Beware the Trojan Horses of intolerance

Secularist attacks on faith are on the rise, says David Robertson

Secularist attacks on faith are on the rise, says David Robertson

The term Trojan Horse has suddenly become very popular in the media and the Twittersphere. This is because of the Birmingham schools debacle where extremist Islamists were deemed to have attempted to take control of state schools from within. Sadly the emotive use of the term, combined with the meaningless soundbite of British values, always used by politicians who seem unable to define them, has resulted in a clear and present danger to our liberal society – an increasingly authoritarian government.

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Teresa May, the Home Secretary, announced plans last month to establish Extremism Disruption Orders which would allow judges to ban people who are considered extremists from broadcasting, protesting or even using social media. The obvious point, which seems to have escaped the government, is that anyone can be called an extremist. I am apparently an extremist because I think marriage is between a man and a woman, others might be considered extremist because they were opposed to Conservative government policies. Who defines what is extremist? This is a real Trojan Horse – an attempt to get more state control over citizens by using the “lets protect ourselves from extremists” mantra. Little wonder it has brought together such diverse groups as the Christian Institute and the National Secular Society in opposition.

The Birmingham case has also resulted in lots of scare stories about ‘faith schools’. The British government through Ofsted, are so theologically illiterate and so desperate to be considered fair that they seem to be doing their best to hammer all such schools and insist that British values (ie, the values of the governing elite at the time) should be taught in every school. The irony is that the Birmingham schools affected were not faith schools!

We have another Trojan Horse scare in Scotland, this time from the Scottish Secular Society, who are petitioning the Scottish Parliament about the great danger to children from some teachers somewhere in Scotland who might actually believe that God the Creator might have had something to do with creation. SSS want politicians to legislate on what should be taught in science classes. I may be kind of old-fashioned but my view is that science should be taught in science classes – not religious or anti-religious philosophy. If atheists choose to believe that the universe created itself out of nothing that’s up to them – but please don’t seek to impose your faith upon the rest of us. The reality is of course that this is an attempt to introduce something that is alien to Scottish culture – the science/religion culture wars of the US. In that respect we should be aware that atheist fundamentalists are as dangerous as religious fundamentalists. I suspect that people who want to ban “all things bright and beautiful”, fall into the former category.

And what can we make of the Scottish Humanist Society’s spending £40,000 to employ Glasgow University to investigate religious privilege in Scotland? A Humanist (Professor Callum Brown) being employed by the Humanist Society to investigate religious privilege. I wonder what the results could possibly be? And here is where the real Trojan Horse danger is. The humanists and the secularists are both tiny groups who have such faith in their own beliefs that they think the whole of Scotland should be governed by them. In order to push those beliefs, and remove from the public sphere the traditional Christian influence, they hide behind “equality” (which of course they will define according to their faith) and seek to banish all views they do not agree with.

It is right to be concerned about Islamic extremists in Birmingham. But we should be even more concerned about those who, Trojan Horse-like, use fears about religion in the US, and Islam in the Middle East, to further their own anti-religious agenda which will ultimately end up in a weakening of our democracy, a growing secularist intolerance and an increasing concentration of power in those who just know that their views are the only permissible ones. It is to be hoped that MSPs have the sense, intelligence and backbone not to give in to this scaremongering and that they continue to protect our hard-won freedoms.

David Robertson is director at Solas Centre for Public Christianity