It most assuredly is in England and Wales, where a third of all schools are faith-based but state funded. To add insult to this travesty of a public policy – one that directly undermines the principle of a common education for all children regardless of their parent’s superstitions, bigotry, and gullibility – the catholic church will receive a special exemption from having to teach any parts of the public curriculum that in any way conflicts with their “religious character.” From the Guardian:
It was a source of relief when, rather than receiving the extensive opt-outs that many feared, the bill introducing compulsory sex and relationships education (SRE) for all children, made it clear that state-funded “faith schools” would have to follow the same principles as all other state-funded schools. By those of us who had feared much worse, these general principles – though not perfect – were considered an acceptable minimum.
Now, with parliament on holiday and late in the day, Ed Balls has tabled an amendment to his own bill, which would exempt state funded faith schools from even the modest requirements that it currently proposes to place on them and the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales have proudly announced that it was their lobbying that won it. We should not be surprised. This is just the latest in a 12-year catalogue of concessions and exemptions made to state-funded faith schools, from a widening of their ability to discriminate on employment, to their continuing discriminatory admissions practices.
The most shameful consequence of the amendment is that it would shift the focus of the law as it applies to faith schools away from the needs of children, towards the religious prejudices of the school, as if this is what the law should really be protecting. Who is education supposed to benefit – the child or the church?
Obviously, the church. And isn’t that a sad state of affairs? Parents who support this exemption out of some sense of loyalty to their religious beliefs above and beyond the education of their children are selfish abject fools. Unfortunately, it is their children who, with no say in the matter, will pay the price. When an organization presents educational ignorance as a virtue, we should recognize that as a clue that something is not quite right. And what is not quite right is simple: religious belief and an informed education are polar opposites.