Want to Ride the School Bus for Free? In North Wales, You May Have to Prove You’re Baptized First

Over the weekend, a story broke about plans by Flintshire County Council in North Wales to offer free school bus passes only to children of religious parents. Not only that, but such parents would be required to prove their kids’ religiosity — wheeling out the baptism certificates or a letter from a local priest vouching for their attendance at church would be sufficient. The plans are only at the public consultation phase, but one suspects they won’t get much further than that.

Welsh School Bus (via Secularism.org.uk)

Councils in England & Wales can provide discretionary free travel for school children attending non-secular schools – which is almost entirely made up of faith school pupils. Such schemes, worth around £500 (approximately $745) per child per year, have been scrapped across the board by most councils as they seek to make budget cuts. Such cuts are often cited as an example of Christian marginalization and touted as a “tax on religion.” Flintshire County Council is the first to target only those who do not belong to the faith of the school which they attend.

Parents and religious leaders have denounced the move, citing its obvious discrimination against the non-religious. In some areas of the country, parents might only have faith schools to choose from, though it is unclear what other options exist in this particular county.

The National Secular Society is appalled by this move:

Stephen Evans, campaigns manager at the National Secular Society, said: This kind of apartheid style home to school transport arrangement is completely unacceptable. It will result in children who live next door to each other, and travel to the same school — being treated unequally, purely on the basis of their parent’s religious beliefs.

“Unfortunately, wide exemptions to equality legislation mean discrimination in home to school transport — as with many other areas of education — is somehow deemed acceptable by the Government. The National Secular Society attempted to change this during the passage of the Education Act in 2011, but our arguments fell on deaf ears.

The council issued a short statement explaining its position:

“Like all councils, Flintshire County Council is under considerable pressure to make savings on its public spending.

“As a result, the council has had to look at every aspect of its work, especially where it is not compulsory for us to provide services and to consider how they can be delivered more efficiently and cost effectively.”

About Mark Turner

Mark Turner was born and raised as a Catholic in the North East of England, UK. He attended two Catholic schools between the ages of five and sixteen. A product of a moderate Catholic upbringing and an early passion for science first resulted in religious apathy and by mid-teens outright disbelief.


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    That’s probably the most amazingly retarded religious-based thing I’ve read in about 3 hours.

  • Achron Timeless

    I laughed.. and when I stopped laughing, I realized that yep, that’s about the time scale we work on. Then I suddenly wanted to curl up with icecream.

  • Piet Puk

    Love this distinction:”purely on the basis of their parents religious beliefs”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    Try Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy. It’s good for the soul. (See it’s funny because soul… yeah I’ll shut up now.)

  • vexorian

    I love this.

    I mean, since it is not compulsory for the county to provide free bus rides for everyone, they feel this is a great chance to be able to discriminate.

    They could have done something like giving the bus rides to kids with the worst resources, or the best grades or something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=513566395 Jackie McClanahan

    Especially if an area mainly has Christians, in which case they’re cutting out MAYBE one out of ten students, which doesn’t sound like a good plan if you really want to watch your budget.

  • Matt

    Use of the “R” word is unacceptable. You are discussing one marginalized group by marginalizing another.

  • Achron Timeless

    re·tard [ri-tahrd]

    verb (used with object)
    1. to make slow; delay the development or progress of (an action, process, etc.); hinder or impede.

    verb (used without object)
    2. to be delayed.

    3. a slowing down, diminution, or hindrance, as in a machine.

    Umm, Matt, you’re the one that assumed it to be about a particular group of people. It took me a bit to get what you were going on about because I’m not in the habit of labeling people as such, but you seem to equate the two easily.

    Says more about you than Alexander.

    (edited because it thought some bits were links when they were not)

  • RGExcell

    I currently live 2 counties over in Gwynedd, and regularly go into Conwy and Flintshire counties. There is an strong presence of religion up in North Wales, it is not uncommon to see preachers in the high street talking about the sins of ‘adulterers’ and ‘whoremongers’ etc. Obviously this idea of favouring children of religious parents is discriminatory but sadly, it really doesn’t surprise me. Such a shame: North Wales is a stunningly beautiful area, but I’m almost looking forward to moving back to London in a year to get away from the (at times overbearing) religious presence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    See, herein lies a moral confliction Granted, I don’t take use of the word retard lightly, as someone who doesn’t exactly trivialize cognitive / mental disabilities, though I do at the same time feel the word is somewhat over-tabooed.

    Use of the word seems to automatically trigger a backlash, as it seems most people have a stereotype down, where any use of the word retard when not referring to people that actually do have mental retardation means that that person does not take mental conditions as seriously as they need to be taken.

    I suppose I can understand that stereotype to a degree, however… what with the state of mental condition recognition, treatment and such right now. Definitely lacking, to say the least. (Not that my opinion matters to 99% of people, though, what with me being 16 and all. Oh well.)

  • RedGreenInBlue

    Yet another perverse consequence of having “faith” (i.e. single-faith) schools in the public sector. If anywhere in Britain, North Wales is where chapels and associated Sunday Schools are still most alive and kicking – but there has been quite a debate recently in Wales about their long-term viability as church attendance falls and as more childrens’ clubs and activities take place on Sundays. Perhaps if the (presumably practising) Christian parents of these children didn’t insist on state help to indoctrinate them, and instead contributed more to groups in their own “milltir sgwâr” (such as, oh, just off the top of my head – *Sunday Schools*?), the future of rural communities and Welsh-speaking areas, including the chapels which are still often important facets of local life in such places, would probably be that little more secure, something which would please the parents. And their children wouldn’t be segregated by parental religion five days a week, which would be good for them and please the rest of us!

    PS. milltir sgwâr = neighbourhood/home patch (lit. “square mile”)

  • Jasper

    … aaaaaand this is why secular governments are good.

  • Gary Hill

    I live in Gwynedd too (in one of the most Welsh-speaking parts) so I’m surprised you’ve described it as having an overbearing religious presence. I have a particular (photographic) interest in old churches and chapels. I know for a fact that about 80% of the churches and chapels in Gwynedd are either closed and converted to some other use or only used very occasionally.

    Those that do survive are invariably on the knife-edge of closing. Even one of the larger town like Barmouth, (which gets tens of thousands of visitors every year) has a magnificent Anglican church that seats over 300 people yet has an annual average Sunday service attendance of 17. It’s on the verge of closure.

    In my own village there were four chapels and two churches – none have survived. The nearest church school is one hours drive away, so I know not a single child who attends a religious school.
    I know you occasionally see some fundamentalist Christian activity in Bangor, Porthmadog and Criccieth but the majority of people just ignore them. Do they actually have any real impact on us?

  • RGExcell

    Hi there. I live in Bangor, and yes admittedly many churches are closed and converted. I was refferring more to the activism: at the university we have a very live and thriving Christian Union and Christians in Sport society which regularly team up with local churches, mostly the evangelical church opposite the methodist one, to do preaching in the high street. I’ve seen a fair amount of this kind of street preaching in Llandudno too. Yes the majority of people ignore them, but certainly within the university setting it is inescapable at times, and as the university campus is spread throughout the entire city, is spills over into the public sphere all too much.

    I wasn’t trying to say the NW Wales is a religious fundamentalism area! :) But the comparison to my native London is really stark at times on religion, i see it much more here, more openly and much more heavily weighted towards christianity.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    though it is unclear what other options exist in this particular county

    I have an option. http://www.christiansupply.com/product/402083

  • Gary Hill

    I know Bangor well, I did my degree and PhD there, years ago. I’ve even worked at the uni. The activist thing is quite recent I think and I might be a little out of touch with it all. I imagine, though, very few involved are local Welsh-speaking Gogs. Being a uni town Bangor is very different from the rest of Gwynedd (language is the one I notice most) and the fundies have more of a captive audience. The vast majority of people I know are completely indifferent to organised religion, though there’s usually some half-hearted Buddhist-new age things going on.
    Hwyl fawr!

  • eric

    Since they said they were concerned about cost and efficient/effective service, I’d think that the rational thing to do is look at the geographical distribution of students and figure out what areas you can cut from coverage yet still serve the maximum number of students. That system still has issues (it screws rural kids). But at least it still means the school is providing bus service for as many students as it can afford.
    But hey, that doesn’t treat one religion better than another, so is obviously unacceptable.

  • eonL5

    However, the grammar police will even tell you, “retard” as a noun applied appallingly to a person and “retarded religious-based thing” applied as an adjective to a concept, must be de-coupled — like so many other words in our language, or there won’t be much language left. Though of course being aware of a word’s bad uses is definitely part of being a helpful member of society, not a perpetuator of further nastiness. Alexander didn’t call anyBODY a “retard.”

  • marilove

    ” though I do at the same time feel the word is somewhat over-tabooed. ”

    Does this matter? It’s a word that harms a large group of people.
    You know, the English language is so varied and there are SO MANY OTHER WORDS to choose from.

    I suggest not being lazy and choose from the other words available to you. Because trying to defend the use of the word all because you find it “over-tabooed” (what does that even MEAN? How did you determine that it was “over-tabooed”?) is pretty shitty.

  • marilvoe

    Huh. Last I checked, the N-word had more than one defiintion. Are you going to start using that? Oh, and fag! That means a pile of sticks. Are you going to start using that now, too?

    Words and language evolve and it’s really not THAT HARD to adapt to the changes that language go through.

    The word retard is no longer acceptable. And that’s okay. There are many other words you can use instead.

  • Achron Timeless

    Well being that your two examples are factually wrong…

    Yeah, not exactly going to take advice from you.

  • http://twitter.com/AlmostAmbitious Almost Ambitious

    Actually ‘fag’ is fairly common slang for a cigarette in parts of the UK. There are always urban legends floating around of people who’ve gone to the USA, asked where they can get some fags and had their heads kicked in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    Certainly wouldn’t be the first time that UK slang didn’t translate well to the U.S…. different cultures and all, I suppose.

  • Tim

    Readers in the UK should seriously think about joining the NSS.

  • lilstevie

    the word retard is no longer acceptable, okay better tell that to the corporations that make flame retardant then :)

  • Well Done

    Given the level of subsidy that U.K. taxpayers have been duped into giving to people who have never worked a day in Britain, this is indeed discrimination against those who dare be traditional citizens of the U. K.

  • Well Done

    yes, piet, many parts of the world actually allow parents to raise their children with the parent’s religious beliefs. the idiot left don’t like this because no religion raises children to expect the state to give them anything.