Faith schools may now legally discriminate
Whilst Cranmer can understand the necessity for a headteacher, and perhaps other senior leaders or pastoral carers, and perhaps those who teach religious studies, to belong to a specific faith, he is utterly bemused that schools may now demand that those who teach mathematics or PE, or those who cook or clean or otherwise support teachers, must also now be practising members of a particular religion. Such discrimination, of course, remains illegal in other state schools.
Why on earth may a Muslim mathematician not teach Catholic children the wonders of Pythagoras? Why may a Hindu not be considered acceptable to prepare halal food? Why may a Protestant not be permitted to scrub the floor of a Guru Nanak’s primary school? And why may a Sikh classroom assistant be deemed incapable of supporting a Christian teacher?
It is all, of course, beneath the guise of ‘maintaining the ethos’ of an educational establishment. And some religious folk are rather more sensitive about their ethos than others.
The bizarre thing is that this utterly dysfunctional, deceitful and self-contradictory government has legislated to permit faith schools to do precisely what places of worship may not. Whilst faith schools may now refuse to employ a homosexual, churches are manifestly obliged to (and so, therefore, are mosques, but that challenge has not yet arisen), even when that ministry involves educating children in the nuances of Christian orthodoxy. So the Christian school may discriminate against the gay geography teacher, but the church may not discriminate against the gay youth worker, even if he happens to be a geographer.
The statistics for faith schools are in flux because of the ever increasing number of applications from minority ethnic groups. When Labour was elected in 1997, all faith schools were either Christian or Jewish. Now the taxpayer funds 4,716 Church of England schools, 2,108 Roman Catholic, 32 Jewish, four Muslim, two Sikh, one Greek Orthodox and one Seventh Day Adventist school. (UPDATE 19.00. His Grace said things were in flux: the UK's first Hindu school opened today).
Cranmer awaits the first application to found the Jedi Knight Academy. He shall gladly support their bid for state funding and join the governing body.
Of course, the reality is that in order to maintain a distinctive ethos and character, faith schools must discriminate. But if the law creates space for this, then a fortiori must it do so for churches, mosques and gurdwaras, not to mention adoption agencies. Discrimination is part of the process of discerning; it is intrinsic to being human. If it is to be restricted in the spiritual realm, then why not the political?
How dare New Labour object to a Tory leading their party.