My friend Peter McKenna has certainly rattled a cage - see a reply to a letter of his about religious schools by Father Michael Williams.
THE Humanist, Peter McKenna, makes a number of factual errors regarding religious schools.
Firstly, he speaks of the non-religious majority. The fact of the matter is that the 2001 Census revealed that 37.3 million people in this country declared themselves as Christians, with 6% of the population stating that they followed other religions, including Judaism. Only 14.6% of the population stated that they had no religion. So the religious majority help fund religious schools from the taxes they pay to the Treasury.
It is important to remember that the government is called to spend our money according to our needs, one of which is the religious need.
Secondly, as a school chaplain I see primary school children showing religious commitment all the time. Religious expression is innate to human beings and any study of human history and human cultures reveal this truth.
Reaching out to God is part of our human nature. Try to suppress the religious spirit of humanity and you end up with the Soviet and Nazi death camps.
Rev. Fr Michael Williams, Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King Liverpool
I reckon Pete is off that christmas card list! I'm surprised the good Father felt the need to use statistics, which although disputable, are facts of a sort. I would expect a good churchman to use the more usual argument. 'Religious schools are good because God says they are and though I can't prove God exists, I believe in him and that should be good enough for you. Yah, boo, sucks!'
But even if we accept the Father's figures, which I don't, then is that a valid reason to have religious schools. 30% of the country watch Coronation street but that doesn't mean we should rename schools after Ena Sharples, Ken Barlow and Albert Tatlock even if we give them a titular sainthood, to pander to fans.
According to the Sun the other day,so it must be true, 99% of the British population want the death penalty but lets not have Death Penalty schools please. Just because one has a belief does not mean that you should be pandered too even if you pay taxes. (Taxes are an important part of the good father's argument which is a bit rich from someone payed by a tax evading organisation as the RC Church!)
His second argument - not so subtly linking suppression of religious spirits to death camps - is just daft. Hitler was a catholic, the Pope at the time was a Nazi collaborator. The death camps started with the communists and socialists before moving onto the Jews - a great target that played on the anti-Semitic feelings of the good christian Germans inculcated by centuries of religious dogma. As for Stalin he was a nutter (But then he did train as a priest) who put all sorts into death camps, again mainly political opponents. I could list hundreds of cases of religious massacres over millennia but I won't because really it has nothing to do with the debate on religious schools.
There are no such things as Christian children, Muslim children or Hindu children they are just children and should be free to make up their own minds when they are able.
Keep up the good work Pete!