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Education News

Ban anti-Catholic books in schools, says bishop

A Roman Catholic bishop has likened books which criticise the teachings of the Church to works that deny the Holocaust took place.

The Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster, told MPs that books critical of the Catholic faith should be banned from school libraries.

Asked if that applied to works by authors such as Karl Marx and Albert Camus, he told the Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee: "Suppose you went into a school and found in the library material that said the Holocaust never took place?"

Fiona McTaggart, the Labour MP for Slough, said she was extremely concerned that Catholic sixth-formers would be denied access to great works of fiction as well as non-fiction if the bishop's ban were implemented. "I would not expect a school to promote material that was lies but I also would also expect children to encounter a wide range of material even if they then need to be given the tools to criticise them," she said.

But Bishop O'Donoghue defended his stance. "I think there has to be a vetting of material given the age range of children in schools," he said. "There is certain material that you do not put in front of them."

The bishop's summons to appear before the committee followed a document he produced last year which angered some MPs because of its strict line on sexual morality.

In Fit for Mission?, Bishop O'Donoghue wrote: "The secular view on sex outside marriage, artificial contraception, sexually transmitted disease, including HIV and Aids, and abortion, may not be presented as neutral information."

"So-called" safe sex was based on the "deluded theory that the condom can provide adequate protection against Aids". He added: "Schools and colleges must not support charities or groups that promote or fund anti-life policies, such as Red Nose Day and Amnesty International, which now advocates abortion."

He said yesterday: "As a Catholic bishop I am very concerned that the executive [of Amnesty International] has taken a decision on abortion".

The committee also heard faith schools were creaming off wealthy and bright pupils at the expense of children from the most disadvantaged homes.

Academics suggested the abuse of the admissions system was widespread, and not limited to Barnet, Manchester and Northamptonshire, which were investigated by the Government.

Professor West and Rebecca Allan of London University's Institute of Education told the committee that almost all religious schools in London took fewer pupils eligible for free school meals than the proportion in their district.

Covert social selection was enabling schools to find information about pupils' social background which could then be used to make admissions decisions.