Our Minds Are Our Own – Except in Wales

What was that we were saying about theocracy?

More than half the secondary schools in Wales inspected in the past four years break the law by failing to pray every day, a BBC survey has revealed. All state schools should hold an act of worship each day, either for all pupils in assembly or as a class-based prayer…The 1944 Education Act promised lessons for children up to the age of 15, created grammar, technical and secondary modern schools – and also placed worship at the heart of school life. The 1988 Education Reform Act strengthened the legislation, further defining worship in schools as wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character.

Well there’s liberty of thought for you. There’s being treated like potential future rational autonomous beings. There’s education. There’s respect for reason and science and probabilities.

There’s an odd illustration on the page – of a looming crucifix with light from church windows flooding in on it. It’s no doubt meant to look inspiring, or something, but in the context it looks far more threatening than inspiring. It looks like a bloody great bludgeon, is what it looks like.

But Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan said instead of changing the law, schools should have more support to enable them to provide worship.

Provide. Provide. Do you mark that. Man I get tired of religious tyrants resorting to pious sanctimonious self-flattering euphemisms for what they’re doing. They’re not providing worship, they’re forcing it on people. Say what you mean, you archepiscopal bastard. Since it’s not optional, ‘provide’ is the wrong word. Tying someone down and stuffing cheeseburgers down her throat is not ‘providing’ lunch, is it.

It’s not just the hard religious sell in acts of worship, it’s asking questions about the meaning of life. It’s asking questions about what it means to live in a society where you respect others. Now all those, it seems to me, are religious virtues – tolerance, forgiveness, compassion.

Oh really – those are religious virtues, are they. Living in a society where you respect others, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion. Why? Why does it ‘seem to you’ that those are ‘religious virtues’? What reason can you possibly offer for such a stupid idea? Do you seriously think that atheists universally have no truck with such virtues? Or that all religious people are saturated with them? (Talk to the ‘Rapture’ crowd and then explain to us how full of forgiveness, compassion, tolerance and respect for others they are. I can’t wait.)

It would be idiotic to leave out faith in God in a school when that’s part of our society and when it’s part of the Christian foundation of this country

No it wouldn’t. For one thing, lots of things are part of your society that are left out in school. Same for things that are ‘part of the Christian foundation of this country’. And for another thing, ‘faith in God’ can be part of your society and part of the Christian foundation of your country and still be entirely mistaken. School is primarily for education, and it’s not educational to force people to ‘worship’ an entity that there is no evidence for. It’s no more educational to force people to ‘worship’ a deity than it would be to force them to ‘worship’ Cinderella or Elmer Fudd or Zeus.

In a statement on Friday, Welsh Education Minister, Jane Davidson, said she expected “all schools to meet their obligations under the law”. She added: “All registered pupils attending a maintained school should take part in collective worship and it is the head teacher’s duty to secure this. The systems are in place to identify any shortcomings and to ensure that the appropriate action is taken.”

And that’s that.

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