Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sectarianism and the National Secular Society

From newsnetscotland.com:
"The National Secular Society (NSS) has submitted papers to Holyrood demanding an end to taxpayers’ money being used to fund religion-based education north of the Border.

Officials have insisted a separate schooling system for Catholic children is helping to fuel religious divisions and the kind of tensions witnessed during Old Firm matches.

And, in written submissions to two parliamentary committees, they said it was now time to stop children being segregated in school because of their faith."
Exactly the sort of thing you might expect me to support. I do in general principle but I have a couple of concerns with this particular campaign.

One is the naivety. If you suggest that there is a connection between separate Catholic schools and religious bigotry in Scottish society, you might as well stand up and shout, "I am Oliver Cromwell." As noted in the piece...
"John Lamont MSP, the Scottish Tory justice spokesman, sparked anger after accusing the west of Scotland school system of overseeing 'state-sponsored conditioning of sectarian attitudes'.
[...]
"[T]he Catholic Church rejected the remarks as 'inflammatory and insensitive'."
But my main concern is that while the NSS is trying to bend it towards its own agenda, at base it just accepts the logic of Salmond with his distinctively Scottish version of a 'Dangerous Dogs' moral panic legislative agenda. Keith Porteous Wood is quoted as accepting that, "Sectarianism is getting worse." But where is the evidence for this? A couple of bad-tempered Old Firm games, lunatics sending bullets in the post? Football is getting worse, perhaps but sectarianism is in long-term decline. The Orange Walk in Glasgow is, I'm happy to say, a shadow of its former self. Again, as the original piece reports...
"Police made 32 arrests yesterday for a 'variety of offences' at an annual Orange Order Parade. Only six were for sectarian offences as 8,000 people from Glasgow’s 182 lodges marched through the city."
I'm not sure if utilitarian arguments are the best basis on which to argue against religious schooling anyway - but if the National Secular Society are determined to used them, they should come up with better ones than the one they're using here.

Update: Bish Joe Devine then...
"Catholic education is "divisive" and contributes to the problem of "sectarianism", according to a Scottish bishop.

But Joseph Devine, Bishop of Motherwell, told the Sunday Herald newspaper it was sometimes "a price worth paying"."
And now...
""The claim that Catholic schools are the cause of sectarianism is offensive and untenable," said the bishop, also president of the Catholic Education Commission.

"There has never been any evidence produced by those hostile to Catholicism to support such a malicious misrepresentation."
Take your pick.

Via: The Flying Rodent
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