Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Humanists Hiding Behind Anglicans (and Children)

As I minded my own business and went to collect the Twins Aculae from school this afternoon, some little chap or other pushed a high-gloss high-price leaflet into my hand. I confess to thinking that he didn't look like the sort to be pushing the next pizza place, so I read the thing. 

What you see here is the front top portion of the 120gsm publication. Wow, I thought, a faith group getting militant. Someone doesn't like Catholics, I mused. Naughty Catholics, I pondered, if this is right. I also thought happy-happy joy-joy thoughts for the kind  non-Catholic group who seemed concerned with the rights of my Anglican flock. 

Brothers and sisters: all is not as it would seem. This publication is from Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, and they have a website too: Among the plaudits is just a small amount of anti-Catholic rhetoric and couched in the language of bile and stereotype (in my opinion). Me being me, I wanted to know who RISC were - a faith group? Some disgruntled parents who had failed by get baby Johnny admitted elsewhere? The leaflet and the website were no help whatsoever. The Humanist website was, however. They gave the game away, and blew the cover of our Humanist brothers and sisters who seemed at some pains to avoid their true identity. 

Now - I have no real objection to inclusiveness in our faith schools. Actually, I favour it over a tight admission policy because I don't think that any facet of church life should be that of a private-member's club. What I absolutely do object to is to campaigns that fight for our children and for other faith groups as a subterfuge for the real agenda. To argue a case for what you do want as a front for what you don't want is underhand, in my opinion (and dishonest). Let us be clear - the BHA don't give a rat's derriere for me as an Anglican, any other Protestant, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or Sikh. To them we are all deluded.

For my part, I think that the debate should be open, that we have a meaningful debate about school admissions policies - but in the open, as conspicuous interested parties - not behind campaign slogans and some disingenuous text. There is an increasing sense in some Christian circles that loving our neighbour (you know, that key Christian tenet) doesn't work well with "our neighbour isn't allowed in our school though". There are Christians who will debate this issue without resort to glossy semantic prestidigitation. I confess to being even more disappointed in the Humanists than I was before - and I didn't think that was possible. 

Give me a true atheist any day - at least we can talk properly. 


  1. Much as I support church schools , Pixiekids went to the church school attended by some littlies in your congregation., what I consider the borough needs is a boys comprehensive to match the excellent girls comprehensive.

    If parents of boys don't live in the catchment of the "good" local comprehensives the only alternative in the Anglican comprehensive in Sunbury or , like so many of us did, to pay for the boys to attend the local independent boys school in Hampton.

    We suspect the good attendance of families with sons is to enable them to attend both the church primary school and then the church secondary school.

    For the RC children, the out of borough RC secondaries have been able to shrink their catchment areas because they are full up with Polish and other East European Catholics. It doesn't seem fair that RCs don't have a secondary school in our borough considering the large number of catholic primaries.

  2. I haven't handed out leaflets or pamphlets for decades. But if I did, I'ld make mine more artistic.

  3. Setting aside the artistry (or otherwise) of Richmond Inclusive School Campaign's (RISC's) leaflet, it's a pity that David Cloake makes a couple of errors here:
    1. Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign is not a humanist campaign. Obviously it's supported by humanists as well as many others (the "many others" being in the great majority).
    The formal supporter of the campaign is the Accord Coalition, which includes Christian, Muslim, Hindu and humanist groups and is chaired by Rabbi Jonathan Romain. The fact that the British Humanist Association, a member of Accord, is welcoming and reporting the campaign is hardly a surprise.
    It's a campaign for inclusive schools, where children from all backgrounds are equally welcome whether their parents are Anglicans, humanists, Catholics, Muslims...The Council is proposing a school that will be effectively closed to everyone who is not a Catholic. That's wrong.
    2. The local team behind the campaign consists of people from all sorts of backgrounds, including humanists. I am one of the organisers and have never attempted to hide the fact that I'm a humanist. In fact I am the humanist rep on Richmond Interfaith Forum - hardly covert! You can see a letter from one of the other campaigners in last Friday's (24th Feb) Richmond & Twickenham Times, who explains that he attended a Catholic school. As far as I know, he is not religious and he's certainly not a humanist. The same goes for most others. The campaign unites people from different backgrounds behind a common cause, which is one of simple fairness.
    3. The purpose of the leaflet is to encourage people to give their views to the Council, which is currently consulting on whether to give the only available school site in the borough to the Catholic church for exclusive Voluntary Aided schools.
    4. There is a mistaken assumption here that Humanism and Anglicanism are enemies. That is not the case. We live in a plural society and it's essential that those of differing beliefs understand and respect each other as people. Along with many other humanists, I am not an "anti-theist". Many good and kind people have religious faith. And Humanists and Anglicans share an ethical position underpinned by the "Golden Rule" (do unto others...)
    But I am against religious privilege - of which exclusive Catholic schools is one of the more extreme examples.

    For more details about the campaign, go to

    Jeremy Rodell

  4. Jeremy

    Thank you for your comment, and indeed your email, and the time taken to offer them (which is appreciated as we are now having ourselves a dialogue of sorts). Your clarification is helpful, as it sheds light on the ambiguities that were the talk of the school playground by those less religiously motivated than me. The leaflet, sadly, was not good though your comments are - and should have been on that document (in my opinion).

    The funny thing is - we broadly agree on the issues of inclucivity so I do, in essence, support your perspective (to a given extent, of course) if not all of the comments in the leaflet. People will, though, do as I did and seek clarity and they will find the same results I did by dint of Google and its offerings. I am not the only one to have drawn similar conclusions in the last 24 hours.

    On the matter of pluralism, my friend Gurdur (see above), an atheist and a humanist, will confirm that I am possibly among the more open-minded of Christians and we have talked on a range of issues. I determine no enmity from humanists (and enjoy dialogue on many things with some of them, through social media), just that projected by the BHA (and I accept that the BHA doesn't represent all humanists) whose gentle and implicit comments about those of faith are unhelpful to dialogue.

    However, evidence is also there that suggests that faith schools are a desirable choice for many who otherwise do not go to church. Your campaign would gain much from establishing the cause of that behaviour (the school where I am a governor is many-times oversubscribed by many who are not overtly religious and certainly are not habitual practitioners of a religion). Equally, I have never been to a church school myself but sit here in a collar answering to the title Vicar. I see no failing in non-faith schooling therefore (if the school is run with an open mind and heart as mine were).

    Thanks again, Jeremy, for your clarifications. Advice - reprint the leaflet!

  5. Apart from the fact that we can't afford it, I don't think we need to reprint the leaflet! But just to be clear: RISC has never been anti-faith schools - some supporters are against them, others are for them. There is no incompatibility between inclusivity and faith schools, as the examples of new fully inclusive CofE free schools in Camden and Ealing demonstrate, along with most Voluntary Controlled schools. The final section of our leaflet hopefully makes this clear: "Many Catholic schools are indeed good quality. But so are many community schools, including the borough's two "Ofsted outstanding" community secondaries. And many faith schools - like the new Anglican primary proposed for Hampton - are open to all. What's wrong with a good new school open to all children, regardless of who's running it?"

    There is a separate debate to be had on the principle of faith schools, social selection etc. But that is outside the scope of RISC. It is notable, however, that the historical mission of CofE schools was to provide community education before there was universal state provision. In contrast, the Catholic Diocese of Westminster Priest's Reference Form states: "Catholic schools exist to assist parents in handing on the Catholic faith to their children." That's fine, but it's hard to see why the taxpayer should be funding it.

    1. However Jeremy it is not being entirely funded by the tax payer. The diocese is funding all of the refurb and contributing in other ways too. Where does the dioseces money come from? From the Catholic community, who contribute to their childrens education.In addition to this many parents contribute at their childrens school, by making annual contributions to the schools building fund to pay for improvements , necessary maintance etc etc so the Catholic community is very much contributing too. The borough do pay a contribution naturally for catholic children to be educated as with all children in the borough. This is an issue of providing choice for all. There is currently no in borough choice for children from 6 primary schools in this borough (1 in 7 of all the primaries) with nearly a 1,000 Richmond Catholic school children currently going to school out of borough with many making very long journeys.These are also families of Richmond tax payers. I think it is right with 1 in 7 primary schools being Catholic that atleast 1 in 8 of our secondary schools should be so too.You mention 'inclusivity' but inclusivenes covers far, far more than just religion. Catholic schools are very diverse communities as Catholicism is a world religion uniting many differnt cultures.This school would unite children from every local community across the borough (not just one small area) creating not only a great borough school but also a school with great cultural and economic diversity. Catholic schools do not have a policy not to include others of differnt faiths, but places are led by demand and i can see that in LBRUT there is a massive need for Catholic secondary school places. This demand needs to be met first to ensure that there are school places for all of the children currently going out of borough. This will enable Catholic children to enjoy the same right as other children to achieve continuity of education in their own borough. It is not in my mind about 'excluding' it is about 'including' children from these 6 schools by giving them a real choice in their own borough, to be part of their borough.In my mind a true community is one that allows everyone to flourish and to hold values that are dear to them. A Catholic school is very very dear to the heart of the Catholic community.

  6. And in much of this we are of one mind. Needless to say, the semantics surrounding the very word 'catholic' would be where me and by Brothers and Sisters over the Tiber might disagree!

    Once again, thank you for taking the time to write. I have valued this exchange.



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