Nipping bigotry in the bud

This opinion piece for the Barking and Dagenham Post (11.4.18) looks at a threat to community cohesion largely ignored by the mainstream media.

“Bigotry should be nipped in the bud wherever it raises its ugly head, on the left or the right. Headlines have been dominated by Labour’s alleged failure to do enough to tackle anti-Semitism. But we should also be debating the dangers posed by Theresa May’s plan to increase religious segregation in schools, first announced in 2016.

The plan will allow schools funded by tax payers to refuse to teach any child if their parent is not of the right religion. Imagine if a GP refused to treat a patient on this basis! It will remove the current requirement that at least half of a faith school’s intake is chosen without reference to religious belief.

There is overwhelming evidence that religious selection in schools promotes racial division and segregation in our communities. The troubles in Northern Ireland show where this can lead. To her credit Justine Greening, the then Secretary of State, was persuaded by argument from Humanists UK and others to abandon the plan. However, she was forced to quit the Government in January.  Her replacement Damian Hinds, like Mrs May, makes no secret of his strong religious convictions. Following intense lobbying by Catholic leaders he has reinstated the plan.  The Board of Deputies of British Jews has also welcomed the move.

A 2017 Populus survey showed 80% opposed religious selection, including 67% of Catholic and almost half of Jewish respondents. Anyone wanting to build a tolerant cohesive community should oppose this divisive plan, whatever their religion, belief or political allegiance.”

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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