Bishop pushes denominational education
One of Scotlandís leading Roman Catholics has compared critics of separate denominational schools with Islamic extremists and communists, reports the Sunday Times.
Joseph Devine, the Bishop of Motherwell, said that those who opposed denominational education would find support for their views in countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and China.
Last week Devine threatened to pull out of a £150m project to build seven mixed-denomination campuses because North Lanarkshire council refused to give its consent to separate entrances, libraries and toilets for Catholic pupils and staff.
Shared campuses have received the backing of Jack McConnell, the first minister, as a way of tackling Scotlandís sectarian problem.
Devine withdrew the threat after the council backed down and agreed to install separate entrances in the schools. However, he has now reignited the row with a series of incendiary comments.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Devine stated: ìSadly in Scotland today, many people hold fast to the mistaken and simplistic belief that educating children in a faith-based environment is wrong and will inevitably lead to conflict and strife in society."
ìUniquely among the nations of Europe and much of the world many Scots believe that a tolerant, harmonious and pluralist society is best achieved through the ruthless restriction of parental choice in education."
ìThose who hold this view are not without their supporters elsewhere in the world. The ruling regimes in Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and China take a broadly similar line when it comes to the rights of religious minorities.î
Devine has argued that sectarianism is a product of the home not the school environment and claimed the fact that about 50% of Scottish Catholics married non-Catholics proved denominational schools did not keep Scots of different faiths apart.
ìAbolitionists say that children who arenít schooled together can never interact or relate harmoniously to one another in adult life,î he said.
ìTaken to its logical conclusion this would suggest that children from different parts of the country or from different countries or with different languages are doomed to perpetual strife as adults, since they didnít share a playground.î