Warren Furman is a muscle-bound religiot who brings Christianity to schools in the UK, whether or not parents want their kids’ brains messed up by Jesus.
When Furman – once known as “Ace” in the TV show Gladiators –recently pitched up to proselytise at Burford Primary School in Nottingham, the “Gospel Gladiator” sparked a volley of complaints that were rebuffed by the headteacher and the school’s governors, who insisted that it was “appropriate that belief is presented as truth” to pupils.
Now here the thing: Burford is not a faith school.
One parent outraged by the manner in which the school has been hijacked by Christians, apparently without the consent with parents, is Lee Harris. In an op-ed for the National Secular Society, he wrote:
When we put the kids into the local primary school it was the sort of safety and close community you want for your children. We were soon both active contributors to the school. We contributed financially and my wife became pivotal in leading the PTA.
As parents we shared concerns about faith schools, particularly for children so young. We did our homework and chose Burford Primary primarily because it was a non-faith school, the only primary school in the town (and one of a minority of non-faith schools within four miles).
Within months of the children joining, we learned that the headteacher had very strong ties with the local church. It also emerged that the school – despite having a community school ethos – had joined a Christian academy trust when it became an academy in 2015. In the natural course of asking the kids how their day went, they started telling us about regular assemblies being held by the church in the school. These were led weekly by St John the Baptist Church, where the children were encouraged to participate in active prayer, where Christianity was positioned as truth and Bible stories were ‘acted out’ including beatings and crucifixion.
Naturally, we raised our concerns. The head explained that she was legally entitled to run daily worship and was simply operating within the law. This was the first alarm bell indicating she had no intention of protecting Burford’s community school ethos.
The only solution offered to the couple was to remove their children from the assemblies, which they immediately did. Before long the issues began to snowball. The school consistently chose to use the church for key events even when other options were available and in turn the church’s leaders were offered the opportunity to address the children with their message. Even at the most recent leavers’ assembly (which could have been easily held at the school grounds), St John the Baptist was allowed to host and the children were presented with a bible as their leaving gift and “guide in life”.
Our children became increasingly excluded from assemblies and school activities. Often they were left to sit in side rooms for long extended periods of time with a teaching assistant until we came to pick them up.
More and more it felt like our children were being discriminated against. Daily activities that could help to provide an inclusive environment were being ignored. Each time the headteacher said she was serving the ‘majority’ of the children and preparing them for life in a ‘Christian country’.A few months ago, the straw came that was to break the camel’s back. The headteacher had agreed with St John’s to invite Warren Furman in to see the children. The headteacher did not research Warren Furman. She simply took the recommendation of her church. No policies were followed and no parent was informed. Our children were also told to attend.
It was, on every conceivable level, unprofessional conduct on the head’s part and testimony that the school’s non-faith ethos was non-existent.
At this point, we’d had enough. With the headteacher ignoring her responsibilities to the school and openly disregarding the rights of the parents, our only option was to take our concerns to the governors.
We knew before the meeting what the outcome would be. The two independent governors apparently have close ties with the church involved. We may as well have asked Jesus to be the chair.
At the meeting they had asked for three things.
• Firstly, for the school to justify its policy of collective worship, and specifically for assemblies led by the church to stop.
• Secondly for key events to be led by a teacher and not a member of the church, allowing all of the children to be included.
• Lastly, for the school to maintain its non-faith ethos (in line with its legally binding funding agreement) and in turn prevent discrimination to children with different or no religious belief.
The requests were all dismissed.
The panel ruled that:
Acts of worship are not lessons or educational experiences, they are worship and as such it is appropriate that belief is presented as truth.
Harris revealed that six sets of parents have now removed their children from the assemblies held by the church, as the stories of the biblical re-enactments have begun to leak out from the children. He said:
The daughter of a close friend who had witnessed domestic abuse left in tears after watching a reconstruction of a woman being beaten in a biblical story.
In truth, we need more parents to speak out in Burford Primary if we stand any chance of protecting its community school ethos. I lose track of the number of mums and dads who say to me they don’t agree with the church’s involvement but won’t remove them out of fear of their children being excluded. The fact they are forced to make that choice is ridiculous in a non-faith school.
We have since removed our personal contribution to the school and my wife has stepped down as the head of the PTA, saying she can’t knowingly fulfil a role when her kids are being discriminated against. We’re now taking our concerns to the Department for Education.
If my children were for example Muslim or Jewish, one would hope that the headteacher would ensure their beliefs were protected and included. But there are no such rights for those with no belief in Burford Primary School.
We love our historically medieval town. It’s just a shame that the thinking of those charged with our children’s care is similarly outdated.