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Saturday, 12 January 2008

Outrageous secularist slur on good parents

The Times today reports the latest in manufactured secularist outrage. Apparently John Austin, MP for Erith and Thamesmead, is going to have a private meeting with Ed Balls to push him to "re-examine" the future of faith schools. This is on the back of some statistics showing that people are having their children baptised later. (Times Online: Backlash as more claim religion to get place in top schools)

The article speaks of a "year 5 Epiphany" which is a bit of a slide from the figures quoted later in the article which concern baptisms of a year old or later. For those outside the UK, children in "Year 5" are 9-10 years old. At the beginning of the subsequent year, they need to apply for secondary school. The implication is that there are loads of baptisms purely to facilitate this.

Actually, the Dioceses could refute this by looking up the annual pastoral returns which report on baptisms of children up to 1 year, 1-7 years and over 7. The latter category is minuscule and it would be quite a rare case if someone had a child baptised purely for the purposes of applying to secondary school - even if they hoodwinked the priest into going along with it. In truth, this is all a secularist scare story, part of the developing modern "black legend" designed to undermine Christianity in general and "faith schools" in particular. (In our case, "Church schools", actually.)

John Austin speaks of the trend for later baptisms as "quite alarming" and decries parents "inflicting their religion on their children". This is insulting to parents who devoutly nurture their children's faith and bring them up in a religious family environment. There are also parents who, after experiencing the life of the Church in a Catholic school and parish, decide that this is something that they have missed out on and want for their family. Every year I have one or two converts of this kind. They are typically good, honest people, pillars of the community whom we are very glad to have in the parish where they and their families make an active contribution to the spiritual, social and charitable life of the community. It is outrageous of a local MP to call the sincerity of these upright and law-abiding people into question and speak as though they are somehow damaging their children into the bargain.

At the next election, perhaps in addition to questions about the voting intentions of candidates on pro-life matters, we might want to put one in asking them whether they think it is harmful to bring a child up in a religious faith. Richard Dawkins is certainly of this view. I think voters of all religious faiths need to know whether the person asking for their vote agrees with him.
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