The EU challenges faith-based education
It is para.127 which is of particular interest, noting that this body:
‘Is concerned at the multiple violations of rights affecting girls from a migrant background; urges Member States to ban headscarves and hijab at least at primary school, in order to anchor more firmly the right to be a child and to ensure genuine and unenforced freedom of choice at a later age…’
There are a number of observations which may be made on this paragraph, the most immediate of which is the singling out of Islam. While this may be rationalised, it is most unlike the EU to
The exhortation to ‘ban’ religious garments may be consistent with recent French legislation and Enlightenment values, but it runs contrary to the principles of liberty and tolerance which have developed in the UK over the last three centuries. And where a school has no uniform policy, such a move would also conflict with existing EU legislation on religious discrimination.
But the words in para.127 after the comma are of particular interest.
The inference is that it is a child’s right to freely choose their religion, and that such choice should be ‘genuine and unenforced’. Inexplicably, children should be liberated from enforced religion in primary school, but not in secondary school. Quite what authority this ‘draftswoman’ thinks a 12-year-old has over his or her parents which a 10-year old does not have has is unknown, but it is obvious to any reasonable person that children of all ages (and, incidentally, young adults) are vulnerable to religious manipulation and cultural oppression from other family members or ‘community leaders’.
But the most interesting implication of this paragraph is that it potentially undermines all faith-based education, for how could it ever be argued that a child at a Roman Catholic / Muslim / Sikh / Jewish / Church of England primary school is genuinely and without ‘force’ arriving at a particular expression of faith? And is there to be an EU directive to determine the 'genuineness' of religious expression?
Is there just a hint in this document that in order for a child to be a child, they should have no expression of religion, or at least not be subject to parental ‘encouragement’ to do so? And despite the focus of this document on Islam, the restrictions cannot be applicable to that faith alone, so there are certain to be implications for the UK’s faith schools. And where this leaves home-schooling is anyone’s guess, for it manifestly conflicts with the rights of parents to bring up their children in accordance with their own beliefs.
It is the contention of the Roman Catholic Church that:
The family, since it is a society in its own original right, has the right freely to live its own domestic religious life under the guidance of parents. Parents, moreover, have the right to determine, in accordance with their own religious beliefs, the kind of religious education that their children are to receive. Government, in consequence, must acknowledge the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of schools and of other means of education, and the use of this freedom of choice is not to be made a reason for imposing unjust burdens on parents, whether directly or indirectly. Besides, the right of parents are violated, if their children are forced to attend lessons or instructions which are not in agreement with their religious beliefs, or if a single system of education, from which all religious formation is excluded, is imposed upon all... (Dignitatis Humanae, #s 1,2,3,5).
But, once again, we perceive a developing EU initiative, shrouded in talk of ‘rights’ and exhortations of ‘enlightenment’, concerned with expressions of benevolence and the protection of the most vulnerable members of society. But the end result will be the diminution of civil liberty, a harmonised EU education policy, a uniform EU schools’ protocol, and a soviet EU process of secularisation to ensure a ‘neutral’ public space.
It is not, of course, neutral at all.
Cranmer received an unsolicted email from Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou MEP, which sought to correct his 'misinformation'. It may be found here.