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Faith comes first, lessons second

The Bishop of Blackburn says scientist Richard Dawkins' opposition to the expansion of "sectarian" education is based on the Northern Ireland experience and is irrelevant to England and Wales ("Faith overcomes flimsy doubts", TES, March 2).

The reason for the lack of sectarian tension in England and Wales, though not Scotland, stems from the marked decline in support for the mainstream denominations, particularly the bishop's own.

Had the decline in support for the churches not taken place I seriously doubt whether Alan Chesters would be exhibiting himself and his sect's schools as models of ecumenical propriety.

Perhap more significant in the bishop's letter is the inevitable moan about lack of finance. This, in short, indicates that not only does his denomination want to extend its influence in education, but wants the largely indifferent populace to foot the bulk, if not all, of the bill.

However, the good bishop rather lets the cat out of the bag in the final part of his letter, when he acknowledges that "schools stand at the centre of (his) church's mission". In other words, they are there first and foremost to promote belief with genuine education coming a poor second.

Robert Morrell

43 Eugene Gardens


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