Education Newspaper Letters

Letter in The Courier – Its all about toleration.

Letter: It’s all about toleration
The Courier 12 Mar 2015

Sir, – Alistair McBay of the National Secular Society (Letters, March 9) resorts to mockery and scaremongering to tell us why Christian values should be removed from education. To link Scripture Union and the bible with homophobic bullying is a cheap and nasty shot, sadly all too typical of the kind of propaganda the atheist secularists use.

As Christians we utterly oppose any form of homophobic bullying. The irony is that Mr McBay says he is for “free thought” but wants any point of view that is not in accord with the National Secular Society banned!

Angus Brown (Letters, March 9) claims that Humanists are not anti-religious and yet when I go on to their website I am told that Humanists are atheists or agnostics and I see that almost all their campaigns are anti-religious.
He asks the very pertinent question would I be as tolerant if my children chose to become Humanists — the answer is of course. I would not be happy but I would tolerate it — that is what toleration means.
If the Humanists cannot even tolerate an anti-bullying booklet which mentions prayer, then it seems as though all their professions of “free thought” and “toleration” are meaningless. The Christian view is that we tolerate those we disagree with and are prepared to allow different points of view. Which view should our education system be based on?

David Robertson. St Peter’s Free Church, 4 St Peter Street, Dundee.


  1. Are their campaigns strictly anti-religious (as in attacking personal expressions of religion), or are their campaigns directed toward religious intrusion into public life? There’s a vast difference that you may not recognize.
    For example, they are campaigning against Muslims and Jews who don’t want to stun cows before they kill them. Apparently, their religious beliefs ignore the suffering of the animal.
    Why are you pro-suffering, David?

  2. “In order to ensure everyone’s right to freedom of religion and belief is respected, we believe all publicly funded schools should be fully inclusive and equally welcoming to children of all religion and belief backgrounds.

    We therefore campaign for an inclusive secular education system in which religious organisations play no formal role.

    Whilst all schools should respect the beliefs of pupils and their families, no schools should seek to promote or instil such beliefs. Parents have the right to raise their child in accordance with their religious and philosophical convictions, but they should not expect to do that via the state or our publicly funded schools.”

    That’s straight from their website. At first I thought you were like Dawkins and they like Fred Phelps, but now I see you are simply raving…

    1. Brent , you do realise the inconsistency here? They recognise that parents have the right to raise their children in accordance with their religious and philosophical convictions but not to be paid for by the Stat- unless they are humanists! How intolerant! The UNHCR recognised it as a fundamental human right that parents should expect state education for their children to be raised in their faith. You want to deny that. Little wonder that you call me mad.

      1. It depends on whether or not you consider state schools to be protestant Christian schools. It is not a UNHCR requirement that schools have to raise children in a faith. I still dont think it is the role of a school to raise children at all. That is for families to do.

        The UN Human Rights Committee has noted that freedom of religion or belief permits public school instruction in subjects such as the general history of religions and ethics if it is given in a neutral and objective way. (General Comment No.22). Moving beyond this, the General Comment acknowledges that it is also permissible for public schools to be involved in religious instruction, noting that it would be consistent with human rights commitments to do so, insofar as “provision is made for non-discriminatory
        exemptions or alternatives that would accommodate the wishes of parents and guardians.”

        Which means the exact opposite would also be true in that a school does not need teach religious instruction but instead makes provision for those pupils whose parents which for the school to have an element of prayers on the curriculum. That is close to the humanist position.

        Unless, and this would also be an option, that there were some kind of regular referendum of parents in an area asking if they wanted their local school(s) to be religious in nature?

        Human Rights do state that “No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions”

        However, this does not mean that the state is bound to provide a system of education that accords with parental beliefs, but it does mean that parents can object to the nature and content of the education and teaching given to their children where religious instruction is predicated upon, is intended to or has the effect of projecting the truth (or falsity) of a particular set of beliefs. In consequence, parents must have the right to withdraw their children from such forms of teaching. A different and more complex issue arises when parents object to educational programmes that are aimed at teaching about religions and beliefs from what courts have described as a “neutral” and “objective” perspective (such as teaching about different religions).

        It needs to be noted that children, as autonomous individuals, enjoy the freedom of religion or belief in their own right, as do adults. However, given the special status of the rights of parents and legal guardians regarding the religious and philosophical upbringing of their children, the rights of the child in the sphere of education are often exercised by parents in their own right rather than in the name of the child. Of course, there will come an age at which children may seek to assert their own rights in this regard, and the force of the parental right recedes as the capacity of the child evolves.

        Therefore any claims to be exempted from such forms of instruction must be assessed in accordance with the more general approach of ensuring that in the projection of religious views, the state, through its teachers, does not take undue advantage of the superior position that it enjoys vis-à-vis pupils to influence their views in an inappropriate fashion. Thus, if we are to have a referendum on whether or not the role of schools is to teach the protestant faith at what age is the cut-off for votes and would children be allowed to state that they do not want this religious education. We already see pushback from the Catholic schooling authorities against children who no longer want to take part in religious instruction. Do we really want state schools joining in this violation of children rights?

        I want all children to be educated about a broad spectrum of faiths and beliefs in schools and to be educated in a way that lets them critically analyse them and decide what it is they want to believe. This means not having prayers on the curriculum. This is, by the way, not the confused anti-religious position you state it is but is a position that promotes equality and denies privilege to any one group by treating them all as the same.

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