of 53 per cent.

It is high time that politicians and the media as a whole took note of these polls and surveys. The BBC in particular is ignoring them by increasing still further its already extensive religious output which includes the blatant religious propaganda slot Thought for the Day as a part of its morning Radio 4 current affairs programme Today. In the past year, the prime minister, a vicar’s daughter, said that “faith guides me in everything I do”, while Tim Farron, a committed Christian, faced a barrage of questions over whether he believed gay sex to be sinful, as a result of which he felt he had to resign as Lib Dem leader.

Separating religion from the state would not only reflect the reality of changing times, but would also ensure that every citizen is treated fairly and valued equally whether they are religious or not. Britain is now one of the most religiously diverse and, at the same time, non-religious nations in the world. Rather than burying its head in the sand, the Government should respond to these fundamental cultural changes and initiate reform. Given the public support for such reform, a change is long overdue. Politicians of all parties should find common cause in promoting secularist principles by making sure that our public institutions do nothing to support any religious belief or philosophic view point but equally welcome and respect the right to free expression of all faiths and none.
George Broadhead

From the NSS: education secretary must keep faith-based admissions cap

The National Secular Society has urged the new education secretary Damian Hinds to drop plans to remove the 50% cap on religiously selective admissions to faith-based academies and free schools.

Damian Hinds replaces Justine Greening, who resigned as education secretary in Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle. It was understood that Greening opposed plans to drop the 50% cap, but Hinds is a proponent of religiously selective schools and in 2014 led a debate in Parliament where he advocated for the removal of any cap on faith-based admissions to Catholic schools.

In a letter Stephen Evans, the NSS chief executive, called on Mr Hinds to rethink his stance and consider not only the effect that the lifting of the cap would have on Catholic schools, but the way it would impact on all other faith schools, including minority faith schools.
He urged the new Secretary of State to “strike a blow for cohesion, equality and fairness” by abandoning plans to remove the cap.

“A further expansion of religiously selective faith schools is the antithesis of inclusive education,” Mr Evans wrote. “Rather than facilitating segregation along religious lines, we would urge the Government to make every effort to ensure that children of all faiths and none are educated together in inclusive schools”.

In 2016 the Government launched a consultation on proposals to create a wave of new faith-based schools and allow religious discrimination in 100% of new faith school admissions.

It has now been more than a year since the consultation closed, and the Government is yet to confirm whether it intends to proceed with the plans.

Groups such as the Catholic Education Service (CES) lobbied for the changes. The CES is refusing to open free schools because of the cap – arguing that canon law dictates that Catholic schools must give priority to children of Catholic parents.

In its letter to Mr Hinds the NSS said the proposals had “the potential to significantly increase religious discrimination and social and ethnic segregation within publicly funded schools”. It said they would “allow more children to be schooled in a completely immersive religious environment, surrounded by pupils of the same faith and, in many cases, the same ethnic background”. The “broad consensus”, it added, was that the plans would harm social cohesion.

The Sutton Trust has warned that removal of the cap would be “likely to make [faith schools] even more unrepresentative of their local areas, reducing the number of good school places available to pupils across the socio- economic spectrum.” The Education Policy Institute has warned that the policy is unlikely to increase social mobility, which is one of the supposed objectives behind it.

And Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, has said “admission 100% on faith leads to increased levels of segregation within communities”.

The NSS added that lifting the cap was inconsistent with the Department for Education’s own guidance on ‘promoting fundamental British values’. The guidance says it is “unacceptable” for schools to “promote discrimination against people or groups on the basis of their belief, opinion or background”.

Research reveals systemic bias against secular schools

The National Secular Society has said more must be done to safeguard non-faith schools’ secular ethos after research revealed faith-based provision is treated preferentially during school reorganisations.

An NSS study examined official data on all schools in England that closed and re-opened between 2010 and 2017, noting whether a change in the designated religious character had taken place. The research revealed that most schools that change their character become faith schools.

Sixty-one schools were found to have closed and re-opened with a different religious character. Out of these, 70% of all schools that changed their status between 2010 and 2017 went from being religiously-neutral community or foundation schools to faith schools, usually under the control of the Church of England.

And whilst faith schools make up around a third of schools in England, they make up fewer than 16% of the 713 schools closed as a result of amalgamation since 2010.
Stephen Evans, the NSS’s chief executive, said the problem was being exacerbated by official guidance on opening and closing maintained schools which means the system is loaded against secular schools in favour of religious ones.

Statutory guidance from the Department for Education on opening and closure proposals warns: “the decision-maker should not normally approve the closure of a school with a religious character where the proposal would result in a reduction in the proportion of relevant denominational places in the area.”

Mr Evans said the research highlighted a “systemic bias” against preserving non-faith-based schools which has enabled the Church of England to “hoover up community schools”.
“When a religious and non-religious school merge, the usual result is for the faith school to determine the religious character despite opposition from the families whose children will be directly affected. Current rules privilege religion by explicitly protecting faith school places and leaving community schools vulnerable to religious takeover. At a time when the population is becoming increasingly irreligious, there’s a very good argument for reducing the number of faith school places. The presumption that the proportion of such places shouldn’t be reduced is outdated and unfair and needs to change.”
The NSS has now written to education ministers calling for the guidance to be revised and for a new positive duty to ensure every pupil has the right to an inclusive secular school within a reasonable distance.

Gaining a religion

Forty-three per cent of changes in religious character were a result of an amalgamation or merger between religious and non-religious schools. The research demonstrated that in these cases, the most likely outcome was for the faith schools to have their character and ethos retained and for the neutrality of the non-religious school to be lost.

Nearly 20% of the schools closed and reopened specifically because they became Church of England schools. Academisation also resulted in non-religious schools becoming religious.

The NSS has previously warned of religious organisations (mostly Anglican) gaining control of and influence in the running of non-faith schools through mixed multi-academy trusts and other sponsorship agreements.

Schools that converted to voluntary aided Church of England schools were frequently those getting low grades or poor Ofsted results. Forge Lane Primary School in west London, which became St Richard’s Church of England Primary School in 2014, converted because it felt the switch from community to voluntary aided status would help it to be recognised by Ofsted as a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ school. However, in its last inspection in October this year, St Richard’s was given a rating of ‘requires improvement’.

Other recent cases demonstrate that converting to a faith school is no guarantee of success. In 2010, Beechfield Infant School in Somerset merged with St John’s Church of England Junior School to form a new faith school, Churchfield CofE VC Primary School. Following the merger, the new school was put in special measures by Ofsted. Churchfield became a Church of England academy in 2013, and in its last Ofsted inspection in 2015 it was rated as “requires improvement.”

Converting schools with no religious character into faith schools has met with disapproval. When Ladymead Community School in Somerset was proposed to become a faith school through merging with The St Augustine of Canterbury School in 2009, a survey at a consultation meeting showed 100% opposition, while a petition calling for Ladymead to stay open received more than 120 signatures. Ladymead governors expressed their concern that the merger would not be in the best interests of the school or community, with the faith status being a primary concern. Chairman Nick Evelyn said in the Somerset County Gazette: “Many parents chose to send their children to Ladymead and now fear for their education. They don’t want a faith secondary schooling for their children or they’d have sent them to St Augustine’s, which is a church school.”

Despite the opposition from parents, governors and school staff the merger went ahead in 2010, resulting in the establishment of a new Church of England academy, The Taunton Academy. In its last Ofsted inspection this January, The Taunton Academy was rated “inadequate”.

Plans to merge non-faith schools into religious ones continue to spark protest. One recent example was the demonstration held by parents of Trafalgar College over plans to merge with the Christian Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, reported by the NSS in October.

In 25% of religious character changes, religious schools lost their official religious character. But the NSS study noted that most of these schools still retained a distinctly faith-based ethos.

Nearly 60% of all Church of England schools that ‘lost’ their religious character were found to make reference to “Christian values,” “Christian ethos” or ties with their “local church” on their website. This meant the number of faith schools that had genuinely ‘lost’ their faith school status was significantly smaller than the official change in religious character suggested.

The remaining 5% of schools that had changed their religious character were Church of England schools which had merged with Roman Catholic schools to gain dual ‘Church of England/Roman Catholic’ status.

‘Stealth’ Faith Schools

The figures in this study did not include schools in which the designated religious character did not change on paper, but the ethos changed in reality. An example of such schools are the Oasis Academies. These may not be recorded as having a religious character or religious ethos by the DfE, but previous NSS research has demonstrated that they all have a Christian ethos according to their websites. Over 80% of all Oasis Academies were established as a result of taking over an existing school, and in every single case the preceding school was non-religious.

The increase in schools that do not have an official religious character or religious ethos but do have one in reality means that the number of schools that have become religious since 2010 is likely to be even higher.

The David and Goliath battle in our schools: parents versus religion

As NSS research highlights a systemic bias against secular schooling, Megan Manson explores the tactics used by religion to infiltrate education – and how parents are fighting back.In November, the National Secular Society got a call from a parent whose daughter was being forced to pray against her wishes.

The girl, who attends a non-religious primary school, was told that she must bow her head during prayers held in an assembly by an external evangelical group that comes to the school to tell Bible stories. She was happy to attend the assemblies with her peers, and to sit quietly and listen attentively, but her strongly-held atheist worldview meant that she did not wish to participate in the act of worship. The school argued with the parent that the pupil should bow her head in order to ‘conform’ with the other pupils, and as a sign of ‘respect’.

But what happened to respecting the child’s fundamental human right to freedom of conscience? Or the father’s right to a secular education for his daughter? He had, after all, opted for a non-religious school. So why were his wishes for a non-religious education for his daughter not respected?

This case is testament to a battle being waged in Britain’s education system. On the one side are families, community members and (often) class teachers who just want to see pupils get a good education without religion sticking its nose in. On the other side are headteachers, government representatives, academy chains and religious institutions who want to assert their authority and their particular ideology on school communities. In this battle, it’s clear to see who is David and who is Goliath.

More high-profile cases of parents speaking out against school evangelism have come to light in recent times. In October, parents in Tunbridge Wells mobilised against CrossTeach, an evangelical group who had reportedly been telling pupils that “men can’t marry men” and that if they did not believe in God “they would not go to a good place when they died”. Working together, the parents raised their complaints with their school, with some taking the step of withdrawing their children from CrossTeach assemblies.

The school in question, St John’s Church of England Primary School, is an Anglican faith school. But one of the parents pointed out: “In Tunbridge Wells the vast majority of primary schools are affiliated with the Church so it’s not like you have a choice whether you expose your children to this.”

In this case David fortunately triumphed over Goliath. As a result of the complaints, the school decided to cease inviting CrossTeach to lead assemblies or take lessons – but not without a great deal of indignant foot-stamping. Headteacher Dan Turvey told Kent Live that he did not believe the parents’ concerns “have any real substance” and their decision to exercise their right to withdraw their children from CrossTeach assemblies “made the situation unmanageable and a distraction”.

The local church also saw fit to howl disdain and disgust at the parents and their dissent. Rev Giles Walter, who had been taking assemblies at St John’s Church of England Primary School, accused the parents of being “extremist”, saying: “The behaviour of this small group of parents has hurled a hand grenade into a previously happy and harmonious environment. They seem determined to drive mainstream Christian teaching out of our church school: and it is they and not ourselves who should be charged with extremism and non-inclusiveness.”
Far from David throwing a rock, the Church portrays upstart parents as extremists hurling hand grenades. In common with bullies everywhere, it paints its victims as the villains.
The truth is that more often than not, the Church wins. Back in 2009, parents and governors at Ladymead Community School in Somerset petitioned against a proposed merger with the St Augustine of Canterbury School. The primary cause of contention was that the new school resulting from the merger, the Taunton Academy, would be a Church of England faith school. Ladymead governor Chairman Nick Evelyn said in the Somerset County Gazette: “Many parents chose to send their children to Ladymead and now fear for their education. They don’t want a faith secondary schooling for their children or they’d have sent them to St Augustine’s, which is a church school.” A survey was held at a consultation meeting for the proposal, which showed 100% opposition.

But the pleas from parents, governors and school staff at Ladymead went unheeded, and the merger went ahead in 2010 with the support of the St Augustine headteacher and Taunton MP Jeremy Browne. Perhaps they regret not listening to the parents now. In its last Ofsted inspection this January, the Taunton Academy was rated ‘inadequate’.
The combined might of church and state, and its awesome power to crush the right of ordinary families to freedom from religion, revealed itself more recently in a similar case of a school merger. In October, parents and children of Trafalgar College were stirred into action when they discovered that as a result of a merger with Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, the College would lose its religious neutrality and become a Christian school. The families were so opposed to this move, and so frustrated that their concerns were not being listened to, that they took to the streets in protest. Their banners, which bore slogans such as “Say no to forced religious designations” and “Our children deserve a choice & a voice”, said it all.

But all to no avail. It turns out that the merger had been agreed months before a public consultation was held. The academy chain behind the merger, Inspiration Trust, didn’t even give families the chance to fight back.

This underhand method of giving parents the illusion of choice and control when in fact that choice is being ripped away from them is the latest weapon in the faith schools’ arsenal: stealth tactics. It seems that education and religious authorities are aware that families are increasingly rejecting the very concept of faith schools, and are doing their utmost to sneak in religion through the back door. Mergers of faith and non-faith schools are one way to do it; another way is to exploit the academy and free school system.

As the NSS reported in 2015, academies and free schools can be designated as ‘religious ethos’ without adopting a formal ‘religious character’, blurring the line between what is and what is not a religious school. There are even academies that clearly operate under a faith ethos, but are not registered as such with the Department for Education. The NSS investigation into Oasis Academies revealed the extent of the problem. Although less than a quarter of Oasis Academies are registered as having a religious character or ethos, every single one of them says that their ethos is “inspired by the life, message and example of Jesus Christ” and that they are “schools of religious character” on their websites.
Every school that has been converted into an Oasis Academy was previously non-religious. That’s approximately 40 new faith schools which have sprung up to effectively replace secular schools within the last decade. And thanks to the Christian nature of these schools being omitted from DfE data, they have emerged with little notice.

But with the UK becoming more irreligious and religiously diverse, how long can the church’s sneaky bully-boy tactics prevail? The public is rightly getting tired of being told what to do by religious institutions, and fed up with the encroachment of religion into their family lives. Thanks to rapidly-improving social media and other internet technology, parents are finding it easier than ever before to communicate with each other and organise themselves to resist religion. And in the long run, religious institutions would be foolish to ignore their increasingly louder, bolder voices. For if anyone knows what happens at the end of the story of David and Goliath, it’s the Church.

Megan Manson, campaigns officer at the National Secular Society

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Another Bible contradiction or inconsistency

God is everywhere {omnipresent} sees and knows all things. Prov. xv, 3: The eyes of the Lord are in every place. Ps. 139, 7-10: Whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up to heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall my hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. Job xxxiv, 21, 22: There is no darkness nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves, for his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he see’th all his goings.

God is not everywhere {omnipresent}, neither sees nor knows all things.
Genesis xi, 5: And the Lord came down to see the City and the Town. Genesis xviii, 20-21: And the Lord said, because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether, according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and, if not, I will know. Genesis viii, 8: And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord, amongst the trees of the garden.

Green drinks

Local humanist friends are invited, along with other green thinking and socially aware people e.g Friends of the earth, Greens, etc, to Green Drinks every 1st Wed evening of the month, 7.30 onwards, at The Engine, 8 Mill End, Kenilworth CV8 2HP. Next meeting Wednesday 7th February 2018. Look forward to seeing you. In case of re-arrangement and for any other queries contact Tracey Drew tracey@wildflower.plus.com or phone 01926 857782

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