11 February 2014
Move to change composition of education committees is but a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”
GLASGOW – Proposed changes to the composition of education committees in Scotland are anti-democratic and a step backwards, says the Evangelical Alliance Scotland.
The Alliance, which represents more than 750 organisations and two million evangelical Christians in 3,500 churches across 79 denominations says it is deeply concerned that the proposals will result in less community involvement in policymaking and are therefore not good for society.
A member's bill proposed by MSP John Finnie, on which consultation closed yesterday, seeks to take away voting rights from representatives of parents, teachers, young people and the church who sit on these committees.
"There is nothing to gain from this proposal and an awful lot to lose. It is nothing but a wolf in sheep's clothing and is part of a wider agenda by small secularist groups to marginalise religion in public life," says Alliance spokesman on public policy, Kieran Turner, "and the proposal comes at a time when engagement in local democracy is low and services are stretched. This short-sighted secularism, if allowed, would reduce community involvement, which will not be good for society. What we need is more engagement, not less."
He adds: "While on the surface this is about a secularist agenda to remove so-called 'religious privilege', in reality the consequence would be reduced community involvement in education policy.
"There are many fine examples of community representatives on education committees representing teachers, parents and young people, one of the best being Highland Council's Youth Convener's role in John Finnie's own region.
"Community involvement adds to the work of education committees and it is important that this secular agenda does not come at the expense of long-term community involvement."
Turner says that there are already strong safeguards in place to prevent any 'democratic deficit': "If these safeguards need to be strengthened, then let's do that; but we will not achieve anything by throwing the baby out with the bathwater..
"As an organisation we do not approach this from any position of privilege but rather we seek to look at the best outcomes for Scotland's children.
"As we consider this year what kind of nation we want to live in, communities must be at the heart of all that government does, and religious groups are often at the heart of our communities. Education is too important to be left to the party politicians and it is important that community voices are heard. This is democracy in action."
In response to John Finnie's member's bill consultation, the Alliance has said there is nothing wrong with the current composition and functioning of the committees and it sees nothing that needs fixing as there are strong safeguards in place.
Notes to Editors
Our church members in Scotland include the Baptist Union of Scotland, Vineyard churches, the Salvation Army, Newfrontiers, Elim Pentecostal churches, Assemblies of God, the Free Church of Scotland, Brethren, a number of congregations within the Church of Scotland and other independent churches. Organisational members include Glasgow City Mission, Bethany Christian Trust, Tearfund and Scripture Union Scotland.
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org