The Enlighten Up campaign calls for removal of unelected religious representatives from Local Authority Education Committees and exposes worrying details of current religious representatives in a new report.
Humanist Society Scotland has today launched its new Enlighten Up education campaign calling on the Scottish Government to end the guessing game for parents and ensure that every member of local authority education committees are accountable through the ballot box.
The Society, which has over 14,000 members across Scotland, has published details of the 88 religious representatives who have been appointed to local authority education committees without a vote. The report exposes several worrying examples of religious appointees who have full voting rights without ever seeking a mandate from the electorate:
- Clackmannanshire: ‘Third representative’, Pastor David Fraser, who believes that Satan is to blame for the death of a 5-year-old child last year, and that Noah’s Ark has been found.
- East Dunbartonshire: Church of Scotland representative, Mrs Barbara Jarvie, believes that the Kirk’s role is justified and that unelected church reps work in ‘conjunction‘ with elected councillors; and the Roman Catholic education rep is a priest who was found guilty of “unwanted harassment” and making sexual advances towards males in his house.
- Highland Council: In Highland Council, in 2012, religious representatives influenced a vote which defeated the coalition of SNP, Liberal Democrats and Labour members which had formed to run the Council. The Council’s depute leader described the arrangement as an “historic anomaly” and argued that it “threatens democratic decision-making”.
- Falkirk Council: The ‘third representative’, Rev Michael Rollo (who is also a chaplain in Larbert High), believes in faith healing.
- Renfrewshire Council: Catholic representative Jack Nellaney says Catholic schools are important because “faith is not something young people think about day in, day out, so it’s important to give them a chance to reflect on faith in action.”
- South Lanarkshire: ‘Third representative’ Dr Nagy Iskander is one of ‘Europe’s most active creationists‘ according to high-profile American anti-science campaigner Ken Ham.
- Orkney – Former Councillor of 22 years, Hugh Halcro-Johnston, was defeated in the 2003 election, then returns to Council as Religious Representative.
- Shetland: Like all local authorities Shetland Islands Council is required to appoint three unelected religious representatives, despite the clear wishes by the Council not to. (quote from Shetland Councillor below).
Speaking at the launch of the campaign outside the Scottish Parliament, Gordon MacRae, HSS Chief Executive, said:
“The presence of unelected religious representatives is anti-democratic and out of step with modern Scotland.
“Parents should not be left guessing who has a right to make decisions over their children’s education. Every full voting member of local education committees should be accountable through the ballot box.
“Instead religious groups, should have the same, not more, rights as teachers, parents, trade unions and community groups to contribute to and shape local education decisions.”
Gordon MacRae added:
“The law to force councils to appoint religious representatives only came in under the Conservative Government in 1973. As we look to the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections we hope Scotland’s politicians will agree that it is time to end it once and for all.”
Speaking in support of the campaign Dame Anne Glover, Professor of Biology, and former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Scottish Government, said:
“A vibrant and engaged modern Scotland needs an education policy that reflects the reality of modern Scottish society. That is why I support the Enlighten Up campaign for education reform in Scotland.”
Councillor Jonathan Wills, of Shetland Island Council, said:
“Local councillors have to seek a mandate from their community, and they remain accountable to the local community. Having unelected religious representatives on local education committees is outdated and has to change. That is why I support the Enlighten Up campaign for education reform in Scotland.”