Fundamentalist Alpha Course infiltrating more schools
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The fundamentalist Christian Alpha Course is being operated in state schools up and down the country, drawing in children to its particular brand of literalist religious dogma – and all with the schools’ approval and support.
The NSS is receiving increasing numbers of complaints from parents who are alarmed by the number of evangelical groups that are being allowed into schools to spread intolerant religious teaching, but the Alpha course is by far the most organised and widespread.
The Times Educational Supplement last week reported the growing influence of Alpha in schools. It cited Archbishop Blanch CofE High School in Liverpool, where "Youth Alpha" courses have been running for 3 years and has had 300 pupils participating. It runs for eight weeks at lunchtime and is promoted throughout the school on notice boards and in assemblies.
The course was set up with the headteacher’s backing by Reverend Kate Wharton, the Bishop of Liverpool’s appointee on the school’s board of governors. She claims that the Alpha Course is a "balanced introduction" to Christianity.
What she does not mention is its homophobia and the final sinister "holy spirit" session that encourages participants to speak in tongues and behave hysterically.
Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: "This is real fundamentalist stuff all wrapped up in reassuring words and delivered by a bloke in a jumper with a permanent smile who looks remarkably like Tony Blair. This is not a ’balanced introduction’ to anything; it is a carefully planned attempt to push people in a very specific direction. It is deeply manipulative and has no place in schools paid for by the taxpayer."
Quoted in the TES, Jonathan Bartley of the Ekklesia Christian "think tank" said the courses deal with doctrine rather than Christianity as a way of life. "It’s about sin, hell and resurrection and what people must do to get to heaven. I would be very worried about the adult content being used in schools unless it has been heavily modified." He said that Governing bodies of "faith schools" (who are mostly representatives of the local diocese) are "overstepping the mark" in pushing these courses in schools.
Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the NSS, told the TES: "We have pupils, a captive audience, funnelled into hardline proselytising on school premises. These schools should be seeking permission from parents, but I’ll bet they aren’t."