According to a recent article in the Scotsman newspaper by journalist Craig Brown: “Unelected, unscientific and self-serving” church leaders should not have the legal right to make decisions on school education.
This was the preamble to his piece focussing on a petition from Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS) to the Scottish Parliament to repeal Section 124 of The Local Government Act which compels local councils to appoint three religious representatives to their education committees. In most local authorities, this means the education committee comprises councillors, a representative from the Church of Scotland the Roman Catholic Church plus one of the other denominations.
The ESS petition is supported by The National Secular Society, the Humanist Society of Scotland and the University of Edinburgh Humanist Society. Individuals supporting the petition include Green MSP Patrick Harvie and SNP councillor Sandy Howat.
The ESS argues that because the last census showed that nearly 50% of Scots said they had no religious beliefs: “To afford a particular section of society a privileged position within the decision making process based solely on their particular and personal religious beliefs is profoundly and inherently undemocratic, unfair and discriminatory.”
Predictably, the Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland have both rightly condemned the petition.
As a born again Christian and professional historian, I fully support our churches. The ESS petition is simply another aggressive act by a militant minority to drive the Christian faith from Scottish society and it won’t work.
The secularists conveniently forget that today’s national system of free and compulsory education was founded through the persistence of protestant reformer, John Knox and his colleagues. The task was undertaken by church parishes over a 200 year period, transforming Scotland from one of most backward and illiterate counties in Europe to a nation of inventors, economists, writers, doctors, entrepreneurs and missionaries.
The Church has been an enormous force for good through its passion for education. It still has a vital role to play today. Many of the religious representatives on our education committees are former teachers who bring a wealth of experience to groups of politicians who have little understanding of schools and the educational issues of the day.
We should be defending and celebrating the role of religious representatives on our education committees not campaigning for their abolition.