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Humanists to mount legal challenge against new schools

By on Thursday, 12 April 2012

A legal challenge will be launched against the building of two new Catholic schools in southwest London.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) are planning to mount a legal challenge against Richmond Council, following an application by the Diocese of Westminster to build a Catholic primary and secondary school.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Westminster defended the application stating: “The Diocese of Westminster believe that Richmond Council have acted entirely properly in respect of proposals for the establishment of new Voluntary Aided Catholic primary and secondary schools in the borough.

“The proposed court case being brought by RISC and the British Humanist Association, a national organisation that campaigns against the existence of all schools with a religious character, seeks to use procedural arguments to prevent an entirely legitimate proposal to increase the educational choices available for parents and children in Richmond.”

The spokesman said that the establishment of the new schools would provide greater diversity of choice in the Richmond area. He continued: “The proposed new schools are also likely to bring additional benefits by releasing places at other local schools which are currently being taken up by those who would prefer a Catholic education.”

The BHA argue that if the council ratifies the plans they are flouting new rules from the Education Act 2011 that state: “If a local authority in England think a new school needs to be established in their area, they must seek proposals for the establishment of an Academy’ [i.e. a Free School]. Proposals are then adjudicated by the Department for Education (DfE).”

A statement from the BHA continues: “Richmond Council has been clear that it thinks the borough needs a Catholic secondary school to complement its existing Catholic primaries, and that there is also a need for a new Catholic primary to provide additional places. They say that the Act allows them to go ahead with Voluntary Aided Catholic schools without first following the above rule.

“The BHA is concerned that this offers a way of opening religious schools in the face of public opposition by the back door, avoiding the competition that would otherwise be required.”

But Richmond Council said that any legal action from the BHA and RISC was premature. A spokesman for the council said: “The Council has not yet taken decisions in respect of the Diocese’s proposal, or in respect of the use of the site in Twickenham and therefore, any judicial review challenge would be premature.”

  • edex21

    I wonder if this humanist society would be against building a jail. Oops, no, wait a second, I forgot, we may need a jail for when all these unschooled kids grow up in the society the humanists seem to be perpetuating. 

  • edex21

    You lack a basic knowledge of recent world history, including, how a few have hijacked the entire Moslem culture, or how about going a bit back further, and a reading about how in the beginning the Nazis were a noisy few. Let’s face it atheists are a few but boy do they make noise. Humanism aka atheism is a religion showing no tolerance and hell bent on destroying other religions, especially Christianity.

  • Anthony Miller

    They are also not not a religion either.  According to their manifesto (1933) they are a religion to replace religion.  That manifesto was signed by a number of Unitarian Church officials and to this day the Unitarian church still cross funds them.  Why?  Atheism though logical has a very small customer base.  The big lie of the BHA is that it isn’t religious.  It is.

  • BertyBotts

    Great party political post Chris, but you are trying to misrepresent the argument here.  The LibDems have, historically supported a Catholic school in the borough too.  They asked the diocese to apply for Govt funding numerous times when they were leading the council.
    The pre-statutory, statutory and council consultations were open to all.  Risc paid for leaflets to be distributed to parents outside every primary school in the borough, as well as being delivered with the local paper.
    Risc may not like the idea of a Catholic school, but you are being disingenuous to suggest that this is not what people in the community have asked for.
    The Free Schools, if approved will have Govt support to find appropriate sites – the school that you are talking about has already found alternative sites itself – it would just prefer Clifden Road because it is in the catchment of the steering group’s parents homes.
    This Catholic school would be a school for the whole borough as it’s oversubscription criteria demonstrates.  Children worshiping in all of the borough’s parishes would have an equal chance of gaining a place.
    Catholic children are Richmond children too!

  • Jeremy Rodell

    I’ve just come across this post, which mentions me by name, so thought I would reply. Please can BertyBotts provide the evidence that I am personally “anti-faith”. He won’t be able to, because I’m not. Religious belief is important to a lot of people, including some of my own friends, and I have no desire to take it away from them. But I am opposed to religious privilege, which is a different thing entirely, and wholly inappropriate in a plural society such as ours. 

    As far as RISC is concerned, as far as I know, the vast majority of supporters have no interest in Humanism, Atheism, Catholicism or any other belief. They just want good schools for their children, and good quality education for the next generation as a whole, and can’t understand why children of Catholics should be segregated from others. 

    One thing I’ve been disappointed to find in the course of this debate is that few people in the Catholic community seem able or willing to put themselves in the position of non-Catholics. As a result, no one has yet given a satisfactory reply to the core question: how can it be right that a child can be denied a place at a local school simply because of the religion or belief of their parents? 

  • Pedro Vilarinho

    Spot on Jeremy!Me personally I have no inconvenience for a catholic school(or any other faith) that can discriminate my daughter( like it happened in Brixton a few months ago!) but I am definetelly against if it is funded with my paid taxes!