Religious leaders launch first manifesto for faith schools

September 2, 2014
ACCORD launcj group 1 sept

Back row from left: Derek McAuley (Unitarian Chief Officer), Rev Richard Bentley (CoE), Simon Barrow (Ekklesia). Front row from left: Jonathan Bartley (Ekklesia), Symon Hill (Quaker), Rabbi Jonathan Romain, Martin Prendergast (Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality).

Representatives from the Anglican, Catholic and other churches (Methodist, United Reformed, Unitarian, Quaker), along with the Hindu, Muslim and Jewish faiths, yesterday came together to launch a manifesto (below) calling for an end to discrimination in pupil admissions, teacher employment, as well as broadening the curriculum to make it obligatory for all children to study the major faiths in Britain.

Speaking from a position of deep faith, they called the way faith schools currently operate an affront to religious values of openness and equality, discriminating against both children and adults. They will present the proposals to the main parties today (September 2nd), urging them to pledge to make the education system fairer and less divisive in their General Election manifestos.

Introducing the event at Bloomsbury Church in central London, organiser Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain declared: ‘It is not good for society to ghettoise its future citizens, nor for the children to grow up in an ‘us and them’ culture, nor is it good for faith to be tarnished by discrimination, whereas it should be positive and teach people to love your neighbor as yourself, not hide your children away from him.’

He concluded: ‘Our message to both political parties and school governors is ‘Thou shalt not discrimate against children’ and we need to introduce legislation to eradicate inequality from the state educational system.’

Another signatory, Revd Keith Trivasse (Church of England) stated: ‘I resent, deeply, the fact that my C of E primary school is 98% Muslim, and none of them stand a real chance of getting into the C of E high school in Bury because that school operates a church-attending admissions policy. I find this profoundly discriminatory.’

Revd Richard Bentley (Church of England) spoke of himself as ‘A loyal serving member of the Church of England, yet during my ministry, I have frequently had cause to criticise the C of E about the unjust position to which it clings over church schools’.

Jonathan Bartley (Ekklesia) warned the political parties of the growing resentment of parents unable to get their children into local schools because of faith barriers. He said ‘Political parties seem to be scared of issues in which there is polarized debate, yet they are losing support for ignoring them.’

Another signatory was Rev Una Kroll (Church in Wales). She wrote in support ‘There are discriminatory policies in all local faith schools here.  Now I am a very old lady and not strong enough to travel to London, but I will support you all through prayer and hope and faith that these kinds of discriminatory practices will come to and end.‘

Derek McAuley (Chief Officer, Unitarian Church) called for an end to teaching a mono-religious RE syllabus inschools, and for it instead to be broad and balanced.

Symon Hill (Quaker) decried ‘The fact that employment discrimination by faith schools is legally permissible, yet that is not something as a Christian that I can defend.  I might also suggest that compulsory Worship is an assault on religious liberty.’

Martin Pendergast (Catholic) lamented that many faith schools ignored Sex and Relationships Education and urged that it be made part of the National Curriculum.

The text of the manifesto and its list of signatories is reproduced below:


As the new school year begins, and the General Election in 2015 approaches, we write as religious leaders from a broad spectrum of faith groups who are united in our concern over the way faith schools currently operate – both because of their impact on the children that attend them, and their effect on society at large.

We value faith so do not wish it to be abused, be it for jumping ahead of others to gain entrance to a popular school, or blinkering childrens’ educational experiences. Faith can be a means of enriching children’s lives, but it can also be used to segregate and sow seeds of suspicion. We are calling for a rebalancing of how faith affects the school years of children.

We are especially conscious that many of the practices that caused such outrage in some of the Birmingham schools recently – such as excluding lessons about sex education, avoiding the notion of evolution, and reinforcing a cultural identity to the exclusion of others – would not have been challenged had those schools been classed as faith schools.

We are campaigning for inclusive education and against religious discrimination. Our goal is that all stated-funded schools, including faith schools are inclusive, tolerant and transparent.

We call upon all political parties who seek to form the next government to include the following six points in their manifesto, leading to legislation on faith in schools.

1. To work towards ending the anomaly by which state-funded schools are legally able to distinguish between children on religious grounds in their admissions procedure. Such discrimination is astonishing in today’s society, a legacy of previous centuries that would not be tolerated in employment law, housing rules, health care and almost any other aspect of national life.

2. In the meantime, to bring all state schools in line with the system under which religious Free Schools operate, limiting the number of children that can be selected on the grounds of their faith to 50% of the annual intake. This is not an ideal position but does at least introduce an element of consistency, sends a message about direction of travel and eases the path towards the abolition of all religious discrimination in schools.

3. To close the legal loophole which currently allows schools to refuse to employ teachers on the basis of their faith. At present, Voluntary Aided and Academy faith schools (all Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh and 45% of Church of England ones) can deny employment based a person’s religious identity in all teacher posts. Not only is this morally objectionable, but it is educationally counter-productive, harming the schools’ educational standards and limiting pupils’ social horizons.

4. To recognise that the decision to remove the duty of Ofsted to inspect how schools promoted community cohesion was a mistake – allowing abuses to go unchecked – and to restore Ofsted’s responsibility to monitor the way community cohesion is approached in schools.

5. To ensure that all children learn about the full range of faiths and belief systems in Britain – not just one or none – by adding Religious Education to the National Curriculum. Having an inclusive RE syllabus that is obligatory will help children in multi-belief Britain understand each other and grow up in harmony.

6. To remove the compulsory nature of Collective Worship, which forces worship on children who either do not hold religious beliefs or who adhere to a different faith from that being promoted (and which often causes discomfort for teachers legally obliged to provide it). Worship has an important role elsewhere, but not in schools. Assemblies should instead be given the role of bringing pupils together in celebration of shared values, and assisting them to explore ethical questions.

Jonathan Bartley (Ekklesia)
Revd Richard Bentley (Church of England)
Revd Jeremy Chadd (Church of England)
Revd Nigel Davies (Church of England)
Revd Steve Dick (Executive Director, International Council of Unitarians and Universalists)
Revd Marie Dove (Methodist)
Symon Hill (Quaker)
Revd Dr Noel Irwin (Church of England)
Revd Richard Jones (Church of England)
Revd Richard Kirker (Church of England)
Revd Una Kroll (Church in Wales)
Jay Lakhani (Hindu)
Revd Stephen Lingwood (Unitarian)
Derek McAuley (Chief Officer, Unitarians)
Revd Iain McDonald (United Reformed Church)
Manzoor Moghal (Muslim)
Martin Pendergast (Catholic)
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain (Jewish)
Revd Professor Christopher Rowland (Queen’s College, Oxford)
Revd Stephen Terry (Church of England)
Revd  Keith Trivasse (Church of England)
Revd Simon Wilson (Church of England)



17 Responses to Religious leaders launch first manifesto for faith schools

  1. John O'Connor on September 2, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    There is only one faith and one way to Salvation, and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. These so-called religious ‘leaders’ are doing the Church no favors. If they cannot Stand Up For Jesus they should just keep quiet. They are endangering a whole generation of children who will grow up not knowing God. I will be praying that their suggestions are REJECTED. (In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen).

    • David Peters on September 3, 2014 at 11:44 am

      It’s just as well that prayer never works then. If your faith is so fragile that it cannot stand up to comparison with other beliefs and none then you should reconsider your faith.

      • John O'Connor on September 3, 2014 at 3:42 pm

        Jesus never taught that anyone should compare belief in Him to any other beliefs – in fact he said the exact opposite (as these so-called church ‘leaders’ ought to be able to tell you). Prayer may never work for YOU, David, because you are totally unknown to God, and you are separated from Him by your own sin (so why should He listen to you?). Any genuine Christian will tell you about the power of prayer; not that someone like you will listen, of course. Why don’t you address the rest of your questions to the ministers listed above? I’m sure they ought to have the answers you are seeking.

  2. John O'Connor on September 2, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Faith schools have every right to uphold their particular christian ethos; they have every right to select pupils on that basis; they have every right to appoint teachers who can deliver the christian message of Salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Souls are at stake here. Why is the (true) Church not opposing these ludicrous proposals? Answers anyone? (I will keep praying that their proposals are REJECTED, in the mighty name of Jesus.)

    • David Peters on September 3, 2014 at 11:49 am

      Indoctrinating children when they are inclined to believe everything an adult tells them is abuse. Teach them to think rationally and ethically without concentration on any one religion.

      • John O'Connor on September 3, 2014 at 3:52 pm

        I want you to tell me PRECISELY how a teaching a belief in God amounts to “abuse” or “indoctrination” and give me the details of the relevant studies for me to look at. I will not accept your own mere ‘opinion’ since I do not believe you to be any kind of expert. Post the evidence on this website. I’m sure the church ‘leaders mentioned above will be happy to know that you regard them all as professional child abusers and indoctrinators. In fact I an going to pass your comments on to them directly. Muslims and all.

        • Jim Wilson on September 3, 2014 at 6:16 pm

          Noun. the act of indoctrinating, or teaching or inculcating a doctrine, principle, or ideology, especially one with a specific point of view.

          Children born in to faith following families have the same faith as their parents. This is either a huge coincidence, divine intervention or just that the parents tell their children that theirs is the only faith to follow and ignore the rest. That’s indoctrination.

          You could also easily argue that some religious practices are abusive. – cutting bits off a baby, telling a young child if they are not good that they will go to hell, getting a young child to profess their faith without any real understanding of what that means, making young children dress as ‘brides of Christ’ for first communion. I could go on….

    • Jim Wilson on September 3, 2014 at 5:46 pm

      State funded schools only have these rights as they have been afforded to them by the state. These schools are funded through taxes paid by us all, from religions and none.

      You are free to bring up your children in a faith if you choose, pray with them and take them to worship. Surely in schools we would want to teach children about each other and the world around them. Learning about different world views can be done without indoctrination and would greatly benefit children’s understanding of their neighbours.

      Your faith may be sincere, but so, equally, is the faith of others and also the view of those who have no faith. Why should non-Christian or atheist parents be happy sending their children to schools where the only world view is a narrow band of Christianity. For many of these parents this is the only choice their local authority gives them due to lack of space at local non-denominational schools.

  3. John O'Connor on September 2, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    According to this article these ‘leaders’ say, “Our message to both political parties and school governors is ‘Thou shalt not discriminate against children’” No, this is is DEAD WRONG:

    The Bible says:

    I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.

    Geddit? Not Mohammed, not any other god either.

    These apostate ‘leaders’ are playing with fire. What an absolute disgrace. I am ashamed for them.

  4. Michael on September 2, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    How are most of these ‘leaders’? Many are clerics, true. But most don’t have denominational positions of leadership. Martin Pendergast, a Catholic religious leader? That made me laugh.

    • John O'Connor on September 2, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      Yes, it reads like a who’s who of semi-religious nobodies and pagan idol worshipers. Someone from the Real Church needs to advise the “main parties” that this eclectic group speaks for no-one except themselves. Its high time political parties of all stripes (and especially this government) stopped listening to minority self-interest groups such as Stonewall, the BHA, the NSS – and the likes of this lot. When is someone from the Church going to stand up and do something about this travesty?

  5. John Ricketts on September 3, 2014 at 11:48 am

    An member of Cotswold Humanists,I welcome the work of the Accord Coalition.

    The comments of Mr O’Connor are plainly sincere but are worth a dozen votes for my lot! His passionis tempered with ignorance as in “Not Mohammed not any other god either” (Mohammed being a prophet not a god).At least we are spared biblical chapters and verses)

    • John O'Connor on September 3, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      It is a crime to insult Mohammed. He is venerated and treated as a god. He is considered infallible, and free from sin. He is seen as the intercessor with God. His figure towers over Islam as the “perfect man”, divinely inspired in all his sayings and deeds, and it is said that he preexisted with God. Protecting his honour (violently, usually)from any slight is a Muslim’s first duty. Any denigration provokes riots and disturbances (and fatwas). He is, to all intents and purposes, treated as a ‘god’. There is no sane reason why any Christian, or even non-religious child, should be exposed to such utter nonsense. Shame on those ministers who would have this rubbish taught in our British schools. I will keep praying that these proposals will be rejected.

      • Jim Wilson on September 3, 2014 at 5:54 pm

        “There is no sane reason why any Christian, or even non-religious child, should be exposed to such utter nonsense.”

        That’s a similar view non-religious parents would take when confronted with having to send their child to a faith school.

  6. Paul on September 3, 2014 at 11:59 am

    The prophetic nature of their call is echoed in the words of Bishop Dr James Doyle, Roman Catholic Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, before a Parliamentary Committee in 1830:

    ‘I do not see how any man, wishing well to the public peace, and who looks to Ireland as his country, can think that peace can ever be permanently established, or the prosperity of the country ever well secured, if children are separated at the commencement of life on account of their religious opinions. I do not know any measure which would prepare the way for a better feeling in Ireland than uniting children at an early age, and bringing them up in the same schools, leading them to commune with one another, and to form those little intimacies and friendships which often subsist through life. Children thus united, know and love each other, as children brought up together always will; and to separate them is, I think, to destroy some of the finest feelings in the hearts of men.’

  7. […] Source: […]

  8. Barry Copping on September 5, 2014 at 10:18 am

    A very simple question for John O’Connor: What is your definition of the the Real/True Church? Be as comprehensive and specific as you can, please.

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