Faith schools must be forced to teach about homosexuality – Andy Burnham

Jun 25, 2015 by

By John Bingham, Telegraph: Faith schools must be forced to teach about gay and lesbian relationships on a par with heterosexual couples, the Labour leadership front-runner Andy Burnham has insisted. The Shadow Health Secretary said those who argue that requiring all schools to teach about same-sex unions would be a threat to religious freedom were “straightforwardly wrong”. In an interview with PinkNews, the LGBT website, he added that the growth of academies and free schools was allowing individual schools to act as “judge and jury” to decide what they want to teach on such issues. Mr Burnham, who is from a Roman Catholic background, disclosed that he had gone through deep rifts with members of his own family after he become one of the first prominent MPs to publicly support same-sex marriage. “I have been repeatedly at odds with the Catholic church for all of my time as an MP,” he said. “I have always been going against what they were saying, and that is challenging. “That creates a personal challenge – I’ve been at odds with my own family, and that has been to some personal cost at times in terms of relationships with people. Read here...

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A riposte to Damian Thompson’s crisis of faith

Jun 24, 2015 by

By Keith Lucas, Evangelical Alliance: It has been heartening to see how  has ruffled a few ecclesiastical Damian Thompson’s crisis of faith (The Spectator, 13 June 2015) feathers and caused some anxious clucking in some of the more complacent corners of the Church. However eloquently his points were made, his analysis and the conclusions that flow from them were, I suggest, somewhat questionable. His opening premise, for example, that shrinking congregations represent “a disaster now facing Christianity in this country”, is supported by the claim that “between 2001 and 2011 the number of Christians born in Britain fell by 5.3 million”. His evidence rests on census records for those ten years in which parents claim, on behalf of their child, to which religion the child belongs – if any. Yet the growing secularisation and social liberalisation seen during this period, cited repeatedly by Thompson, has seen such a rise in personal independence and freedom of expression that by 2011 it could be argued that only firmly committed Christian parents would claim their child as being unequivocally ‘Christian’. To make this claim on behalf of a child today might feel overly prescriptive or controlling to many, whereas a decade earlier the child of even nominal, rarely-practicing Christian parents might have ticked the ‘Christian’ box by default. Let us also not forget, as well, that in recent years Christianity has been de-positioned and stigmatised by large parts of the popular British media – not least the liberal elite mentioned by Thompson. The Christian ‘brand’ has been made to appear somewhat ‘uncool’ and dogmatic – even archaic and outmoded. Admitting that you or your child is Christian is tantamount to confessing an adherence to nerdy traditionalism. If in doubt, who wouldn’t play the agnostic card? His predicted demise of the Church by 2067 was a rather crude extrapolation of two data points whereby he assumes a linear decay of 10,000 per week. This is about as robust as plotting rainfall by measuring the number of times you needed an umbrella in March and May, then concluding that because usage fell by 50 per cent over this period, the trend would be maintained and by August rainfall would cease for ever. Thompson is, at least, wise enough to offer the caveat: “Feel free to take any apocalyptic vision of religion in Britain in 2067 with a pinch of salt.” Read here...

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Riches, Religion, and the New Atheism

Jun 19, 2015 by

By Robert T Miller, Public Discourse: It’s not that in misery and suffering human beings grasp at foolish theories that give them some hope. Rather, amidst prosperity, human beings can blind themselves to the reality of the human condition and so never ask the questions that, once asked, cannot be plausibly answered except in theistic terms. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Daniel Dennett argues that the future of religion is bleak. Congregations are losing members at a tremendous rate, and churches everywhere are closing. There are two reasons for this, Dennett thinks. First, “with hardly any significant exceptions, religion recedes whenever human security and well-being rise,” and the Western world, at least, is enjoying a great run of peace and prosperity. Second, “the rapid growth of mutual knowledge, thanks to the global spread of electronic and digital communication,” means that religious institutions, which in the past have managed “to control what their flocks know about the world,” can no longer do so. A young Mormon in Utah can now share “the ambient knowledge that is shared by the general populace,” including by learning from an episode of South Park that many non-Mormons find his religion “comical, preposterous, ludicrous.” In other words, religion is basically a set of claims that, if true, would make bearing the hardships of life more palatable, but, as life gets better, there is less and less need for such things. Moreover, religion’s claims are not only false but usually provably false (Dennett mentions a study showing that intercessory prayer is not correlated with better results from heart surgery), and modern social conditions make it impossible for prelates to keep their congregants ignorant. Dennett doesn’t credit Marx, but this is just Marx’s theory of religion as the opiate of the masses, updated, naturally, to include the internet. Read here  ...

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Former Education Secretary moves to abolish Christian teaching

Jun 16, 2015 by

By Mark Ellse, The Conservative Woman: At first glance, the Westminster Faith Debate’s pamphlet co-authored by former Education Secretary Charles Clarke, sounds reasonable. On the subject of school assemblies, the former Education Secretary writes that their “form and character […] should be left to the governors of the individual schools.” Speaking on the Today programme yesterday, Clarke said we are seventy years on from legislation that requires schools to have an act of collective worship that is predominantly Christian in character. “The nature of Christianity has changed, forms of religion has changed […] church attendance has changed […] we have a far wider range of faith in our schools now than then”. But when we delve further into the pamphlet, we see the Devil is in the detail. As it turns out, Clarke does not “believe in a Supreme Being” and the impartial sounding Westminster Faith Debate is in fact an instrument to promote his own views. The recent pamphlet ‘A New Settlement: Religion and Belief in Schools’ reveals his agenda. It recommends “an agreed national syllabus” for religious education. It is hard to resist a chuckle when one reads the “nationally-agreed syllabus would be determined by the Secretary of State in agreement with a newly created ‘National Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (NASACRE)”. NASACRE is not just another quango with a silly acronym. Its proposed remit is frightening. It would be given the power to decide what can and cannot be taught about religious education in schools. The paper further recommends “that religious instruction (even of a kind which does not include coercion, or distortion of other religions or beliefs) does not take place within the school day”. In other words, children at school should not be told anything about religion that is not on the National Syllabus.  The Westminster Faith Debate has no place for the traditional role of Christianity in education. We should not instruct children about Christianity. We should not teach the story of the Good Samaritan, or the Woman at the Well, and the way that these stories remind us of the worth of other races. We should not tell children about the Prodigal Son and God’s infinite mercy offered freely to those who turn to him. The concept of turning the other cheek, or the reminder within the Lord’s Prayer that God’s forgiveness of us is not dependent on our own righteousness but strongly linked to our forgiveness of others we will never dare mention. Read here...

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The British State’s silent war on religion

Jun 10, 2015 by

By Frank Furedi, Spiked: It is increasingly clear that the UK government’s failing attempt to promote British values has inadvertently turned into a sanctimonious and intolerant campaign against traditionalist religious institutions. Since most of the targets of the British-values campaign are culturally isolated – Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hasidic Jews, fundamentalist Christians, radical Islamists – many otherwise sensitive observers have not picked up on what is a silent war against religion. This unrestrained and insidious turn taken by the disoriented British-values campaign was exposed last month when it emerged that young Muslim children inone primary school were given a test to assess their predilection for radicalisation. The stated purpose of this intrusive Big Brother-style initiative was to ‘identify the initial seeds of radicalisation’. Judging by the questions posed, it appears that the marker for the precrime of radicalisation was the strength of infants’ feelings about the way of life of their families. To discover how pupils felt about their beliefs, the test asked them to indicate whether they agreed, disagreed or were unsure about the following statement: ‘I believe my religion is the only correct one.’ Any child agreeing with this statement was deemed to be in danger of becoming radicalised into anti-British values. The sentiments underpinning this infant-radicalisation test also inform the work of Ofsted school inspectors, assorted government programmes and the outlook of the political establishment. From this elite perspective, those who believe that their religion is the truth contradict the unstated official version of British values – namely, that all religions are correct. According to the jargon of the day, an inclusive, non-judgemental and respectful attitude towards other people’s beliefs is mandatory for school children. This demand for non-judgemental respect implicitly negates the freedom of conscience of millions of ardent believers for one simple reason: many religions assume that only they possess the truth. For Christians, Jews and Muslims, the idea that all religions are correct makes little sense. Indeed, if all religions are ‘correct’, then living in accordance solely with one particular faith is absurd. According to today’s official guidelines, religions are acceptable as long as their adherents don’t take them too seriously. If they do, then such religions violate what appears to have become a fundamental but unspoken British value – automatic respect for beliefs other than your own. Over the past year, numerous faith schools have been downgraded by Oftsted inspectors and criticised because, allegedly, their pupils did not demonstrate sufficient awareness and respect for the cultures of other people. What’s interesting is that this criticism was based not on concerns about how pupils felt about Britain, but on concerns about how they felt about other cultures and religions. Read here...

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Christian Lib Dem leadership candidate: more gay rights, more sex ed

May 25, 2015 by

Would-be Lib Dem leader: No church schools, more sex ed From The Christian Institute: An MP bidding to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats has given his support to homosexual rights and compulsory sex education but says he would rather church schools did not exist. Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, also said he favoured the disestablishment of the Church of England, in an interview with PinkNews. Farron said he should have been more supportive of same-sex marriage legislation and that he wants to ‘blaze a trail’ for gay rights. The would-be Lib Dem leader was asked whether it “is morally right that a Christian baker should be able to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding”. He said “No”, and added “it is un-Christian to turn people away from your establishment”. “You should not, if you offer services, be in the situation where you are discriminating.” PinkNews then questioned him on whether he supported compulsory sex and relationship education in “all state-funded schools, including church schools”. He replied that while he avoided “knee-jerk policies”, he did support such a position. Farron added that “if we were starting from scratch, I would not have church schools, but we are where we are”. Read here Read also:  Tim Farron ‘clarifies’ his Christian convictions in pursuit of Libdem leadership by Gillan Scott, Archbishop...

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