Scottish Humanists demand action over pupils' punishment

Scottish Humanists demand action over pupils' punishment October 10, 2016

The Humanist Society Scotland announced today that it was writing to Education Secretary John Swinney asking him to intervene personally after reports that up to 50 non-Catholic pupils were punished for refusing to attend a religious service led by the Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Toal, above, at a Catholic secondary school.
The service at Taylor High School in New Stevenston, Motherwell, was a Patron’s Day mass that also celebrated Mother Teresa. It was reported that following the incident the pupils involved received a week’s worth of detentions.
Gordon MacRae, HSS chief executive, said the row highlighted the urgent need to reform the “outdated” requirement for religious observance in Scottish state schools.

Suspending a young person from school, and thus denying them access to education, for choosing not to take part in religious worship is outrageous. At a time when the Scottish Government is so focused on reform of our education system, the silence on this issue speaks volumes about how committed they are to children’s rights.

The HSS recently launched a judicial review against the Scottish Government over its refusal to allow sixth form pupils to opt out of religious services. Mr MacRae added:

On Wednesday we learned that the Scottish Government is to appoint a QC to represent them against our judicial review. Our members and supporters have already helped us raise money to get to this stage, and we’ll do all we can to make sure we’re not outgunned by expensive lawyers.
Parents across Scotland will be dumbfounded to learn that the Scottish Government is using senior lawyers, at their expense, to fight off our calls for progressive reform.
The Scottish Government talk the talk on children’s rights, but have found themselves on the wrong side of this issue time and time again.

Nicola Daley, the school’s acting head teacher, said the service, held on 30 September, was also been a memorial service for two staff members who died in May:

Regrettably, a small number of pupils, who had attended school in the morning opted to truant in the afternoon and miss the service.
The pupils have been subject to school discipline as a consequence of their actions.

Stephen Evans, Campaigns Director of the National Secular Society, said:

It is really outrageous that students, particularly sixth form pupils, should be punished for not sharing the faith ethos of a school.
Religious freedom includes the freedom to not have a religion and it’s scandalous that faith schools can get away with showing such scant regard for young people’s rights and freedoms. Schools are not homogeneous worshipping communities and it’s time they stopped acting as if they were.
Where schools do include acts of worship within the school day, pupils should always be able to opt themselves out.

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  • Tom Petty

    Faith schools … yeah right we need more of those don’t we. Step inside my small village primary school in Middle England and be prepared to be shocked by the overwhelming amount of religious propaganda plastering the walls of the classrooms. Its more like a sunday school. They have even nailed a wooded crucifix to the wall facing over the village green and there is a monthly christian slogan posted on the external notice board. The head teacher is not particularly religious but it being a CoE school the school has to meet certain criteria and standards and the headteacher being a very ambitious type and fawns to all the authorities for personal aggrandisement and campaign for career advancement is really over the top in her compliance with the CoE demands. Sickening.

  • Tom Petty

    And the guy in the picture really is an overdressed ponce isn’t he?

  • L.Long

    What!?!?! The Humanist Society is Pissed?!?!?! WHAT ABOUT THE PHUCKING PARENTS!?!?!?!?!

  • barriejohn

    Tom Petty: I am always interested in the Lymington Parish Magazine, with news of activities in local schools, the latest copy of which invariably awaits me on visits to my doctor’s surgery (just to cheer me up), so imagine my sheer delight recently upon finding a copy of the more local St Mark’s Church Magazine at another venue. The vicar was evidently leaving, so had listed the many things of which she was proud, and top of the list was – you’ve guessed it – getting into local schools and encouraging the pupils to think about things that pertain to the spiritual realm and God’s Wonderful Kingdom (or something of the sort). How the bloody hell do they get away with it? Do they also offer an open door to Spiritualists, Christian Scientists , Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so on? All have “places of worship”in this area, and all have the same degree of evidence that their claims are true, so why not? As L.Long says, what are the parents thinking to allow this sort of indoctrination to take place?

  • barriejohn

    PS When I first came across this story the other day, I was full of admiration for the pupils on their principled stand, and disgusted that their head teacher should stoop so low as to claim that they were being disciplined for “truanting”:
    One sixth year student believes it is unfair pupils who are not practicing Catholics should have to sit through mass.
    She said: “Although pupils are usually forced to go, there is not usually consequences for not being there and I believe it is unfair to have forced religious observance towards many pupils who may not be religious, me included.
    “When I was 11 I did not have the choice of which school I would go to. To now move would be pointless, I should just be able to have an enjoyable last year, without being forced into detention for a whole week and banned from the social area.”
    The student estimated 70 pupils across all years were affected, but the school denied this claiming it was just a small number of senior pupils.

  • barriejohn
  • Broga

    The carnival figure in the picture, with the silly hat, does not seem like the kind if person to stretch the thinking of pupils. Of course, his intention is not to encourage them to think but to force them into a mental strait jacket.
    I wonder if he has ever protested and taken action against the paedophile priests which infest his church. That would be worthwhile.

  • Angela_K

    Threats of burning in a non-existent hell haven’t worked so we’ll use detention and a taxpayer funded QC instead. I bet these religious fascists long to return to the time when they could use the rack, thumbscrews or burning at the stake.
    @Tom Petty. My village school is a CofE type adorned with religious propaganda – even that stupid fish symbol on the outside. A couple of years ago I made myself very unpopular by publicising to the whole village that the pupils were coerced into supporting that bigot Franklin Graham’s Christmas shoebox appeal; I did this after writing to the headmistress and school governors but only receiving a glib “the diocese don’t have a problem” reply in response.

  • barriejohn

    Angela: As if by issuing threats of any kind you could possibly FORCE someone to believe in a non-existent entity!
    Well done, BTW. Were you given a detention?

  • AgentCormac

    It’s terribly sad, but just like Norn Iron there are still parts of Scottish society which do seem to be getting away with living in an entirely different century than the rest of the UK. You only have to look at recent news regarding the hanging of effigies at an ‘old firm’ fixture to see how divided along sectarian lines communities remain.
    And this continuing, wholly unacceptable fracture in what is otherwise a modern, western society is all down to people like Joseph Toal and Nicola Daley. People who instill fear. People who indoctrinate mistrust in children from birth. People who continue to punish others for declining to participate in their ridiculous, superstitious rituals. Shame on every last one of them.

  • RussellW

    The agenda is probably not to force people to believe in a non-existent deity, but to behave as if they do believe.

  • barriejohn

    RussellW: I’m not so sure about that. I think that may have applied to the more intelligent, who probably didn’t believe a word of it themselves anyway, but people like Bloody Mary really though that they were saving people’s souls from hell by forcing them to “believe” the truth. It was sheer madness.

  • RussellW

    The great imponderable is that we will never really know to what extent people in the past genuinely believed and to what extent they outwardly complied. Particularly in early modern times it was dangerous to stray from the party line.
    It’s obvious that not everyone was influenced by superstitious dread, there were sceptics in Greco-Roman times and in the Middle Ages. and fear of the gods’ wrath didn’t prevent tombs from being plundered.
    I doubt that the apparatchiks of the Inquistion who inflicted such horrors on dissenters were really interested in saving souls. More likely they were animated by the totalitarian impulse to silence troublemakers.

  • barriejohn

    RussellW: I agree with you. Popular humour illustrates this. I quoted recently from one of my favourite pieces – The Vicar of Bray – which was a popular song from at least the 18th Century; and caricaturists and cartoonists show that the general populace had little respect for their “betters”, and saw right through their hypocrisy. Also, many of the Early Church Fathers seem to have realized that the Bible was not to be taken literally, but, on the other hand, many in the Middle Ages looked upon the triptychs and murals in their churches and lived in mortal fear of hell and eternal torment, believing every word of it. As you say, you can’t say for certain whether an individual was sincere in his belief or not without a clear statement one way or the other, and that we just don’t have.

  • Brian Jordan

    @Russel W
    “The great imponderable is that we will never really know to what extent people in the past genuinely believed and to what extent they outwardly complied. ”
    A lot less than we are led to believe, I fancy. A few years ago I came across a history book in an evening classroom that said that in – I think early Victorian times – very few people went to church, it was very much an upper class thing that was only popularised later. It was the last class of term and we didn’t go there again and I remember my disappointment when they changed the venue because I hadn’t made a note of the book’s title and author and I’d been looking forward to pursuing the matter.

  • tom80

    One Question to be asked: Why do the 50 or so none Catholics attend a Catholic secondary school? surely their parents must have realised when they sent them to the school that it was a Catholic school and they would be expected to attend such services in school time, the school itself should have made that clear from the outset.
    At our local Catholic school we have non catholic children and when they apply for admission it is made clear to them and their parents what is expected from them as regards services in school. Incidentally we allow them not to attend services in school if that’s what the parents wish but we find most do attend.

  • chrsbol

    Why? Several reasons I imagine, their friends have gone there, distance, better results, they maybe escaping bullies who have gone to other schools.Lots of reasons I suspect.
    Incidentally we allow them not to attend services in school
    How decent of you?

  • Robster

    Nice pic. Good to see The Freethinker jumping on board the Crook Clown Craze.

  • barriejohn

    Robster: You’re right. The sight of that would be enough to scare the pants off anyone. But how about this (not the only such episode to draw the attention of protestors)?