Church hits back in row over Scots faith schools
A DIRECTOR of the country’s top lobbying group for charities has been criticised after he launched an attack against faith schools, saying that they are one of the “key causes” of sectarianism.
John Downie, a director of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), said that “getting rid of faith schools” would help to eradicate the blight of religious hatred north of the Border.
The Scottish Government has made tackling sectarianism a top priority in the SNP’s second term.
Legislation passed last year created new offences relating to singing at football matches and internet behaviour.
In a blog on the SCVO’s website last year, Mr Downie argued that “the solution” was to focus on the real cause of sectarianism, namely the school system”.
Mr Downie said: “In my opinion one key causes [sic] of sectarianism is Scotland continuing to have separate denominational and non-denominational schools… the reality is that separate schools foster estrangement between Catholic and Protestant communities and influence the behaviour of children.”
Bishop Joseph Devine, the president of the Scottish Catholic Education Commission, described his opinions as “reckless” and “offensive”.
“Mr Downie has misused the SCVO website to make offensive and untenable claims that Catholic schools are a cause of sectarianism in Scotland.”
The bishop added: “Such an intervention is not what one would expect to read on the official website of a respected social agency that is expected to champion co-operation, harmony and tolerance.”
Labour MSP Michael McMahon said: “There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that separate schools create sectarianism – in fact, the opposite is true.”
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