Apologetics Education Newspaper/Magazine Articles Scotland

The Times, The Secularists and the Challenge of Education for the Churches

I love the old KJV version of Psalm 41:3 – although the metrical version leaves a bit to be desired!

3 God will give strength when he on bed
of languishing doth mourn;
And in his sickness sore, O Lord,
thou all his bed wilt turn.

IN my juvenile mind (not so long ago I used to be a wee bit amused by those who prayed for ‘he that lies on his bed of sickness’!  It doesn’t sound exactly the most comfortable position to be in!

The NIV translates that verse ” The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness.”  Something I can testify to.

Anyway as many apparently have heard (the wonders of social media!) I am back in hospital with my gall bladder.  Like everything else it is an opportunity to reflect on the goodness of God and take some time out to think about things.  And it’s also an opportunity to write – after all I don’t want to lose my reputation aka the nurse who said “Ooh look, it’s the vicar with the laptop!”.   Just before I came into hospital I received a phone call from the Times who wanted to talk about a crucial issue – but one that doesn’t immediately appear to be so.  I’m talking about the difficult and somewhat obscure subject of religious representatives on Scottish Councils Schools education committees.  So back into battle we went. (incidentally the Times journalist was very sympathetic).   You can read the article by clicking this link

times.co.uk 12.07.17

Let me explain briefly why this is important and what it means.  At first it seems that the secularists have a watertight case.  After all are they not just concerned about democracy and why should there be ‘unelected’ religious representatives on local council education committees making decisions about education?  But it’s always helpful not just to go with the soundbites but delve into the background.  It’s a fascinating story.

In 1872 the Protestant churches in Scotland handed over all their schools to the State on the explicit condition that Scottish State Education should continue to be Christian.  From that day on the Scottish Education system (unlike the American one) has officially been Christian.  The Catholics, being wiser than the Protestants, didn’t trust the State and so they kept their own schools.  Even within living memory most schools in Scotland would have had ‘religious’ worship, school chaplains and bible teaching.  The ethos of the schools were largely Christian.  But this is now virtually unrecognisable.   Secular humanists/atheists have cuckoo like taken over the State education system and are now using Salami tactics (piece by piece) to dismantle the remaining parts of it – crying tolerance and equality in order not to tolerate Christianity and in order to prevent Christians from receiving the equal education that the UN Human Rights charter demands.   Of course neither they nor the main political parties (other than the Greens and Tommy Shepherd of the SNP) will dare touch the Catholic churches – but their turn will come.

Watch this to see how it works:


The militant secularists want to get all religion out of schools (except when it is taught by them as ‘information”.  They don’t want religious worship but they did not campaign against that so instead they campaigned against the religious opt out clause (whereby parents who do not want their children to go to religious worship can opt out) and instead asked for an opt in clause.   They were ‘economical with the truth’ and said they were not opposed to religious worship but if they succeed it will mean that the next target will be the removal of religious worship altogether.

Another target they have gone for is to use the anti-bullying flag as a Trojan Horse for insisting that all pupils in Scotland are indoctrinated into their view of sex, sexuality and human relationships.  The ‘Time For Inclusive Education’ is a nice name but completely false – no other view is to be included except theirs.

And the third slice is the continual attempt to get rid of the religious representatives on Council Education Committees.   Perhaps it is easier to explain this is just to give the legislation

The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 s.124 requires that an education
committee of a local authority must include members nominated by various
churches. These are:
(a) one representative of the Church of Scotland, nominated in such
manner as may be determined by the General Assembly of the Church;
(b) in the case of the education authority for each area other than
Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands and Western Isles, one
representative of the Roman Catholic Church, nominated in such
manner as may be determined by the Scottish Hierarchy of the Church;
(c) one person, or in the case of the education authorities for Orkney
Islands, Shetland Islands and Western Isles, two persons, in the
selection of whom the authority shall have regard (taking account of the
representation of churches under paragraphs (a) and (b) above) to the
comparative strength within their area of all the churches and
denominational bodies having duly constituted charges or other
regularly appointed places of worship there.
The provision reflects the historical roots of school education as a religious
concern. Schools were transferred from churches to elected school boards
under the education acts of 1872 and 1918. In 1929, local government
education committees were established. Section 12 of the 1929 Local
Government (Scotland) Act required that education committees include
members nominated by churches, and similar provision has been repeated in
local government legislation since then.

The Secularists argue that because the churches are in decline – with less than 50% claiming a religious affiliation this is a relic from the past and should be scrapped.    I am inclined to agree – but only on certain conditions.  Given that the secularists could probably fit most of their members who attend their meetings into the local phone box it hardly seems fair that they should be the ones who determine the educational philosophy, ethos and ethics of every school in Scotland.  So who is going to decide?  A one size fits all mentality worked very well when most people in Scotland claimed a Christian heritage and were happy with a Christian education system.  But if that is no longer the case then why should our children be subjected to the dictatorship of the seculartariat?!

If the Scottish government really want equality, diversity and tolerance (and indeed a raise in standards – other than just for the very rich) why not adopt the progressive Dutch system of education where if 50 parents are able to agree, the government agrees to fund religious schools, if those schools meet the academic standards set down by the State?   Given that the Scottish Government already fund Catholic, Anglican and Jewish schools – why not fund Free Church, or more generally Christian?   Indeed here is a really radical idea – why don’t the Catholics announce that their schools are no longer specifically Catholic but they are willing to make them more broadly Christian and even invited the Free Church, the Baptists and the C of S to help run them?  (I know that’s a step too far for some but imagine the witness of these united Christian schools?- I know Free Church people who already send their children to Catholic schools rather than the local secularist indoctrination centre!)

Why does this matter?  Let Catriona Murray my favourite blogger from Lewis tell us:

“This is Catriona. She’s forty-one years old. Until recently, she didn’t know how the education system had failed her. Catriona thought that, as she was being brought up in a Christian country, by parents who had her baptised into a Christian church, it was probably okay for the school to reflect these values in its teaching. But Catriona was duped.
Now, thanks to the work of some tireless reformers, she can see how wrong it is for teachers to instruct children to honour their parents, not to take things that aren’t theirs, and not to kill others. The liberal reformers believe that children should be allowed to come to their own conclusions about right and wrong. Catriona thinks that this is a good idea but, meantime, maybe don’t let the wee ones read ‘Lord of the Flies’, just until they’ve decided where they stand on cannibalism.”

Naive Humanism at its Most Hubristic – clearly they havn’t read Lord of the Flies!

Our schools are run largely on a throwback to 1970’s middle class socialism and a nice liberal re-interpretation of Buddhist morality.  For those who want it its fine.  But in my view its failing Scotland’s children and as Christians and churches we just need to say – ‘give us back our schools’.  Let people choose to send their kids to the kind of school you want – but let others have to choice to go a different path without hinderance.  Is that not what real tolerance, diversity and equality is?


Religious influence on state schools ‘could be curtailed’ : SNP plans to transfer powers over state schools away from councils risks marginalising the role of spiritual leaders, senior church figures have warned.

Religious representatives have a legal right to places on local authority education committees, but some churches fear this role will be diminished under new “regional collaboratives” planned to shake up school governance.

John Swinney announced last month plans for regional education boards to provide key support for schools, something which is missing in many areas at the moment.

Headteachers will also be handed broad new powers both over the way pupils are taught and the teachers working in their classrooms under the reforms.

It is understood there are no plans to hand religious figures roles on these bodies, with government sources stressing they will be made up of “experienced and talented educators”, The Times reports.

David Robertson, minister at St Peter’s Free Church in Dundee and a former moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, said religious figures should be given places on the new regional collaboratives to maintain the status quo.

Scots law currently ensures at least three places on local education committees for religious nominees, which reflects the historical roots of the education system north of the border. The Reformation of 1560 led to a drive for a ‘school in every parish’, with the Kirk paying for teachers and buildings.

This system led to Scotland having one of the highest literacy rates in the world at a time when few other countries had a nationwide system of education.

But secularists claim the rule is undemocratic in the 21st century and out of step with modern Scotland, where church attendances have plummeted in the last 50 years.

A Church of Scotland spokesman told The Times it was looking forward to discussions about the regional collaboratives but added that local democratic oversight in education should not be eroded.

You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one….I know that.  Many of the Catholics and Evangelicals share that vision.  The problem is as always the establishment of the Church of Scotland who are in hoc with the establishment of the State and are unlikely to do anything more radical than hold a holiday club in a local school (if they are not banned from doing so). The Church of Scotland should be leading the campaign for a return to Christian education – but instead they are making alliances with the secular humanists so that they can retain the trappings of chaplaincy and leave out the heart all together.

So here is the challenge.

To the Scottish government – when will you give us that equality, diversity and tolerance you pride yourselfs on?

To the Christian churches – when will we understand that if we don’t make the education of our children a primary (and secondary) priority we fail not only them but ourselves?

To the Secular Humanists – If you are so convinced about the values of your education system then why not give people the choice and we will see.  The God (or in your case) philosophy) who answers by fire – let him be God.  Or maybe you are prepared to sacrifice our children for the sake of your ideology.

Debating Christianity and Education in a Secular University


This last poster is the most delicious irony.  The Secualrists think that we all need to be enlighted in their way.  They talk about enlightening ‘up’.  But if they don’t look up they will our society into the depths of the dirt and pit.  It is indeed a worthy cry – Enlighten Up – by looking to the Light of the World



  1. David you are right about the important of this matter. I served three terms in this capacity on a local authority education committee and would happily do so again as it is vital that this provision is maintained.

  2. 1. Hope you get better soon.

    2. What is the difference between militant and non-militant secularism. They key word is secularism, not how you perceive the approach to achieve secularism.

    3. I am happy to confirm that as a humanist and as a secularist I do not believe that prayers should be on the school curriculum. Schools are not churches.

    4. You miss out some key details about what and why the changes happened in 1872. You make is seem as if the state merely took over a well running system so its unfair that the state hasnt kept the ethos of those schools (it did for generations btw). The first thing the act did was make primary education mandatory. At the time of the half million children needing education, 200k were getting it properly (for the time), 200k were in schools of doubtful merit and 90k were not getting it at all (Argyll Commission). Never mind the fact that girls left earlier than boys and were rarely educated in things beyond what was needed for being chained to a kitchen sink. Many of the grand old school buildings you and I both grew up knowing and seeing were built after the Act. Previously, class sizes where 70+ in size and learning by rote was the standard. It was not the utopia you present it as. There was a need for real improvement and the Church was not willing to do it.

    5. If you follow your logic that that State and Church were as one, then it is not the State that the Catholics were not trusting. It was the Church. After all, six decades after the 1872 Act, the Church of Scotland was still producing reports with titles like “The Menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationality”. Would you trust your childrens education to bodies with views like that? What is interesting is you conflate current desire for equality with oppression such as this. You could not be more wrong.

    6. Can you give examples of Christian educational philosophy, ethos and ethics that does not exclude people who are not Christian and then an example of a secular educational philosophy, ethos and ethics that exclude Christians? You make many claims about how important these things are but give no examples. Here is a challenge for your convalescence – what would your ideal school vision and ethos look like?

    7. The Dutch system is an interesting one. The Humanists there do not agree to segregate children on the basis of the beliefs of their parents so have not opted to open the schools. Instead, they help each school meet the academic standards as set down by the state by having humanist teachers and course work prepared and delivered in each school. If we were to replicate that system then we’d have humanism on the curriculum for the first time. Also, the Dutch system is not as robust as you’d hope – religious schools are the ones that fail the most. Because the religion is the important thing, not the education of children.

    8. Since you are pro-Brexit on the premise that you dont like unelected decision makers I cannot see how you can accept unelected decision makers in the education system unless you are happy to be a hypocrite.

    9. As you well know, the Enlighten Up campaign was a reference to the Scottish Enlightenment. One of Scotlands greatest thinkers is David Hume. His thinking almost got him excommunicated for heresy and deny any post in Scottish universities thanks to campaigns by Presbyterian evangelicals. Your way is one of many and in a secular country you are free to follow it. We have seen what happens with Scotland is a Christian country with its own dogmatic thinking.

    10. You may fear the dirt and pit and think Scotland is descending into it. I think, to a great extend, we are travelling out if it. Parts of the journey will be hard. For example, domestic violence is becoming more visible and I think this is because society accepts more and more that this is wrong. Which makes me wonder, why was this not the case when we were the Christian country whose loss you lament so much?

    1. Sorry for taking so long – just got out of hospital. To answer each point.

      1. Thanks…so do i!

      2. There are many different kinds of secularism – including Christian. Militant Secularists are atheists who think they can use secularism to advance their anti-religious agenda.

      3. You would ban those who want them? Thats Militant secularism – anything that does not fit your definition of a school must be banned!

      4. The Church was very willing to do it – and the State was not capable of doing it – which is why we had a good partnership. One you want to break up.

      5. “If you follow your logic that that State and Church were as one, then it is not the State that the Catholics were not trusting. It was the Church.” – Not my logic. The Free Church was formed precisely because we believed that Church and State were not one.

      6. “Can you give examples of Christian educational philosophy, ethos and ethics that does not exclude people who are not Christian and then an example of a secular educational philosophy, ethos and ethics that exclude Christians” – I actually don’t know of any Christian education philosophy that excludes non-Christians. As for a secular educational philosophy which excludes Christians? Yours. You continually argue against any education which is not yours.

      “Here is a challenge for your convalescence – what would your ideal school vision and ethos look like?”- I’ll answer that more fully at another time. But basically a wholistic open education system for all, based on Christian ethos and principles, with high academic standards. with access not determined by money

      7. Of course Humanists don’t build schools. They never put their money where their mouth is. They do seek to infiltrate cuckoo like – as you admit. If we were to replicate that system then we’d have humanism on the curriculum for the first time.

      8. Silly argument. If we had directly elected school boards your point would make more sense.

      9. I am fully aware of what the Enlightenment was and where it took place – in Presbyterian Scotland! In todays dumbed down culture I very much doubt that would happen. The Establishment freak out about anyone who dares to challenge them!

      10. Domestic violence is horrendous. Not quite sure about why you try to link it to Christianity? Unless of course you make your usual ad hom…

  3. David,

    The picture of the naive humanists somehow made me think of the Bob Dylan song, “But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody…”.

    One of the devil’s great successes of recent times has been to convince a large part of the populace, including significant numbers in the Church, that there is no devil. He doesn’t mind us believing in God but not himself because then our faith is effectively neutered and our proclamation ineffectual, and the salt loses it’s savour. If the Church started to reclaim and proclaim the Truth as boldly as Bob Dylan did on that brilliant album “Slow train coming” in 1979, then we might begin to reclaim lost ground, and the naive humanists would not only have heard that, by refusing to acknowledge God, they were in fact serving the devil, but also the good news that Jesus came to rescue them.

    Surely responsibility for the state of society falls not on society itself (for it knows no better) but on the Church.

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

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