'Aggressive Secularism' Dividing Society

Article excerpt

Society risks being divided by "aggressive secularism", the Archbishop of Birmingham yesterday warned MPs.

He denied faith schools led to segregation and insisted the Catholic Church wanted to provide classroom places for children of all faiths.

Speaking to a Commons inquiry, he instead warned attacks on religion were making it more difficult to create a harmonious society.

The Archbishop, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, had been asked to give evidence to the Education Select Committee, looking into citizenship education.

He recently won a battle with the Government when he led opposition to laws forcing new faith schools to ensure 25 per cent of pupils were from other religions.

Ministers scrapped the legislation, but critics claim the growth in faith schools is encouraging segregation in places where communities are already divided.

A report into riots in Bradford, Burnley and Old-ham in 2001 warned people led "parallel" and "polarised" lives where those from different backgrounds did not mix.

It warned creating faith schools could exacerbate the problem, but the Government is encouraging churches and religious communities to open new schools.

The Bishop warned attempts to impose a secular model on society, were doing more harm.

It follows attempts by local authorities to downgrade the religious element of Christmas and British Airway's suspension, since overturned, of an employee who insisted on wearing a small cross. …