Call for non-religious chaplains in education and beyond
The UK government Minister for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, Bill Rammell MP, is being urged to ensure fair provision of pastoral facilities for non-religious as well as religious people, after recent comments he made calling for ëa chaplain in every college'.
The call comes from the British Humanist Association (BHA) in a letter to Mr Rammell from its education officer, Andrew Copson.
'According to Department for Education and Skills figures, 65 per cent of 12-19 year olds have no religion,' says Mr Copson. 'These young people's pastoral and moral needs must be catered for.'
Continues Mr Copson 'If colleges are going to be inclusive of those of non-Christian faith, they must also be inclusive of those with non-religious beliefs.'
'We do not believe this can be done through a single denominational chaplaincy,' he says. 'But nor can it be achieved through a ëmulti-faith' approach, which is often lazily believed to include everyone, but in fact excludes the non-religious - a large proportion of young people.'
Mr Copson also expressed the British Humanist Association's concern at the non-religious not being made a part of the consultation.
He explained: 'The government has emphasised in the past that any consultation that includes representatives of religious groups should usually include humanist representatives too. It is a great disappointment that this ideal is not lived up to in practice.'
The BHA believes that there should be equal chaplaincy and pastoral provision for the both the religious and the non-religious in the armed forces, hospitals, and prisons.
The lack of such provision was a key feature of the organisation's submission to the current Equalities Review, chaired by Trevor Phillips.
Chaplaincies in public institutions have traditionally been Christian in character, reflecting the historic role and prevalence of the Church of England in such matters.
In recent years the number of chaplains of other denominations and faith communities has increased, and training has emphasised sensitivity towards people of different backgrounds and outlooks.
The UK religious think tank Ekklesia is among those who have called for equal provision for people of different life stances in public life, arguing that the ëChristendom' era of privilege for the church is wrong both in terms of fairness and in its harnessing of the Christian message to an establishment role.
[Also on Ekklesia: Government backs down on faith schools discrimination 16/01/06; Humanists and Christians argue against faith schools; Leading Scottish Christian voices opposition to faith schools; Faith and politics controversy ahead of BBC2 documentary; Concern expressed over discrimination against the non-religious; God and the politicians - BBC2 - a response; Leading humanist calls for renewed cooperation with believers; Government plans reopen debate on faith schools]