Chichester Humanists is a local branch of West Sussex Humanists and represents the interests of the non-religious residents in and around Chichester.

Each month we discuss issues concerning religion and belief, ethics, equality, human rights and science, including current events.

We liase with Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council on matters concerning equality of religion and belief, and monitor Council activities, including proposals for new "faith" schools.

We are keen to campaign on behalf of non-religious residents who feel disadvantaged because of their beliefs, e.g. access to a community school, discrimination at work or through the delivery of local services.

We organise events and displays, invite prominent speakers, and give talks to local organisations, including schools and colleges.

We meet once a month in Muchos Nachos140 Whyke Rd, Chichester PO19 8HT (tel: 01243 785 009)

Meetings are from 7.30pm on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Instead of membership subscriptions, there is a £3 entrance charge for meetings with speakers (usual concessions).

If you would like to meet some local freethinkers and have a chat, please come along and join us at the next meeting. Look out for the poster above.

For more details, email Julian.

Being freethinkers there are many things secular humanists will not agree on, but there are some matters on which we do take a firm and unanimous stand. We do not condone prejudice of any sort. Nor do we hate religious people. Such views are entirely contrary to any humanist philosophy and we reserve the right to exclude any person promoting them.

Richy Thompson talk on faith schools and education at Chichester Humanists 17th February 2014


Richy Thompson is the BHA campaign manager for education and faith schools. He began by giving us a brief history of faith schools in England. Contrary to the claims of some Christians, the Church of England was not always enthusiastic about education. In 1807 the Bishops in the House of Lords opposed free education.

We had to wait until 1870 for the provision of state education. A deal was reached with existing religious schools so that they could continue to provide Religious Instruction. The state filled in the gaps. But the C of E rushed to create as many religious schools as possible, to maintain their control of young minds. These were called voluntary schools.

The 1944 Education Act improved stanfards in voluntary schools by offering two kinds of funding. Voluntary Aided schools (VA), the most common (70%), were given 50% of their building costs. They could select up to 100% of students/staff based on religion and teach their own religious curriculum. Voluntary Controlled schools (VC) received 100% of funding in return for which they were controlled by the local authority. The Act also made Religious Instruction a compulsory subject (the only one) and a daily act of worship compulsory.

The big difference between Voluntary Aided schools today is that they are almost entirely funded by the government (98% of all costs) yet they still enjoy the same rights to religiously discriminate against students and staff and to write their own religious education curriculum.

In 1944, around 25% of schools were religious. Now 34% are and the number is increasing, thanks to the zeal of religious organisations, academies and free schools. We do not know how many schools have the new designation of 'with a religious character' because the government hasn't kept any records! Free schools and academies are similar to Voluntary Aided schools in that they can choose their own religious education curriculum and staff; they can also select up to 50% of students according to the religion of their parents.

Richy went on to explode the 6 myths about faith schools.

Myth 1: They improve choice. Although there is a greater of diversity of schools, faith schools reduce choice. Often the only nearby school is a faith school, especially in villages. Faith schools ship in students of religious parents from far afield, transport often paid for by the tax payer.

Myth 2: Parents have a human right to send their child to a school of their faith. They have the right to educate their child according to whichver faith they wish but not at public expense.

Myth 3: Faith schools have a better moral ethos. There is no evidence to suggest this. In fact, their moral ethos is probably worse than community schools. Stonewall found that they discriminate more against the LGBT community (75% bullying compared to 66% in community schools). They are also 23% less likely to report homophobic bullying. In 2012 the Catholic Education Service asked its schools to read out a letter opposing same sex marriage. And then their is the hypocrisy of parents attending church to get their children into a faith school. Hardly a good moral lesson, lying from the outset. Distorted views of sex and relationships are commonly taught. And then there is the religious indoctrination inherent in all faith schools.

Myth 4: Faith schools are more successful. Multiple studies have shown their success is due to selective intake. There is no magic religious ingredient.

Myth 5: Faith schools do not indoctrinate their students. Every student entering a faith school is indoctrinated from day 1. Faith schools exist to promote a particular religion; why else have them? 50% of faith schools today are voluntary controlled and do not indoctrinate as much as the voluntary aided schools. Catholic and evangelical schools are the worst. Lord Dearing's report recommends the C of E open another 100 more secondary faith schools but the C of E's Chadwick report sets out their aim of opening 200 more. The government is trying to overcome the religious division of faith schools by promoting inter-faith dialogue but this is a riduclous and futile attempt to solve the problems they are creating by building more faith schools.

Myth 6: Only non-religious parents oppose faith schools. In fact, 75% of parents oppose faith schools, which must therefore include many religious parents.

Richy pointed out that all schools are bound by law to promote religion by holding a daily act of worship. Also, most religious education syllabuses are not fit for purpose and are extremely biased against the non-religious. There are around 150 of them drawn up by unelected groups called SACREs. Only 50% of SACREs have a non-religious representative and most of them are unable to vote and have to leave the room when voting issues are discussed. I was refused membership of West Sussex County Council SACRE for 6 years and have now given up trying.

He said that faith schools can teach sex and relationships education (SRE) as they see fit. A student poll in West Sussex showed that this was their biggest concern. Although schools are now forced to teach evolution as part of Biology, they can teach their own beliefs, such as Creationism, in religious education.

In short, faith schools exist to promote the beliefs of a particular religion in spite of the fact that they directly contradict the rest of their education, i.e. evidence based reason.

So why are faith schools increasing? There is a powerful religious lobby. The perception of MPs is that they are good schools (which casts doubt on their numeracy). And some MPS pressing for faith schools are very religious.

After his talk, Richy was asked a number of questions.

Q: How many religious MPs are there? Some aren't, e.g. Oliver Letwind, Nick Clegg (he supports faith schools but wants free schools to have an open intake of students). There is the All Party Parliamentary Humanist group with about 100 MPs.

Q: How can we support the Fair Admissions Campaign? This campaign was set up to end religious selection in school admissions. We should read the admissions code of local schools. Are they abiding by them, e.g. requiring worship is allowed but flower arranging is not. Visit the BHA website to find out the most discriminatory schools in West Sussex. Bishop Luffa in Chichester is the second worst school. It requires parents to attend church for 2 years. Several of our members could not get their children into the school. Governors have the power to change school admissions. West Sussex County Council has control over admissions for VC schools and discriminates in one of them (Davison Girls High School in Worthing). Write letters to the local newspaper, diocese, WSCC and to the school directly. Contact other partners in the campaign, e.g. the Green party, Lib Dems, NUT, ATL, SEA, Unitarians. Oppose any new religious schools.

Q: What rules apply to private schools? As for VA schools. They can teach anything, including pseudoscience. They are inspected but often by their own group of inspectors.

Q: Are children really indoctrinated? Don't they use their own brains? Peopl differ. Some are more vulnerable than others. Indoctrination by omission affects everyone, e.g. not teaching Humanism. It is inappropriate that a school should teach that one type of belief is true. One of our primary school teacher members said that every minute of teaching counts;  religious worship is a waste if time.

Q: How many parents attend church just to get their children into a faith school? 16% of school places are selectd on the basis of religion. 4-5% of parents normally attend church but 6% of parents attend church to get their children into a faith school. This has massively boosted attendance figures at church.

Other matters discussed were: religious discrimination in employment of teachers and staff; who sponsors academies; Mulsim schools.

Richy gave us a handout detailing the types of school and their obligations. You can read it here.





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