LETTER:Religion has no place in schools

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The Independent Online
Sir: There is a fairly simple answer to Paul Vallely's difficulties ("How much intolerance can we tolerate?", 4 March) over religion and morals in schools. It is the American one. Religious beliefs are a private question: schooling is a matter of public policy; the two should be kept separate. Religious and moral teaching must be left to the family and church (or mosque, synagogue, temple).

The immediate, wholly desirable consequence is the abolition of that prime disaster area in our schools, the compulsory, "act of worship". The second consequence, more long-term, would be the revision of the status of church schools. This would doubtless be vigorously resisted, at least at first, by conservatives, but the only coherent alternative in a multi- faith society is to allow any religious grouping with sufficient supporters and funds the same status. Conservatives would probably come round to the view that the relinquishing of the status was after all the lesser evil.

Would such divorce of our schools from inculcation of "faith and morals" expose the "quagmire of relativism" which Mr Vallely presents as the nemesis of bankrupt liberalism? Liberalism is not without values; among them are open discussion and openness to the depth and diversity of religious and moral teaching. These values would be best served by ending our historic, Christian-biased and now hopelessly unserviceable confusion of private religion with public education.

D B Nimmo