South Lanarkshire Council have this week issued new guidelines on Chaplains and Religious Observance. The atheistic secularists have welcomed this with glee seeing it as some kind of victory. I find this bizarre as the guidelines are largely basic common sense and something that I hope most Christians would support. However I guess it is how these are applied that is the key – they must not be used just to discriminate against Christians. Anyway here is the response I wrote:
The Free Church warmly welcomes the recommendations put forward by South Lanarkshire Council. In particular we welcome-
1) The requirement that all members of the school chaplaincy team must have a full PVG. We are somewhat surprised that this is not already the case. In the Free Church all those who work with children have to undergo the full PVG.
2) The requirement for a teacher to be present when chaplaincy activities are done for the whole school or particular classes. However this is not necessary when it is an extra-curricular voluntary activity such as Scripture Union.
3) The requirement that parental consent should be given for any child to attend an extra-curricular activity. We fully support parental choice.
4) The requirement that all activities and resources must be appropriate to the age and stage of the pupils and fit in with the Curriculum for Excellence. Curriculum for Excellence however does not preclude any group or individual teaching the biblical view of marriage for example, or discussing the different views of creation in RME and philosophy classes. Indeed to ban such discussion would be detrimental to the education of pupils. And to have a secular humanist ‘one doctrine fits all’ approach, imposed by the State on all Scotland’s schools would be just as detrimental.
5) The requirement that School handbooks must contain a statement about the development of ‘Spiritual, social, moral and cultural values.’ Non-denominational schools do not mean, as some mistakenly assume, that the schools are non-religious. Scotland’s state education system is still a Christian education system and parents need to be aware of that so that they can withdraw their children from any religious activity that they do not agree with. Again we support the right of parents to choose. But we welcome the acknowledgement that the default position is that of a Christian ethos.
6) The requirement that the parent council be informed annually about the composition of the chaplaincy team and that the headteacher should discuss with the chaplains their role and work. This is just common sense. Likewise with the requirement that parents be informed of planned chaplaincy activities and of their right to withdraw and of suitable alternatives being provided.
7) The requirement that Publications must not be sold to pupils by either individuals or groups. Head teachers must consider carefully the materials that they send home. If they think any materials are of a sensitive nature they must discuss them with their chaplaincy team and / or their parent council prior to issue and must seek advice from Education Resources staff. Presentations and any associated materials or publications which are used must be age and stage appropriate. The school must ensure that presentations and associated materials are at an appropriate level and should be interesting and stimulating. Handouts or other materials must be discussed with the head teacher in advance of events, to ensure their suitability and appropriateness. If the chaplaincy input is a team approach then fellow members of the team should view any materials prior to their issue. Again this seems a sensible, common sense and uncontroversial approach.
We regard the proposals from South Lanarkshire as excellent with the proviso that this common sense approach must apply to all, and not be used as a tool to discriminate against Christian chaplains. Any outside volunteer should be PVG checked. Any outside organisation should not be given unrestricted access to our children. Parents should be informed of all organisations that come into schools and seek to promote their views. No such organisations should be allowed to sell, or distribute their literature, without the prior agreement of the headteacher, who should inform parents. For example in many schools it appears that Stonewall have been given carte blanche to distribute their propaganda. This should not happen without parental consent. Whilst we welcome South Lanarkshire’s commitment to the legal right of parents to withdraw their children from RO, we hope they will show the same diligence in informing parents of their right to withdraw from any sex education that goes against the values and morals of the parents.
We would also request that education authorities, headteachers and school councils be vigilant in ensuring that those who seek to use the State education system to push atheist teachings and demean Christianity, do not infiltrate our Christian state education system. We are aware of many instances of teachers and others mocking those who believe the bible, discriminating against Christians and in general using their position to push their own philosophical, moral and personal values. Schools should not be used either for religious, or secular humanist or atheist indoctrination. The education system does not exist to tell children WHAT to think, but rather to teach them HOW to think. At least that was the position in the past when the education system was specifically Christian. It appears that the secular humanists and the militant atheists do not make any distinction between state education and state indoctrination.
We agree with the statement from the Scottish Secular Society which makes the following excellent request: “We would ask parents everywhere to question the school and find out who is having contact with their children, how often, and what views do they convey? Are they fully PVG checked, and are they supporting their children’s’ education or contradicting it?” This is excellent.
Likewise we would encourage parents everywhere to question the school and find out who is having contact with our children, how often and what views they are conveying. We would want all such to be PVG checked. We want all parents to know exactly who is teaching our children and what.
And we do not want our children to be taught at school the opposite of what they are taught at home. For too long far too many Christians have suffered an increasing discrimination within the State education system, where our children are openly abused, mocked and where children are taught that their parents’ beliefs are out-dated, discriminatory and wrong. The State education system should not be used for the social engineering experiments of the secular humanists, nor should the more militant atheists be allowed to bully and pressurise schools into removing their Christian ethos and background. If the State wishes to renege on its commitment to the churches made in the 1872 education act then so be it. If they wish to have secular humanist schools and exclude Christianity then this will involve a massive shakeup in the Scottish Education System because it is a human right, recognised by the United Nations, that parents have the right to have their children educated in the context of their beliefs (and again we welcome the commitment to parental choice in the South Lanarkshire guidelines). Suitable provision will have to be made. But that is a discussion for another time. Meanwhile we welcome the guidelines and hope that they will be acted upon fairly and without discrimination.
St Peters Free Church
23rd January 2015
You can read the full guidelines here: http://ecas.southlanarkshire.gov.uk/viewSelectedDocument.asp?c=e%97%9Df%8Fi%7F%87