It’s an obvious question, but it hadn’t really occurred to me until after last night’s vote on which “fringe” religions** would be co-opted onto Birmingham SACRE. The candidates were: Baha’i, Jains, Rastafarians, Progressive Judaism, Mormons, Ahmadi Muslims, and Humanists. The first four were co-opted, the other three weren’t. It’s fair to say that the chair, Barry Henley, wasn’t pleased with this outcome. As far as he’s concerned, although SACRE has the right to choose who to co-opt, it cannot claim to be inclusive if it turns certain groups down.
Looking at the three of us who were shunned, perhaps the decision wasn’t based on prejudice, but I’d need to be convinced. The decision doesn’t appear to be based on numbers. According to the census, there are 2,200 Jews in Birmingham but there are 2 Jewish representatives.
There is certainly Muslim prejudice against Ahmadis and Christian prejudice against Mormons, since they are both considered heresies, making it difficult for them to gain membership of any club where Muslims and Christians have the whip hand. The schools minister, John Nash, will be looking into this outcome and may well intervene.
BHA briefing on previous SACRE discrimination against Humanists in Birmingham (pdf)
**Yes, I know we’re not a religion, but the Human Rights Act states that whenever Law mentions religions, it should be taken to mean religions and beliefs.
Here’s a certificate from a Birmingham primary school. Not a faith school, a secular local-authority school. It’s an example of what’s wrong with the attitude to religion in the city’s schools which is exemplified by the city’s Religious Education syllabus. The certificate is for “understanding that God cares for animals.”
The criticism that we continue to have about RE in this city is that the subject is not seen through educational eyes but through religious eyes. It is, in fact, a form of indoctrination. If you say “According to the Bible…” or “Muslims believe…”, that’s education. If you say “God cares for animals,” that’s religion. And this certificate is only an expression of a whole hour’s learning…
Although most RE teachers in the city teach very engaging lessons, we’re afraid that many of them don’t appreciate this blurring of the lines, because it’s inculcated in the syllabus. When asked about this certificate at a recent SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) meeting, a teacher representative couldn’t see anything wrong with it. They thought it was alright because it complied with attainment target 2 in the year 3 syllabus. The teacher was unable to see the bigger picture.
Do you have examples, from anywhere in the country, of where a non-“faith” school is being used as a church (or mosque/temple/etc.)? Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org