The States of Guernsey has rejected a proposal to remove a law that allows state-funded religious schools to discriminate against teachers who don’t share their faith. The decision comes after the Catholic Church threatened to close the three schools it runs on the Bailiwick rather than appoint non-Catholics to senior teaching positions.
Humanists UK and Channel Islands Humanists have long-campaigned for an end to religious discrimination in teacher employment. They expressed dismay at the States of Guernsey’s decision, saying teachers should only ever be appointed on their ability to carry out the role, and not in a way designed to deny children their freedom of religion or belief.
The proposal was part of the new Discrimination Ordinance, which Channel Islands Humanists worked with the States of Guernsey to draft. It would have meant that no-one could be disadvantaged in terms of getting a job or a promotion on the basis of their religion or belief. Diversity amongst teaching staff also means that pupils are able to have positive contact with adults who hold differing beliefs from their own. This, in turn, helps to secure the freedom of religion or belief of those pupils. However, the Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, Phillip Egan – who has responsibility for Guernsey – said that the Church would close its schools if the law allowing it to prioritise Catholics for teaching roles was removed. This was despite the fact that two of the three Catholic schools in Guernsey are state-funded and their employer is the States of Guernsey not the Catholic Church.
Opposition to the proposal was led by Vice President of education, sport, and culture Bob Murray. He argued the change would ‘risk contravention of human rights legislation’. A letter from the Policy and Resources Committee also referred to parents’ rights to ensure education ‘in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions’. But in fact this right only protects parents and children from religious indoctrination by the state. It does not guarantee access to state-funded faith schools or place limits on who those schools may employ.
Gary Vaudin of Channel Island Humanists commented:
‘We are extremely disappointed that the States of Guernsey has bowed to the threats of the Catholic Church and rejected this proposal to ensure fair employment in Guernsey.
‘Teachers should only be employed or promoted on the basis of their ability to do the job, not their religion or belief. This failure to outlaw religious discrimination in state-funded schools marks a huge missed opportunity to protect human rights and equality in Guernsey.’
For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham at email@example.com or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725110860
Read our previous article on the Catholic Church threat to close Guernsey state schools.
Read more about Channel Islands Humanists.
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