Well, the pious and most precious Pickles has signed into law that part of his Localism Bill, creating a ‘general power of competence’ that overrides the High Court ruling on the illegality of prayers in the formal business papers of Councils in England.
He said he would do this in his massive hissy fit after the ruling was handed down and 7 days later, he did. He knows best after all. He must do, he is an evangelical christian and, ipso facto, seriously believes in the literal word of the christian bible. The only problem is that no one knows which version or edition of the bible he uses. There are hundreds after all.
However, the Communities Secretary does seem to have decided that he is the arbiter of what is right and proper in all local authorities in England. It’s enough to make me mutter sotto voce “bring on separation Scotland”.
Not that Scotland has much to crow about really. The Scottish Parliament did away with prayers at the time of Devolution but, as a sop to the religions, substituted a weekly 5 minute Time for Reflection (TFR) delivered mainly by Church of Scotland clerics. No Muslims yet. I believe there have been a couple of Humanists.
The good christians decided to form a group called the Parliamentary Prayer Group and attend each TFR. They call themselves non-denominational, but in Scotland that usually means Church of Scotland.
This photo from their website is taken in the Public Gallery and shows the Group in place. The times I have been, I have only seen the ageing ladies each wearing a bright red blazer and sitting in a block in the front rows to increase their visibility to the Chamber. There are about 20 or so of them and they smile a lot.
Devolution happened in 1999 and a deal was done between the new Scottish Parliament, the Catholics and the Church of Scotland to keep school prayers (suffer the little kiddies) in place and ensure that religious representatives had unelected places on local education committees.
Public funding is still in place for religious schools and I have come across the absurd situation where within the confines of one school property, the Catholics enter from one side and the Protestants from another. Two staff rooms, toilets, school rooms and playing fields. And, of course, two different complements of teaching staff, all in one building – a big building.
This is an excerpt from a letter written to the Belfast Telegraph on school integration:
‘In the Scottish shared-campus experiment, the old segregation problem still persists once children walk through the door, or, to be more precise, separate doors. In one attempt at a shared campus in Lanarkshire, the Catholic Church’s demands for separate facilities even stretched to different toilets for Catholic and non-Catholic teachers.
The director of the Catholic Education Service in Scotland is on record as stating, “We are very concerned that the sharing of facilities, like staff rooms, will erode the Catholic ethos of a school.”’
Don’t you find this to be a bizarre state of affairs in the 21st century? I have lived in Scotland for four years now and I have to say, I am learning more about the absolute idiocy of religion than I thought I ever would, especially in this country.
I really find it hard to believe that this sort of thing goes on in a mature, western society that is supposed to have emancipated itself from such religious bigotry in the 1800s. By the middle of that century the Scots were amongst the most literate people in Europe. This was the time of the European and Scottish Enlightenment after all. This little country boasts such people as David Hume, Adam Smith, Francis Hutcheson, Dugald Stewart and Adam Ferguson. And then there were all the scientific, engineering and medical advances that emanated from Scotland. There is so much innovation to have come from Scotland that other countries looked to Scotland for inspiration and erudition.
What happened? Or, probably a better way to ask that question is why weren’t those wonderful achievements built on to the eventual eradication of superstition and religious dogma and bigotry?
Maybe the dénouement is still to be read. Reason and science certainly seem to be suffering a new endarkenment in the world in terms of acceptance, funding and government backing. Schools and teachers seem to be less prepared to undergo rigor in curricula or instruction. The mass media pump out poorly researched articles while TV has Buffy the Vampire with vacuously high ratings. Or Big Brother or other silly reality shows of which there is a growing and mindless plethora.
Even the BBC which the above letter writer refers to as Believers’ Broadcasting Christianity is the media apologia for religion in this island.
It’s enough to make you despair. Really.