26 May 2010

 

Religious Privilege in School Transport


It is entirely at the discretion of Local Education Authorities whether they pay for ‘home to faith school transport’ by providing a special subsidy to help children with parents of certain religions get to a school that inculcates their religion rather than attend their local school. Currently, 40% of all English Local Education Authorities (including Leicestershire) pay for such transport incurring a cost of more than £20M (2008/09) met by the Council Tax payer.

Ninety out of one hundred and fifty-two Local Education Authorities (i.e. 60%) do not provide such transport.

The subsidy isn’t available for all children from a religious background travelling to ‘faith’ schools, nor to those of no faith, but only to a select few, whose parents follow a privileged religion and have “chosen” to send their children to a school other than their nearest allocated one.

The scheme defies logic.

How can it be right to provide transport to sectarian ‘faith schools’ but not to other schools? The County Council should not be funding/promoting any religion.

What possible justification can there be for granting privileges to just certain religious groups, who control religious schools, and discriminating against parents/children from other religious and non-religious backgrounds. Surely such a "religious preference" is essentially discriminatory and may well contravene both UK and European Law.

Removing this funding would not only save the council money, but would be treating everybody equally regardless of personally held beliefs.

If a parent decides they want their child to be introduced to the dogma of a particular religion, which requires that child to travel to a school outside their catchment area, then the responsibility for getting them to that school should lie solely with the parent. This is the case for parents who choose an alternative community school for their children for whatever reason.

It would appear that funding of this nature is a relic of a bygone era that has no place in today’s multi-cultural, multi-faith and increasingly no-faith society.

Let there be an immediate end to it.

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25 May 2010

 

Religious Privilege in School Transport

It is entirely at the discretion of Local Education Authorities whether they pay for ‘home to faith school transport’. That is provide a special subsidy to help children with parents of certain religions get to a school that inculcates their religion rather than attend their local school. Currently, 40% of all English Local Education Authorities (including Leicestershire) pay for such transport. This is at a total cost of £20.5M (2008/09) to the Council Tax payer.

Ninety out of one hundred and fifty-two Local Education Authorities (i.e. 60%) do not provide such transport.

The subsidy isn’t available for all children from a religious background travelling to ‘faith’ schools, nor to those of no faith, but only to a select few, whose parents follow a privileged religion and have “chosen” to send their children to a school other than their nearest allocated one.

The scheme defies logic.

How can it be right to provide transport to sectarian ‘faith schools’ but not to other schools? The County Council should not be funding/promoting and religion.

It is particularly idiosyncratic in that such transportation costs are provided predominantly for one denomination of the Christian religion, i.e. Roman Catholics. This clearly discriminates against people of other Christian denominations; other faiths and of no faith.

What possible justification can there be for granting privileges to just certain religious groups and discriminating against parents/children from other and non-religious backgrounds. Surely such a "religious preference" is essentially discriminatory and may well contravene both UK and European Law.

Removing this funding would not only save the council money, but would be treating everybody equally regardless of personally held beliefs.

If a parent decides they want their child to be introduced to the dogma of a particular religion, which requires that child to travel to a school outside their catchment area, then the responsibility for getting them to that school should lie solely with the parent. This is the case for parents who choose an alternative community school for their children for whatever reason.

It would appear that funding of this nature is a relic of a bygone era that has no place in today’s multi-cultural, multi-faith and increasingly no-faith society.

Let there be an immediate end to it.

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21 May 2010

 

Christianity – When Did the Killing Begin?

Last night’s lecture at Secular Hall was given by Prof. Andrew Tobin of Leicester University. He’s a practising micro-biologist and also a believer in Christianity. It seems an earlier talk had prompted him to want to explain how being a scientist and being a Christian believer were entirely compatible.

As far as I’m concerned he failed in his mission – and what is more it seems he only succeeds in it in terms of his personal life by separating off his science and his religious beliefs into completely separate compartments in his psyche. Thus he seemed unable to deal with a simple question by one of the audience – ‘how, as a scientist, can you marry up your scientific method with your belief in the magic reported in the Bible – the miracles, the resurrection and ascension, the water into wine, etc?’

I’m sure that problem will be dealt with by others but something else he said got me thinking on a different tack. This was his emphasis on Christianity as a source of values and moral guidance for the way life should be lived. He spoke of the well-known doctrines of Jesus of Nazareth: love your enemies, forgive your enemies, turn the other cheek when attacked, show humility, sacrifice to save others, be humble, etc. By coincidence I had yesterday taken delivery of a book from the library which I had requested as I wanted to know more about the Council of Nicaea and how Christianity came to be adopted by the Roman Empire. It is entitled “Constantine – unconquered emperor, Christian victor”. The contrast in the title of this book and the teachings of Jesus got me wondering: how did Christianity move from being a religion of peace and love led by women (as it was) to one of martial achievement, the province of men? In other words, when did the killing begin?

We all know that Christianity’s history drips with blood. From the battles carried out by Constantine and his successors to subdue Roman and other Pagans, and force submission to the ‘holy’ Roman empire, the conversion of Pagans in Europe, through the crusades to recapture Jerusalem from another religiously motivated army (and on the way to kill thousands of other Christians in, of all places, Constantinople) onward through the conquistadors who took Christianity at the point of a bloody sword and lots of gunpowder to South America, on through the executions of ‘witches’, the Holy Inquisition, the Christian inspired pogroms against Jews in Eastern Europe and right up to the present day when Bush and Blair were self-admittedly on a crusade inspired if not ordered by their god to liberate Iraq from the anti-Christ of Sadaam Hussein. Real Christian history is a history of warfare and conquest very much in the tradition of the Old Testament, not the New. The solitary support for Jesus as an advocate of killing for conversion comes in Luke Ch.19 v.27 – “But bring here those enemies of mine, who do not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me”. (This does seem at odds with the general preaching of Jesus and Christian apologists offer explanations but it strikes me as being quite out of place even in the chapter quoted. There’s something odd about it altogether and this is the same chapter where Jesus rewards certain followers according to how much money they have made for him, rather than for the way they have conducted themselves.) The situation is greatly complicated by the general (though not universal) Christian insistence on keeping the Old Testament – the mythology of the Jews – as part of the Christian Bible. If we set aside the ambiguity injected into Christian theology by this practice my question is of great relevance: where along the way did the ‘headline’ preaching of Jesus get brushed aside in favour of the more direct approach – convert or die?

So, over to you, dear reader, when did the killing begin?

Harry

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04 May 2010

 

Bite the Bullet - Vote Tactically

A great deal is now being said about tactical voting in Thursday’s general election. Labour ministers have dropped several hints and even made overt calls on Labour supporters to vote tactically for the Lib-Dem candidate (in Tory/Lib-Dem marginals) in order to prevent Tory gains. So far nobody on the Lib-Dem side has reciprocated. This is a result of their determination to appear confident they can displace Labour for second place in the popular vote and thereby establish a legitimacy for their primary goal of electoral reform. Think of the coming upswell of opinion against first-past-the-post if more people vote Lib-Dem than Labour and yet they come out with only one-third of Labour’s tally of seats. This is not at all unlikely. Because of the way the three parties votes are unevenly spread through the country the Lib-Dems would not win a majority of seats even if their popular vote was significantly greater than those of the other two parties.

It also indicates the Lib-Dems’ philosophical preparedness to work with the Tories in government and their belief that if the scenario pictured above came to pass then even the Tories could be forced to agree to an electoral reform referendum as the price of putting them in power.

If Cameron eschews that option and attempts to run a minority government he will be faced with an immediate Lib-Dem demand for a referendum on electoral reform. That would be supported by Labour. If he refuses the Lib-Dems would understandably embark on a strategy of Parliamentary disruption making government very difficult indeed. Cameron will then get nothing through at all – not even an emergency budget to launch the spending cuts necessary for market confidence to be maintained. In that scenario, with markets on the slide and an urgent need for drastic cuts in public spending, it is likely that Labour and Lib-Dems would combine in a vote of no-confidence to force a new general election in the autumn – with Labour by this time under a new leader. Barring ‘events, dear boy’ all bets would then be off and Labour could get back in with an understanding with the Lib-Dems that electoral reform would be a priority.

The political situation is more fluid now than for decades past. Many people will be thinking that here at last is an opportunity to vote for the party you really would like to see make advances, the party whose policies come closest to your wishes. For readers of this blog that is likely to be an anti-Tory party whether it be Labour, Lib-Dems, Greens, one of the socialist fringe parties or independents. Yet to do so is more likely now than ever to divide the anti-Tory forces and to result in a Cameron majority government. That means tax favours for the rich, cuts to education and benefits, lots more religious schools than even Labour was planning, dropping down a gear on climate change action and the annoying prospect of having a toff at the top, the Sun gloating and Lord Ashcroft piling up even more cash to pour into the Tory coffers.

In view of all this it is more desirable now than ever that people in the anti-Tory camp bite the bullet and vote tactically for a Lib-Dem where they have the best prospect of defeating an otherwise likely Tory winner. Don’t worry, the Lib-Dems will not win a majority or even as many seats as Labour.

After electoral reform is achieved then will be the time to indulge ourselves in voting with the heart.

Harry

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