From NSS Newsline - 20 Aug 2010

Part 1
Tuesday 7 September 2010
popularity : 100%

Articles about school and children :

- Now is the time to end "faith school" transport discrimination
- Australian Secular Party condemns promise of school chaplains funding increase
- The interests of children must come before Catholic dogma

Now is the time to end "faith school" transport discrimination

Local authorities around the country are examining their budgets in the light of Government subsidy cuts. One area that is under scrutiny is the discretionary funding of free and subsidised transport for pupils attending "faith schools." The latest authority to bite the bullet and end this discriminatory and almost certainly illegal practice is Staffordshire County Council. It has just announced that new pupils starting at primary and secondary "faith schools" from September next year will not get the free travel unless they are legally entitled to it, for example on grounds of parental income, or where there are exceptional circumstances.

A concessionary rate, yet to be determined, will be payable for those pupils from September next year but the subsidy will be phased out by 2015 for secondary schools and 2017 for primary schools, leaving parents to bear the whole cost. The council says the current system of free transport for pupils at faith schools is unfair as not all pupils are entitled to it. The National Secular Society contends that it is not only unfair, but legally questionable, representing as it does religious discrimination of the most blatant kind. Some 1,590 Staffordshire pupils receive free transport to 29 Catholic schools or to St Peter’s CE Collegiate School in Wolverhampton at a net cost of more than £1m.

The report says: "The withdrawal of this discretionary policy would mean that future transport requests would be assessed under a home-to-school transport policy which provides free transport to the catchment or closest school where the pupil is beyond walking distance. "This would mean that school pupils will be treated equally, regardless of their religion or belief or lack of it. This would be a fairer and more equitable transport policy and would also realise significant savings in transport costs over time." Councillor Ian Parry, cabinet member for children and families, said: "I believe this decision is fair to all – the taxpayer and the families currently receiving the subsidy.

Catholic parents are threatening the council with legal action, but NSS Executive Director Keith Porteous Wood said: "We have argued for many years that these subsidies to so-called faith schools are discriminatory and against the law. All local authorities should stop them immediately. Not only would they save the council taxpayer a substantial amount of revenue, they would also end this unjust and, questionably legal practice." The National Secular Society is looking into the cost to local authorities around the country of these subsidies and will report on its findings shortly.

Australian Secular Party condemns promise of school chaplains funding increase

The Secular Party of Australia has condemned an announcement by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to increase funding to school chaplains by A$222 million. This is supposedly in connection with the Secular Party’s policy to replace the National School Chaplaincy Program, set up by the Howard government, with funding for qualified school counsellors. Gillard had previously undertaken to replace chaplains with qualified psychologists and counsellors, but has backed down under pressure from the churches critical of her stated atheism. John L. Perkins, president of the Secular Party, said: "There are many problems with the Chaplains in Schools Program. Firstly, it violates the principle of separation of church and state. The state should not be in the business of "advancing religion". Secondly, it is biased in favour of one religion: Christianity. The overwhelming majority of chaplains, if not all, are Christian. Should students not have Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist and other chaplains too? A third problem is that schools are crying out for qualified counsellors. "Those voters who are freethinkers may have had some hope that our atheist Prime Minister may have been able to stand up to the religious lobby. These hopes are now dashed." The Secular Party will be fielding thirty-one candidates across Australia in the forthcoming federal election. Mr Perkins said: "Only the Secular Party stands in the way of the growing influence of religion in Australian politics. Rather than fostering sectarianism, Australia needs politics based on the universal values of compassion, freedom, honesty and justice." See also: Australian "real Julia" courts Christian vote Religion in the Australian election

[rouge]The interests of children must come before Catholic dogma[/rouuge] Editorial by Keith Porteous Wood

It is welcome news that the Charity Commission will not permit the adoption agency Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation. The Charity, which is largely publicly funded, was in effect saying: "we would prefer that children do not to have any adoptive parents if the alternative is gay ones". You can read the details of the decision here .

The Charity has gone to enormous lengths in this fight while other rebel charities have "seen the light" and either become secularised or, if they were unwilling to cut their ties to the Catholic Church, closed down. Catholic Care was determined to stop at nothing to avoid conforming to what Parliament intended when it enacted the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, and what the case law on Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires, particularly given the essentially public nature of the adoption services. Most of the expenditure of these adoption agencies came from public funds, generally from local authorities.

The rationale behind the decision was not to give equality to gay adopters, but was made in the interests of children to ensure the largest possible pool of adoptive parents. By failing to do this, the Church has once more shown its obsession with dogma over compassion and over the best interests of the children they serve. Similarly, while the Church has accepted individual homosexuals as adopters, it refuses to do so if they are in partnerships, despite those in partnerships being more likely to be able to provide a stable home life.

The 2007 Regulations gave agencies stay of execution until the end of 2008 to conform to the law. Most Catholic agencies agreed to adopt non-discriminatory practices, indeed we understand some were pleased no longer to be bound by the discriminatory rules imposed on them by the Church. Catholic Care was the last adoption agency to hold out for the right to discriminate. The Charity Commission refused to be intimidated by the disgraceful blackmail tactic so readily resorted to by churches involved in welfare – that of threatening to withdraw services if they don’t get their own way. The Charity Commission said that there are other agencies in the area who would take up the work, it said. So, closing down Catholic Care would not be the disaster they were trying to make it out to be. This decision, which creates a precedent in England and Wales, is a victory for the best interests of the children and their human rights in the face of religious demands for special treatment.


“Secular views in bioethics” Review and Prospects


Friday, September 30th 2011

Saturday, October 1st , 2011

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Under the auspices of the Observatori de Bioetica i dret and of the Faculte de Droit, universitat de Barcelona (Prof. Maria Casado and Albert Royes)

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6 October 2010 - NSS Bulletin autumn 2010

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