SACRE meeting 8th November 2010

I was unable to attend this meeting. The following is based on the unconfirmed minutes.

The section entitled Membership of the SACRE did not mention my application for Humanist membership. Derek Jones, Baptist vice-chair, announced later that the application had not been discussed by SACRE and so it would not be mentioned in the annual report either. How convenient. One can only conclude that WSCC will do everything in their power to exclude the non-religious 43% of residents from involvement in the so-called Religious Education of their children.

The Resilience Project was next discussed.

This has been set up by the Religious Education Council to assist schools in dealing with contentious issues in the classroom. Issues of concern include euthanasia, abortion, the Arab/Israeli conflict, jihad, what faith means, interpretation of sacred texts etc.

Leaders from major world faiths are working together and schools can opt to become part of this project by expressing interest via the Resilience website. Thereafter, a mentor will contact the schools leadership team and works alongside them and asks them to complete a questionnaire on confidence in numerous areas and then helps them to develop an action plan. Mentors can be religious consultants, examiners or teachers.

I have written to the BHA to inquire if they are being consulted. Relying solely on the advice of "leaders from major world faiths" is clearly unwise.

Members next discussed inviting a member of the Youth Cabinet to represent the voice of students on SACRE. Members of the Youth Cabinet are elected throughout West Sussex. Bearing in mind that approximately 63% of 12-19 year olds are non-religious, it won't be long before a non-religious voice is heard on SACRE.

Yvonne Williams then followed up on her report regarding Community Cohesion, in which she made no mention of the non-religious. She emphasised the importance of widening the world view of school children but continues to refer to "faith" rather than religion or belief.

It was agreed that SACRE will produce a Best Practice Guide for schools to promote community cohesion. This will probably be drawn up by a sub-group of SACRE members. Best practice for social cohesion would obviously include the non-religious 43% of the population. I will provide a full report on this document when it is published.

The last item of interest to be discussed was the Census 2011. The BHA have a campaign to raise awareness about answering the closed question "What is your religion?" John Heaton, area manager for Census 2011, said:

Statistics that derive from the census are major drivers of resource allocation from the government, and these figures drive resources for schools, transport and transport policy, health, police and fire services. The figures also help LAs to target resources effectively. The census helps to define communities, which in turn allows communities to define themselves. It would also enable faith groups to let their wider community know of their existence, and ensure that they were properly represented as part of the national persona.

Mr Heaton is asking "faith" leaders to encourage their followers to complete the census in order to promote the interests of their religious organisation. I have written to Mr Heaton and he assures me that far greater effort is made through secular organisations (e.g. CVS) to reach members of minority groups. I have also asked the BHA for clarification.

One member said that RE teachers should be made aware of the benefits to religion and the wider community of completing the census. I will try to find out what, if any, advice WSCC will give to schools.

The most reliable statistics regarding the religious beliefs of the population is the annual British Social Attitudes Survey. The 2010 survey showed that 43% of the population are happy to call themselves non-religious. Yet local and national government prefer to use the inferior Census 2001 "statistic" that 72% of the population are Christians. This is a clear abuse of statistics.

The non-religious are not an easily targetted group; hence the importance of the BHA Census 2011 campaign.

Official minutes of the meeting here

Last Updated (Tuesday, 04 January 2011 12:34)


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