CofE intends rapid expansion of "faith school" programme and a sharp increase in proselytising

NSS Newsline - May 2009
Thursday 11 June 2009
popularity : 1%

The Church of England has announced that it plans a "rapid expansion" of the number of its schools in the state sector. To smooth the passage of this self-serving grab of public money for proselytising, the CofE has launched a new website justifying its escalating involvement in schools and the increasing emphasis it intends to place on religion.

The website opens with a video message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which he makes clear that a "Christian school" is one that is engaged in proselytising – even evangelising. There is a lot of vague waffle, as is usual from Williams, but it is clear from his message that the Church of England intends to increase significantly the part that religion plays in its schools.

There then follows a slide show of "fifteen values" that are to be promoted in the schools. These are often meaninglessly generalised – compassion, creativity, endurance etc. etc. – but some of them are very specifically about pushing religious ideas on to children who are captive in the school. "Reverence" for instance is about the "proper response to all that is holy".

This website is a clear indication that the Church now intends to use its schools to engage in religious brainwashing. There is no other word for it. Children will not be permitted to escape from the constant harping on their "dependence on God" and the need to worship Jesus.

The Church of England’s spokesperson on schools, The Rev Jan Ainsworth, wrote a Comment is Free blog trying to make the case for this. She admits: "Yes, church schools exist partly to nurture Christian children in the faith (one of the reasons that some church schools do give priority to children from churchgoing families), and they exist to present an example of a Christian institution that can help people make an informed choice about that faith."

Informed choice? What is informed about putting the emphasis almost entirely on the doctrines of one small denomination of a religion that is fading from most people’s lives? How has the Church managed to steal the education system from right under our noses, to use for its own purposes?

The vast majority of those posting responses on Comment is Free were less than complimentary about the Church’s plans, one labelling them "Orwellian". Another pointed out that, even in non-denominational schools, this religious brainwashing still goes on: "My five year old son is taught hogwash in the guise of religious education, prays within assembly and writes prayers to god for thanks. Christmas assembly is at the local church where the clergy push cristingle onto three, four and five year olds. Now, if all of this happens within non-denominational schools, your premise that the church is only interested in education is codswallop, irrespective of how many children attend church afterwards."

Even an Anglican RE teacher was moved to write: "Jan’s piece bears all the hallmarks of special pleading for a case whose time is up."

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the NSS comments: "This resurgence of CofE empire building is very bad news for the growing proportion of non-religious. I suspect the Church’s logic is that this is the only way they can survive if its average Sunday attendance declines to less than 90,000 (sic) by 2050, as Christian statisticians predict. The Government are clearly cheering the Church on, and the Government’s claim that new faith schools are opened only to satisfy local demand is simply not true. This bias is compounded by repeated gross injustices at LEA level: the accounts we hear are of religious schools being opened in the face of overwhelming vocal local opposition.

"We have been offered no explanation for the apparently insane decision for the proposed closure of the only community first school in Swanage, which is thriving and well regarded. Only religious schools would then remain in the town and the nearest community primary school would be over 15 miles away and in a different catchment area. Could a clue come from the following anecdote I was told by what I believe to be a reliable local source? Two besuited men who attended the schools reorganisation meeting were not known to the headteacher and were asked to identify themselves but declined to do so. They were however eventually prevailed upon to declare their provenance — and surprise, surprise — they were from the local diocese. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the story, but somehow....

"If you live in the locality of Swanage and would like to object to what is happening, please contact the NSS office."


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