Church schools should end selection by religion

By Press Office
April 22, 2011

Commenting on the Rt Rev John Pritchard's proposal that Church of England schools, which are overwhelmingly funded from general taxation, should severely limit 'religious selection' for entry, Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, said:

"The Bishop of Oxford is urging the Church of England to move in the right direction, which is to end discrimination on grounds of belief in publicly funded religious foundation schools.

"This would be a major departure from previous policy, with some schools selecting 100% of pupils on religious grounds.

"The principle of openness he is advocating is not just pragmatically appropriate, it is thoroughly Christian.

"The contrary idea, enshrined in current policy, that it is acceptable to take large amounts of taxpayers' money and use it to deny some children entry to publicly-funded schools because they are from the 'wrong' belief background, offends natural justice in a plural society. But it is also deeply unChristian. It undermines the core message of the Gospel, which is about self-giving love, not institutional self-preservation.

"The 'Christian ethos' argument, by which some try to defend discrimination, needs to be turned on its head. Excluding pupils because of their faith background or lack of it, or putting parents into a position where they have to lie about their beliefs to get their children into a school with limited places: such things are not 'Christian', they are morally wrong.

"A true Christian ethos is about being open to all on the basis of neighbourly need and concern, giving particular priority to those from poor or deprived backgrounds, taking an exemplary stand for social justice, and refusing to behave tribally by privileging 'our own' at others' expense."

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