Julie Lynn: Religion, abortion and the cowards who can’t bear to let children think for themselves

What is it about parents of schoolchildren in my part of Kent? They seem to be perpetually ‘concerned’. The front page of my local paper is emblazoned with the headline ‘Grammar girls told “abortion is wrong”,’ a story about parents’ complaints following a Year 11 RE lesson in which abortion was discussed. It seems their 15-year-old daughters were given a ‘one-sided’ view on termination during what the local paper has decided to term ‘the controversial lesson’.

Only last month there was a bit of a to-do when a Church of England primary school in the neighbouring town (oh all right, Tunbridge Wells again) had mums and dads apparently moaning about something similar. It turned out that parents felt that Crossteach, a Christian group invited into the school, had been upsetting children by teaching them about sin. One parent is quoted as saying that the little ones were told that if they did not believe in God, they ‘would not go to a good place when they died’, that ‘men can’t marry men’ and that there was some sort of destruction of a model boat during an assembly to demonstrate the power of God. We can’t know if this was actually said or done, or how ideas were expressed, short of a recording being produced. The result anyway is that the group which these parents describe as ‘extremist’ and promoting ‘potentially damaging ideology’ has been banned from the school. Head teacher Dan Turvey was forced by these campaigning parents to put out a letter explaining that Crossteach would no longer be leading school assemblies or taking any lessons. Mr Turvey said in a statement that he was ‘deeply saddened’ by having to take the step and Crossteach did not ‘deserve the tarnishing of their good name and allegations of extremism’.

Crossteach happens to be the education charity that has landed itself in hot water at the grammar school as well, this time over what it might have been saying about abortion. Once again ‘a concerned parent who did not wish to be named’ (funny how they never feel they can stand up and be counted for what is so alarming them at schools they’ll have fought tooth and nail to get their children into) said the girls were told ‘abortion was wrong in all circumstances bar one – when both the mother and child’s life is at risk – there was no attempt to give a balanced view.’

Tonbridge Grammar School head Rosemary Joyce was clear on her position. She insisted the students were made aware that the visitors were speaking from a faith perspective and that there would have been the opportunity to question and challenge this perspective within the lesson and with their class teacher. She added, furthermore, that ‘no parent has raised concerns with us about the matter’. Crossteach has said it received positive feedback about the lesson, it was unaware of any complaint to the school, it is the school that sets the learning objectives, lesson plans are sent to schools in advance and lessons always included an opportunity for debate. It emphasised that debate was crucial ‘because it is always a curriculum aim for students to be able to justify their own views and respond to the views of others.’ Indeed.



The trouble is that articulating and explaining one’s view and responding to another view is becoming an ever-rarer possibility. Why? Because in the excitable, feverish world of social media where all now seem to exist and are constantly on the edge of outrage, scorn and malice, there is no room or inclination for the quite frankly tedious effort it takes to engage in debate. Why would you want to? It takes time. You need to listen, you need to think, you need to put together your own argument. Yeah, yeah. Whatever. You know your view, you know that other people who think differently to you are just bigots with hateful messages, so fire off your outrage in a few proddings on your hand-held device, whip it all up a bit, then get on to the local paper so that it can splash your unnamed fury all over the front page. Trial by media. Remind us of anything else currently happening?

Pity poor old Crossteach. All it has done is respond positively to a couple of schools around here and deliver a few specific RE lessons and assemblies in a C of E primary school with a bit of, well, Christianity. Why is it being invited to do this? Presumably because the teaching staff themselves find these matters a little too awkward. Blimey, it’d be more than your job’s worth to start on the God question. Just think about all that bother nowadays about using old-fashioned binary terms such as ‘girls’ or ‘women’.
Crossteach describes itself as a ‘charitable organisation that seeks to represent the historical Christian faith in a school setting’. So it does not hide, one assumes, the fact that it might mention things like forgiveness, sin, Judas, miracles, oh and perhaps a man called Jesus. Given that it is a Christian charity and students are aware of it as such, it is entirely reasonable it should offer its own view that there can only rarely be justification for the deliberate killing of the unborn child. By and large it sees that abortion is wrong. Some people agree with that position and some disagree with it. The point is that this is Crossteach’s position.

This does not mean it wishes not to explore ideas with young people in debate. Common sense tells us this is not what happened. The bright fifteen-year-old girls were in all likelihood shocked and disturbed by what they learned and were urged to think about concerning abortion (trigger warning: abortion is shocking and disturbing), so much so that they mentioned it later at home. Cue the Facebook/WhatsApp mums and dads all wound up about their progeny being asked to get their heads around difficult subjects, their daughters being smuggled the ‘wrong’ view. There is no wrong view. There are just views. Some of them well argued, some of them not.

There are those who feel that religion has no place in schools. They would see an end to all acts of religious worship, a ban on the wearing of any items with religious associations and faith schools of any kind being outlawed. That’s fine. So long as one takes a wholly consistent line, that is an entirely reasonable position. What is not fine or, in the modern parlance, what is not ok, is the downright hypocrisy of parents I keep hearing about around here. The kind of parents who know what it takes and can do what it takes to gain the advantages of a C of E primary or a traditional (leading) grammar-school education for their youngsters. Exactly what is it about the word ‘Christian’ that they do not get? Exactly what is it about the term ‘Church of England Primary School’ that they cannot quite compute? Who knows? This, however, was the comment from one (again unnamed) parent from that particular primary school. ‘No one minds Nativity plays and Bible stories but considering most of the parents at the school aren’t practising Christians, I think the feeling is that it is all too much . . . if you want your children raised as Christians there are plenty of Sunday schools.’ You couldn’t make it up.

Julie Lynn

  • paul parmenter

    We might compare the treatment of Crossteach – both in terms of parental reaction and the response of the school to that reaction – with those who are being invited into schools to teach about homosexuality and transgenderism, the current favourite flavours. Or perhaps I should say those who are being imposed on schools.

    Another point is Julie’s comment that “We can’t know if this was actually said or done, or how ideas were expressed, short of a recording being produced.” But isn’t that just the big problem? Does anyone know what is being said or done in classrooms, or how ideas are being expressed? Nobody monitors or records lessons. There is no telling what is being put into children’s heads. The only witnesses are the children themselves, who can hardly be counted as the best and most reliable people to know if they are being brainwashed or given a “balanced” view. Parents who take no interest in how their children are being taught are playing a dangerous game with their own, and ultimately with the rest of us.

    • Busy Mum

      Exactly. Police officers now wear body cams – symptomatic of the breakdown of trust, truth and society, if you ask me – which have led to a huge reduction in the amount of aggression and false claims made by those arrested. Maybe it is time for all lessons to be filmed and streamed live so that there can be no question as to what goes on, whether misreported by the pupils or not.

  • David R

    I would have thought that the schol system in Northern Ireland in the last hundred or so years where all schools were either Catholic or Protestant and both groups inculcated hatred of the other has shown that all faith schools were inherently bad? Every faith holds that it alone has access to The Only Truth (with capitals) and is therefore unfit to teach impressionable youngsters about many subjects including history, biology, geography, etc.

    • SimonToo

      I think you are confusing religion as such with the adoption of religious badges in the furtherance of tribal disputes. Do you really see an advantage in children being taught by teachers with no confidence in truth?

      • David R

        Obviously I would want the truth to be held inviolable, truth as in Pythagoras’ theorem for plane surfaces, but to teach children that a ruling group in Britain in the sixteenth century were either wholly good or wholly bad is not by any stretch of the imagination the truth.

        • Busy Mum

          But I guess the science you were taught in the 1950’s was presented as ‘fact’.

        • Little Black Censored

          “I would want…” Ooh!

        • SimonToo

          You leave me a little confused. Who is teaching that which ruling group in Britain was wholly good or wholly bad? In saying Britain, are you talking of Scotland or of England?
          .
          Even Pythagoras’ Theorem, limited though it be to plane surfaces, is reliant on the assertion of various axioms whose truth is (necessarily) axiomatic, not provable.

          • David R

            History lessons in N.I. were either Good Queen Bess (who was perfect) and Bloody Mary (who was the devil incarnate) or the opposite depending which school a child attended.

        • “Science changes its views based on reproducible observation”…are you sure about that? Much of what is classed as scientific fact these days is based on nothing but atheistic/Marxist wishful thinking. I’d love to see some “reproducible” experimentation that can prove man-made global warming, or molecules to man evolution, or that nothing can explode to create everything!

          • David R

            So would I in the examples you quote.

    • Nockian

      And ‘the only truth’ being a product of revelation that no one can directly pass on to any other person.

  • SimonToo

    Reporting of outrage in a newspaper is synonymous with humbug. “Outrage” (or “fury”) means someone has been persuaded to disagree to some extent : “widespread” means more than one person has been persuaded to do so.

    • Labour_is_bunk

      Like I said in a recent comment elsewhere – “outrage” tends to equate to the heady sum of 3 or 4 tweets.

    • Little Black Censored

      And outrage is very easily “sparked” these days, as with the silly ninny whose wife was praised by the doctor for behaving “manfully”.

  • Perhaps they should visit Cold Comfort Farm.

  • Bik Byro

    “the cowards who can’t bear to let children think for themselves”

    These would be the religious people who foist their religion onto their children instead of letting their children think for themselves then.

    • Nockian

      So true.

    • Busy Mum

      But not all religions are equal when it comes to ‘foisting’ belief onto their children.

      • Bik Byro

        They all do it. The reason that nearly every follower of every religion in the world follows that particular religion is “it’s the religion my parents had”

        I bet if your parents had been devout muslims, you would be on some boards somewhere telling us how great the koran is.

        • Busy Mum

          Well, the alternative would be death, I suppose. Some religions have very effective ways of ‘foisting’ their beliefs on to their children.

    • Little Black Censored

      “These would be…” Ooh!

    • Tricia

      Well Christianity seems to have been spectacularly in effective at the brainwashing they supposedly have been doing for centuries judging my the lack of Christianity in this country. Christ offers himself upon the cross – you don’t have to accept.

      • Bik Byro

        Just because they’ve been spectacularly ineffective, doesn’t mean they haven’t tried.

    • suemary

      Or, like one of my close relatives who pours daily scorn and contempt on religion to the point where her 9 year old says, “I hate these Jesus believers.” I suppose that might be labelled as not letting children think for themselves.

      • Bik Byro

        Yes it would.

    • Malcolm Marchesi

      No-one “foists” anything on to anyone . It is perfectly reasonable , even necessary , for a C of E Primary school to have a Christian ethic based on Christian teaching . Why are such schools so popular ? I’ll tell you why , it’s because the philosophy of the Christian school is based on simple mores which children can grasp and respond to . When they leave school , if they then wish to adopt a different set of values , they are free to do so . The alternative to such a system is to let the little darlings think and do what they like and then be surprised when they turn out to be amoral creatures concerned only with their own narrow interests . Of course that’s a generalisation and there will be those who it doesn’t apply to but they will surely be the exception rather than the rule .

      • Bik Byro

        Ah, so when YOU are doing it, you’re not one of the “the cowards who can’t bear to let children think for themselves”. That only applies when OTHER people are doing it.
        Riiiiiiight.

  • Organisations seem to react far to easily to just one or two complaints, and of course these can be magnified these days using Twitter by a thousand or so around the country, Those who approve of the status quo rarely say anything, (why should they?) so organisations only get a one-sided view.

    Typical is the store which is altering its changing room following one complaint from a trans-activist magnified by Twitter. It would have remained at one complaint in the days of postal communication, but now it is so easy to tick a box on the screen agreeing with something.

    If I was running an organisation, I think that I would ask for all complaints to be in writing sent by post!

  • l jess

    They have been warned. God is not one to mock or deride. History shows reality.

  • Groan

    Though not the same position as this Christian group the any discussion of the current law as it is written would “trigger” because contrary to commonly assumes it says there has to be the risk of significant harm to the mother or child. Now of course in practice the area of psychological harm has proven very elastic. Occasionally prosecutions have occurred where clinics have been blatantly flouting the Law by having Doctors pre-sign forms in batches for instance. I suspect most people today would be surprised and some “triggered” at the actual letter of the current law.

  • John Thomas

    Remember, ALL schools are religious schools, but the majority – with the State’s considerable aid and blessing – indoctrinate children with the religion of secular materialism, with which they’re thoroughly brainwashed by, by the time they’re about 8 or 9. These “anti-religion in schools” people are SUCH hypocrites (well, that’s true of so-called “liberals” in all respects).

  • Nockian

    Religion should be removed from all state funded schools. Fine to have it in private schools as choice of the parents who pay for it.

    • Busy Mum

      As long as those parents get a tax rebate – or better, there should be no state funded schools at all.

      • Nockian

        Clearly the latter is the ideal. If religious parents want their children taught faiths, then this can be accomplished at Sunday school, or through the Internet.

        • Busy Mum

          Why not at home?

          And for ‘religious’ parents nowadays, the problems are with what is taught in school, rather than what is not taught. Measured by its zeal and single-minded devotion to faith, the current state education system is just as religious as any of the official ‘world religions’…

          • Nockian

            No reason why not at home, I was working on the assumption the parents were completely unable to give the necessary education-both parents working, but r lack of subject knowledge.

            Yes, I would agree with your second paragraph. It’s more indoctrination than education. Can’t remember if we had this conversation before, but worth watching John Taylor Gatto on YouTube regarding the state of modern education as it pertains to the Prussian system. Gatto explains, that prior to the whole Sparta/Athenian myth of Spartans being fantastically trained, invincible warriors, that the education system in Athens was very much regarded as leisure. Children were not forced into education-the belief that they were forcibly educated in Sparta is also a myth-but took to it because they enjoyed it. It was the myth of Spartan forced, rigorous education being the model for success, that eventually became the Prussian model we have today.

          • Busy Mum

            Agree that forced education is hopeless. Yes, I have heard about the Prussian model which was about producing a workforce, rather than educating anyone….

    • Tricia

      Education in this country came out of the monasteries, as did hospitals, hospices and charity. Maybe the state should get out of education. Certainly having seen the new “Respect” programme they are using in Warwickshire they are unfit as they are involved in the corruption of the young.

      • Nockian

        There is no question that it should get out of education. It should get out of the economy too and peoples peaceful life choices. It should be protecting rights and preserving justice domestically and from foreign enemies.

    • LoveMeIamALiberal

      They’re not state funded, they’re taxpayers funded. If some taxpayers want schools with a religious ethos who are you to take their money and then tell them it can’t be spent according to their wishes?

      • Nockian

        What about the wishes of those that prefer not to have religious education in their schools ?

        I quite agree with you that If someone pays their money, then they should have the choice, but that can only occur in a free market, not in state schooling. This will always be the flaw in a state education system.

        • Busy Mum

          The odd thing is that it is very, very rare for anybody to withdraw their children from religious education…in fact, the only people that do so are religious (in the general sense of the word) themselves…

          • Nockian

            It’s odd to me that parents shuttle their precious bundles into the hands of strangers who have unfetered access to the most important part of a human being-the mind. It’s therefore not surprising that parents don’t question what their children are being indoctrinated with. It is another example of trusting the state because they are the experts and anyway, the thinking goes, as long as they don’t physically harm the child, then there is no need to worry about the damage being done to the invisible consciousness.

          • Busy Mum

            Agree – which is why I have always been on the verge of home-schooling.

          • Nockian

            Do it. I’ve read sufficient on here to know you would do an excellent job and send your children into the world far wiser and happier.

          • Busy Mum

            I would do it if I was starting all over again, but my youngest has just left primary. As it is, I withdraw the children from absolutely anything I want (including ‘compulsory’ National Curriculum stuff) – teachers are well aware that if they don’t go along with my wishes, I will resort to home-ed….all of my children are towards the top end academically and the teachers do not want to lose their contributions to the exam results, league tables and performance-related-pay!

          • Nockian

            Next best thing. I’m sure you will get them on the right track.

          • Harley Quin

            I dislike Religious Education as it is taught. It teaches any and all religions as worthy of equal respect, which they aren’t.

          • Busy Mum

            This is why I withdraw my children from the lessons.
            And as one of my daughters observed, the lessons focus on the rituals involved rather than the beliefs and doctrines – so all the children emerge from school knowing full well that neither Muslims nor Jews eat pork, and that Sikhs have the Five K’s etc etc but without any idea why these people do the things they do, or don’t do the things they don’t do.

            One of my other daughters did a generic ‘Humanities’ GCSE (in lieu of the RE course) – this covered a random selection of history, geography and religious topics. The main gist of Christianity in this course was that Christians clap whilst worshipping. I pointed out to the teacher that this was not relevant, neither was it necessarily true; her excuse was that they couldn’t possibly teach at a deeper level and so it had to be generalised. No wonder the rising generation hasn’t got a clue about things!

        • LoveMeIamALiberal

          They can choose a state school that is explicitly non religious. The number of religious/non-religious state schools will reflect parental preferences, just like in the private sector where the number of faith schools reflects demand.

          • Nockian

            Impractical though. The reality is that state schools have religious education as part of the curriculum introduced under Thatcher. Even when this isn’t the case, the cost of setting up a state school is prohibitively high and is dependent on all kinds to regulation. There isn’t a place for smaller schools with fewer facilities as competition, therefore parents are herded towards whatever schools the state decrees will be in their catchment areas.

          • Harley Quin

            In my area parents fight to get their children into the local (Christian) high school.

            So much so that there is a phenomenon of them popping up into Church just to acquire the necessary. Church – going qualifications. This causes some cynicism among Church regulars.

            Parents like the ethos of the school which produces excellent results because of it.

            If some of these parents don’t like the Christian moral teaching which their children might encoubter – they know what they can do….

          • Nockian

            So the choice is a state faith school which happens to be considered superior, or a rotten comp ? Where is the option of a good, non-faith school ? It’s not surprising that parents would put up with the first option is it ? :roller eyes:

          • Harley Quin

            You might ask why it is that State schools can be so inferior in the absence of a Christian ethos. Answers itself, doesn’t it.

          • Nockian

            You are missing two things:

            1. That the success of an education is measured purely by the results of exams.
            2. That those that choose those schools aren’t already from homes with better parents.

            I’m still not sure if ALL state schools are still mandated to have a modicum of Christian education within the curriculum. This was certainly so in my own school which wasn’t a faith school.

            I will also cite the Montessori schools as having a reputation for excellence which aren’t faith schools-but again, those that send their children tend to be more intelligent and interested. They also have the resources necessary to send their children to those schools.

            Until and unless we have state free education it’s going to be immensely difficult to sort out the good from the bad.

          • LoveMeIamALiberal

            There are plenty of ‘community’ states that are not faith schools. Changing the law to remove the compulsory daily act of worship (which many schools ignore anyway) would solve the problem for parents wanting a non religious school.

          • Nockian

            But not for those wanting a religious one.
            Why not just get the state out of education completely ? Surely that’s the easiest, most simple and fair approach.

        • Harley Quin

          If it’s a Church of England School, they should take their children elsewhere.

          • Nockian

            My schooling was in a state comprehensive. We were forced to take Religious education and a religious morning assembly. This wasn’t a C of E school and as I understand it, this was exactly what all other comprehensives were doing. We were also prevented from choosing other schools by the catchment area decided on by the council.

  • You know, I’m not going to comment on point, although I suspect most know my opinion anyway.

    In all my years, never have I found it worthwhile to respond to anonymous criticism. I simply take one opinion of their criticism, that it is unworthy of their name, and their valuation. They are correct, their opinion is worthless.

    If you think you have a valid point, and you may, sign the letter, take the credit or blame, otherwise, I for one, will ignore you.

  • suemary

    In my career as a teacher I discovered that some parents were always outraged by something or other. They have never needed social media to aid them. Merely standing near a playground gate was enough to set them off. However, when one dug deeper it was very rarely more than a handful but boy did they make a lot of noise.

  • The_Mocking_Turtle

    I believe that children in state schools should be taught to think analytically for themselves and not “brainwashed” covertly by weird creeds and fanciful dogmas. In short: Religion should be banished from state education. No form of religious education should be provided in state funded schools, so that children from all manner of cultures can be educated together harmoniously, protecting the young, malleable and impressionable minds of pupils from contamination by tribal folklore and man-made mythology, unbiased, unfettered, free and still able to realise the truth of things rationally, truthfully, scientifically and honestly.

    State schools should jettison religion.

    (As in fact should humanity generally.)

    • Harley Quin

      The problem about that is that religion is inextricably bound up with culture. In fact, it can be argued, and has been by some of the best minds of the West, that there would be no culture worthy of the name without religion.

      In fact, Christianity is a necessary, although not a sufficient ingredient in any meaningful definition of the West and its history,

      It follows that the West will disappear if it loses Christianity. You might have noticed that this is exactly what is happening.

      Any curriculum which ignores Christianity is not an education.

      • The_Mocking_Turtle

        The West would disappear if it loses Christianity? That really is very silly. The number of actively practising church-going Christians is at an all time low, only some hundreds of thousands now, and the West hasn’t fallen although does seem to be in decline economically, for reasons which have nothing to do with religion.

        Religion is only necessary as far as social cohesion is concerned in the absence of secular authority. In this country as science and secularism flourished religion wilted and shrank, mostly because it wasn’t necessary any more. The West sans Christianity would still be the West, i.e., a scientific and technological culture which values on freedom, democracy, openness and honest inquiry: loss of region would make no difference to this country in a few hundred years than the loss of the ancient warring principalities and kingdoms that once divided it centuries ago makes to it in the twenty-first century.

        It would simply be quaint history and of no moment to contemporary lives.

        • Harley Quin

          Religion, and only religion, is the source of absolute moral standards. Without absolute standards, there is the kind of relativity we see now.

          With relativity there is a decline in trust because there can be no shared assumptions about behaviour or attitudes. With a decline in trust there is a decline in social capital : social interaction, sense of community, community endeavours such as clubs and organisations, trust in officialdom, politicians and the political process, a decline in belief in democracy….etc etc . In short the disintegration of society.

          Christianity is in the DNA of our Civilisation in myriad, hidden, foundational ways. For example our belief in self sacrifice as the highest good Is Christian. We heard that in the Remebrance Day services where ‘their sacrifice’, a truly religious concept, is used to describe our soldiers who died for their country.

          We are now living in the warm afterglow of the Christian nature of Britain. Christian morality is still there, but it is slowly disappearing like the smile on the Cheshire Cat.

          An attempt at an alternative morality has been imposed – Political Correctness. But as Nietzsche pointed out, if Christian morality loses its grip, an invented replacement will fail.

          And if it is the government which invents morality, who is to say it will always be a secularised perversion of Christianity like Political Correctness or forms of progressivism ?

          • Trumpton

            More and more people are realising that religion is nonsense and gods are all man made constructs. You are clearly someone that hasn’t yet realised that fact.

          • Well said!

    • disqus_N9Jawtu8Uw

      The Church paid for those schools, not the state. The Church paid for operating those schools, not the state. Now the Church has entered into arrangements with the state the Church still makes a financial contribution to running their own schools.

      It was the Church who created the majority of schools, NOT THE STATE.

      If you don’t want Christianity in a CHURCH school then it is YOU who should send your child to a STATE school.

      • Harley Quin

        Dawkins is or was a professor of a University founded like all the great ancient universities as a Christian institution. Its motto is :

        ‘Dominus, Illuminatio Mea ‘

        This prayer has yet to be answered in his case,

        • The_Mocking_Turtle

          Why bring Dawkins into it? I made no mention of the gentleman.

          • Harley Quin

            Why not?

      • The_Mocking_Turtle

        Not any more. As the influence of the church waned the state took over. You note I only mentioned that state schools = which have pupils from families and counties sporting all manner of cultures, races and religions – not self-funding faith-based schools. If parents want to have their children educated in faith schools THEY should pay fees to create and run such schools (or their own peculiar religious institutions should fund them) and no help be given to such schools from monies raised by general taxation.

        If parents want to poison the minds of their children by having them indoctrinated by a religion, while being educated, they should pay for the poison themselves, not people like me who prefer to see young people develop healthily, unencumbered the controlling stunting dogma of religion. I would be mortified to discover that some of my taxes, levied by the state, should have been used to distort, pervert, or otherwise damage the inquiring mind of any innocent boy and girl.