Our British cousins – under the leadership of Ed Balls, secretary of the Department for Children, Families and Schools – currently are mulling an expansion of the number of state-funded “faith schools,” which currently number 6,850 and make up about a third of all state-funded institutions nationwide. Operating with grant money from Balls’ department, representatives of the Church of England, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Greek Orthodox and Sikh faiths studied the issue and issued a consensus position document on the proposal. Great shocker here – they were for it!
Writing at the Guardian Unlimited, University of London philosophy professor A.C. Grayling lays out his objections, and in so doing, perfectly encapsulates what so frustrates me each and every time I hear self-proclaimed “libertarians” in my own country make the absurd claim that they are striking a blow for “markets” by agitating for massive new public subsidies to the church, in the form of tuition “vouchers.”
That is, representatives of an active constituency of weekly worshippers of 8% of the British population, all of them votaries of ancient superstitions, all of them with grubby hands rummaging in the pot of public funds, and some of them doing it with the useful background threat of violence and civil unrest unless the rummaging pays off. The spectacle is appalling.
The question is not solely one of public policy, or the fact that the government's otherwise admirable desire for social cohesion is going to be negated, not enhanced, by paying to keep children apart from one another in competing ghettoes of superstition. There is the point also that if parents wish to bring up their children in their own traditional superstitions, they should do it on their own time and at their own expense. The secular majority in this country should bitterly oppose the use of their tax money for this misconceived policy. Religion, the bane of the modern world in so many respects, has got to be relegated to the private sphere and kept there.