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The National Secular Society’s unpleasant agenda

The NSS has produced what appears to be a particularly unpleasant report on the work of Christian organisations in primary and secondary schools. On their website the lead comment is as follows:

Our state schools are being targeted and exploited by evangelical groups as part of their missionary work.

That is a serious charge, for which according to the Department of Education, there is no evidence whatsoever:

We have not seen any evidence to support these claims and have not received any complaints about this.

Read that again, twice, slowly.

All Christian organisations working in the public sphere must be open to reasonable scrutiny. And, as recent cases have shown, safeguarding of children must have absolute priority. But the NSS report is in a different league all together. Ed West wrote a robust critique in the Telegraph a few years ago, pointing out that their agenda was not secularist but atheist. Christine Odone offered a wonderful parallel:

The National Secular Society boasts about 7,000 members – the same number as the British Sausages Appreciation Society. The bangers enthusiasts celebrate the succulent delights of pork in every guise: grilled, baked, or fried. Secularists, too, want their own pound of flesh – but only Christian flesh will do.

There is a great comment on the Telegraph piece about the NSS report, which gets to the heart of the matter:

I care about these issues [the objectivity and integrity of education], but find that my contributions about objectivity and integrity of education and my rights as a parent are constantly challenged by secular humanists. My concern is that secular humanists give lip service to pluralism, but have no intention of implementing it because their objective is to promote their own ideology. We desperately need the freedom to develop rationality and critical thinking skills in education, but the effect of the NSS polemics is to treat any departure from their own agenda as subversive to education. Unfortunately, Mr Gove appears to be taking them seriously.

Is it time we wrote to the Education Secretary about them?

Here is the press release from Scripture Union, whose Council I have been on for nine years.

Scripture Union is justly proud of its history of contributing responsibly to the education of children in schools in England and Wales.  When our representatives work in schools they do so only at the invitation of head teachers and under their supervision.  Our staff are skilled educationalists who always behave properly as guests of the school and adhere to strict guidelines.  In many cases our representatives have long-standing relationships with the schools, and are trusted and valued for their contribution to the curriculum and/or the pastoral care of students.

We share the view of the government, OFSTED and the National Association of Head Teachers that children have a right to proper religious education as part of their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development*.  We agree with the government’s non-statutory guidance, which says that “members of religions and belief-groups have an enriching contribution to make” to the curriculum and that where that contribution is made “in an atmosphere of respect and mutual understanding, faith and belief representatives can act as models of community cohesion in action.”

We do not believe that school is a proper place for evangelism.  We reject any allegation that our workers engage in proselytising, or promoting “ultra-conservative ideas” in the school context. We do not regard school children as “a captive audience,” and we respect the statutory right of parents to withdraw their children from Religious Education. However we do believe that it is vital for children to understand and explore the meaning and significance of religious belief in society, not least in the lives of their peers.  We care above all for the welfare and development of children.  We believe that as part of a rounded education children should have the right to meet and question believers of all faiths and none.  We are pleased to offer staff and representatives as resources to schools and will continue to do so as long as we are welcome.

http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/a0064886/religious-education-in-english-schools-non-statutory-guidance-2010

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3 Responses to The National Secular Society’s unpleasant agenda

  1. Paul Seymour October 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    Hi, As a local Vicar I go into schools and take great pride in delivering assemblies that are stimulating fun and challenging in an age appropriate way, there has never been a question that my talks are blinkered or irrational, indoctrination or contrary to the public good. In fact I have been told that they would often be classed as outstanding by those trained to judge.

    I resent strongly the linking of the wrong doing of a few with the high standards of education and professionalism shown by others and I hope myself. Never though have I been left alone with children nor would I want to be, for I am not a teachers aide nor am I a teacher.

    Whilst links to sausage associations are amusing they probably do not advance the argument, small organisations can produce massive outcomes, one man and 12 apostles seem to have changed the entire history of humanity.

    Good article thanks for the thought material

  2. Ian Paul October 14, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    Thanks Paul. I suspect your experience is shared by many.

    One of the subtitles of Christine Odone’s article (I think) asked the question: how many members of the NSS are involved in the kind of support and assistance that many of the Christian organisations are involved in?

  3. Andrew Davies July 15, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    Having come across this article by accident and as a head of a community school that works closely with many church schools I have to point out that, unfortunately, as soon as a teacher says ‘hands together and eyes closed, Lord Jesus…’ They have automatically started the proselytising process by assuming to the children that the christian belief is real and not just a faith of some. This happens all the time in faith and non faith schools. Even if christian parents choose faith schools for their pupils, there are many that send children to such schools as there are no community alternatives in the local village, so they have to put up with this unless they ostracise their children from assembly or have to drive them to a school several miles away where local pals do not go. I know a local church school where they all have to pray four or five times a day because the head is particularly religious. It is the only school in the village. This is wrong and there is a very simple solution to this. Schools should be secular places where pupils learn about all beliefs and none. There are schools that children should pray and worship in, they are called sunday schools and children are at those purely at their parents choice. I have also had to put very strict guidelines in for religious visitors to school to make sure that assumptions are not made and that assemblies or lessons they take are educational and not instructional. An end to compulsary collective worship would also be a start.

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