Can you keep the faith without keeping unfair divides?

19th June 2009 at 01:00

I was sorry that your editorial last week quoted the recent opinion poll finding that 57 per cent of people think that religious admissions undermine community cohesion, but without acknowledging that the poll was commissioned by Accord.

Accord is a coalition of people with both religious and non-religious beliefs, including clergy from many different faith groups. This undermines Gerald Kelly's dismissal of the poll as being the concerns of "assorted atheists" who think religion is a "busted flush". Moreover, Accord campaigns not against the principle of faith schools but against their discriminatory practices in both admissions and employment, an unfairness that must worry all who value best educational practice.

For the record, the poll, carried out by YouGov, also found that 72 per cent "agreed or strongly agreed" that "all state-funded schools should operate recruitment and employment policies that do not discriminate on grounds of religion or belief" and 75 per cent "agreed or strongly agreed" that "all state funded schools should teach an objective and balanced syllabus for education about a wide range of religious and non-religious beliefs".

What is important is to get away from the old ideological rows between those for and against faith schools, and instead look at their long-term effects on society. Unless we change the way they operate and the narrow view many of them teach, they will come to be seen as creating divisions at the very time we should be building bridges between communities.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Chair, Accord Coalition.

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