Skeptic News: Creationist sect among 100-plus faith applicants for free schools

imagesFrom: The Independent

More than 100 religious groups have applied to the Government to open one of its free schools, official figures have revealed for the first time.

They include the Plymouth Brethren – an exclusive religious sect which refuses to teach technology and preaches creationism – which has put in 14 applications to bring existing private schools they already run into the state sector. All the applications have been refused.

The figures show that 132 of the 517 applications to open free schools in the past couple of years have come from faith groups. These applications include 31 from Muslim groups.

The information emerged after the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, bowed to a ruling from the Information Commissioner to release the details of all applications – including whether they were for a faith school and of which denomination. Faith groups seeking to open their own schools included Jews, Hindus and Sikhs and Christians.

On the Plymouth Brethren the article states:

The Plymouth Brethren is a little-known, evangelical, conservative Protestant denomination which insists upon a rigid code of conduct based on Biblical teachings. They trace their origins to an evangelical reform movement that sprung out of Ireland in the early-1820s.

The nascent movement split in two in the 1840s. The most conservative adherents call themselves Exclusive Brethren and discourage members from integrating with mainstream society. Their counterparts tend to describe themselves as Open Brethren and are marginally more liberal.

Brethren tend to view the outside world as filled with wickedness and that only by remaining exclusive from the rest of society can they avoid sin. Pinning down exact numbers is difficult but there are thought to be around 43,000 worldwide with 16,000 in Britain.

Brethren tend to abhor modern technology and are known to preach creationism. The Charity Commission recently denied a group of Plymouth Brethren charitable status because of the church’s doctrine of separation from society and the “insufficient evidence of meaningful access to public worship”. The church appealed the decision to the charity tribunal. The case is to be heard in March.

The information was revealled after the British Humanist Association submitted a FOI request. The association’s Richy Thompson is quoted as saying:

“We believe the true number of religious schools is likely to be a third to 50 per cent higher than the data implies. This is because it only shows schools with a formally designated religious character and not those with a ‘faith’ ethos.”

The 21st Floor has no objection to religion in schools, with facilities for different faith groups to worship and celebrate their faith being provided, but we don’t believe that in the 21st century there is a place for divisive and sectarian educational establishments.

We should be building for a future where there are less walls set up between peoples of different faiths, races and ideological concerns. Not allowing them to hide away in their own education ghettos.

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