Having a pop over faith schools

By Jonathan Bartley
September 6, 2008

I have just been reflecting on some of the things that have been said about Simon Barrow and myself, as well as Ekklesia, during the faith schools 'debate' these last few days. My conclusion is that we must be winning the argument, if so many commentators are getting so worked up and resorting to name calling, rather than engaging with the issues.

A few examples: Paul Vallely in the Church Times, who likens us to Stalin's 'idiots' and calls us 'self-publicists'. A few people have contacted me and said they usually had a lot of respect for Paul and were surprised and disappointed to read his rather shrill and agitated ramblings. Another is Andrew Carey in the Church of England Newspaper, who makes strident attempts to belittle Ekklesia, and likens us to Christian Voice... which made me chuckle quite a bit :) I think they have both missed a chance to get some constructive discussion going though, which is sad.

A refreshing article was by Melanie McDonagh in the Independent on Sunday, who also singled me out, and doesn't agree with us, but at least engaged with what we were saying:

"I have news for Mr Bartley" she writes. "That's what makes a faith school a faith school. Actually, can we cut to the chase here? Most of them are actually church schools run by the Church of England and the Roman Catholic church – they're the ones that secular-minded parents are lying and cheating and going to church to get their children into."

"But it's precisely the fact that they are discriminatory that makes them Catholic, or Anglican, or Jewish, or Muslim."

She, at least, admits that church schools are discriminating, and puts her case as to why she thinks this is OK, meaning we can have a decent discussion. I also did a radio interview with her, which was constructive.

What has also been encouraging has been the considered editorials in the Economist, Guardian, and Church of England Newspaper, which have also dealt with what we have been saying, and have been broadly supportive - and of course reminds me that Andrew Carey and Paul Vallely's failures to engage in grown-up debate are pretty inconsequential.

Economist editorial here: http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12070447

Guardian here: http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12070447

Church of England Newspaper editorial reported here: http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/7645

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