Ministers are being urged to stop faith schools in England selecting pupils and staff on the basis of their religion. Accord, a new coalition of secular and religious figures, wants the government to stop state-funded schools engaging in what they say is “discrimination.” Does segregating students on religious grounds harm community cohesion, or do faith schools boost standards in deprived areas?
Without understanding everything about British church-state separation issues, this question is a hard one for me.
Normally, I’d tend to side with the group called Accord, which is composed of religious and secular leaders.
While faith schools may indeed boost standards in deprived areas, I believe discriminating on religious grounds does harm community cohesion.
The best of all possible worlds, of course, would be a religion-blind society, just as in this country we would like to think that we have a color-blind society.
You and I know that we do not have that kind of society, but I like to believe that we have made progress in that direction.
I am reminded of something that the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said one time; he said that a society cannot compel everyone to love one another, but a society can require that everyone is treated in a just manner.
In other words, we can’t insist on love, but we can insist on justice. In my opinion, the Brits have to decide which approach is more just.
THE REV. C. L. “SKIP” LINDEMAN
La Cañada Congregational Church
Faith-based English schools represent a broad spectrum of the larger religions; they are supported by parental demand, and they often outperform “secular” schools. Hindering their operation would be handing secularists an unfair victory and harming children and their families.
Opponents of religion throw out terms like “community cohesion” and “nondiscrimination” in defense of removing the practice of any faith from the public forum, including schools.
But in the process of trying to create a “level playing field,” they violate the God-given principle of freedom to worship as we choose. They militate against differences that will always exist. In the name of “cohesion” they destroy the individual. Jesus said there are “sheep” and there are “goats,” and no self-righteous, anti-religious coalition will ever change that.
I don’t believe that faith-based schools should select students on the basis of faith alone. But they must be allowed to select staff that ascribe to and practice the school’s religion. As Jesus told us, “.?.?.?.men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.”
Should an art school be forced to hire a color-blind teacher? A dance academy forced to hire instructors who can’t dance?
PASTOR JON BARTA
Valley Baptist Church
People place their children into faith schools for myriad reasons, but the typical ones are safety, academic excellence, and especially because of moral agreeability.
It amuses me how secularists are always clamoring for diversity, but when someone offers such in the form of alternate schools based on religious persuasion, suddenly charges of discrimination are leveled and faithless homogeneity is demanded. This logic proves the rationale for faith schools.
Some oppose public fund use for faith schools because they hate that their tax dollars get used for someone else’s kid being educated within religious parameters when their own are left to, well, their own lack of religious parameters. Doesn’t anyone see that religious parents are also taxpayers?
They just don’t appreciate the constant deprecation of their beliefs in the antagonistic venue of public education. If taxes are to be used for education, then let those who desire morals and manners attend one school and those that don’t, another.
There are schools for performing arts that exist, and their only discrimination is that they choose talent for their student body, and experts in the arts as teachers, not to mention reading, writing, and ‘rithemetic.
So too, the faith schools. Would you hire atheists, for example, as religion teachers for Christians? Shouldn’t the math teacher be capable of making allusions to biblical things as they relate to God’s mathematical design in creation, and the history teacher capable of enthusiastically illuminating the positive contributions Christianity has made throughout the annals of civilization?
Look, people naturally separate into things that interest and relate to them, be they sports, or careers, or hobbies, or religion. Options are better than no options, and if people can opt for faith schools, and it makes them happier neighbors and citizens, then why not encourage rather than attack them?
THE REV. BRYAN GRIEM
Montrose Community Church