Britain is no longer a Christian country and should stop acting as if it is, says judge

Dec 7, 2015

Britain is no longer a Christian country and should stop acting as if it is, a major inquiry into the place of religion in modern society has concluded, provoking a furious backlash from ministers and the Church of England.
A two-year commission, chaired by the former senior judge Baroness Butler-Sloss and involving leading religious leaders from all faiths, calls for public life in Britain to be systematically de-Christianised.

It says that the decline of churchgoing and the rise of Islam and other faiths mean a “new settlement” is needed for religion in the UK, giving more official influence to non-religious voices and those of non-Christian faiths.

The report provoked a furious row last night as it was condemned by Cabinet ministers as “seriously misguided” and the Church of England said it appeared to have been “hijacked” by humanists.
The report, by the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life, claims that faith schools are “socially divisive” and says that the selection of children on the basis of their beliefs should be phased out.

It also accuses those who devise some RE syllabuses of “sanitising” negative aspects of religion in lessons and suggests that the compulsory daily act of worship in school assmblies should be abolished and replaced with a “time for reflection”.

To continue reading the entire article, click the name of the source below.

36 comments on “Britain is no longer a Christian country and should stop acting as if it is, says judge

  • The report does not go anywhere far enough. The total ban on all faith schools should be instigated immediately and the banning of all religiosity outside of a persons own home – certainly , indoctrinating a child should immediately be categorized as “child abuse” and the perpetrator jailed for a life tariff!
    That would sort the woo-woo merchants once and for all.
    The 21st century should no-longer allow people to believe in sky-fairies!
    And before anybody complains I’m just a tad-too soft on the religious, I reckon we should have them all immediately tarred & feathered – just to be on the safe side…….



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  • There is nothing to which men cling more tenaciously than the privileges of class.
    ~ Leonard Sidney Woolf

    The less the privilege is deserved, the tighter they cling.



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  • Yes, I agree.
    if they are doing away with Christianity then they should go whole hog, and do away with ALL religions in public schools(I thought they had already tbh), and all public places as you say. It should be something that people do atr home, and their place of worship -IF they want to! – Not something that is compulsory..

    I think that there should be Catholic schools etc for those over highschool age(16+), that want to learn about faith and take up the priest hood, and not before that..Adults, can choose if they want to believe in it, children shouldn’t be indoctrinated, and shouldn’t be lead to believe it either.
    I have nothing against them teaching RE in schools, as long as they give a proper balanced lesson where they teach about all religions, and the histories of each of them, including paganism. I think this is important, as it should then give the children the knowledge they need to make an informed choice about whether to follow religion, and if so, which one, rather than being forced to into one and made to believe it.

    Same goes for Baptisms and Christenings(sp?) I don’t really agree with those being done to babies, it should be 16 or 18 imo, IF the child wants it done.



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  • How about removing the Bishops from the House of Lords, not appointing anyone on basis of religion alone, and make the whole Upper House elected, based on areas of expertise, rather than ‘invite a mate’?



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  • 5
    Brian J says:

    The report does not go anywhere far enough. The total ban on all faith schools should be instigated immediately

    I’m on board up until this point. But the rest of your reply goes way too far:

    and the banning of all religiosity outside of a persons own home

    For as long as there is such a thing as a religion, we will have places of worship where like-minded individuals meet to discuss their beliefs. In our case, these places are mostly Christian churches. As long as I am not forced to fund such places through my hard earned money (which of course I am in this current day and age, via collected taxes) then I have no objections.
    In any case, even if the churches did not get any of my money through mandatory tax collection, I would still be open to the idea of a tax-funded effort to preserve these buildings because I think our society would be poorer without them. I guess my main objection is to the reason why I should be forced to spend my money on them. I don’t agree to spend my money on churches so that religious people can go there to worship and spread their beliefs. I do agree to spend my money on churches so that the buildings can be maintained, and enjoyed by everyone.

    certainly , indoctrinating a child should immediately be categorized as “child abuse” and the perpetrator jailed for a life tariff!

    I agree that child indoctrination is a problem that should be combated. But I don’t think many people would agree that the best way to tackle the issue is to carry the parents away from their children and lock them up for life.
    It is natural for a parent to pass on their beliefs to their children. Some of these beliefs will be helpful, and some of them not so helpful. It’s important to educate parents about the best way to communicate these beliefs to their children. Allow the children to think for themselves, and encourage it. This is the only reasonable way to combat the problem of child indoctrination in my view.

    The 21st century should no-longer allow people to believe in sky-fairies!

    I “allow” anyone to believe in whatever they choose. They are entitled to it. I don’t want to live in a society where some one tells me what I should or shouldn’t believe. Otherwise we’re kind of perpetuating a circular problem, aren’t we?
    Now, one thing I would say, is that nobody is entitled to respect for their beliefs. That is the main trouble with religion. It’s not that the guy next door believes it – he can believe whatever he likes. It’s that he knocks my door and tells me that his beliefs cannot be criticised. That is the bit I have a problem with.

    And before anybody complains I’m just a tad-too soft on the religious, I reckon we should have them all immediately tarred & feathered – just to be on the safe side…….

    Okay, well I guess I am going to assume you are joking on that front!



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  • Draz Ekiel

    do away with ALL religions in public schools

    This seems to be the best place to start. It’s not so much to ask that kids go to school and keep their mind focused on their academic lessons for that day and leave religious indoctrination for their families and religious institutions. The French have eliminated the outward expression of religion in their public schools and I haven’t heard of any fuss about it there. Kids and teens can be excessively tribal already without wearing items that label themselves as belonging to any particular group that considers themselves to be special and better than the others.

    I think that there should be Catholic schools

    Did you mean that they should be supported financially by the RCC or by taxpayer funding?
    Why would a secular society care if there are training institutions for Priests? Less Priests in this world would be a very good thing me thinks. Anyway, if the RCC wants to have Priests trained then they should pay for it with their own funding entirely.

    teaching RE in schools,

    In past discussions here I’m always taken a little by surprise when comments appear that support religious instruction in schools. I see that you advocate an approach that is informative and all inclusive but I want to make the case that this material can be integrated into the public (taxpayer funded) school curriculum in such a way that a special class dedicated for religious education would be superfluous. I bring this up because that’s how it was dealt with in my own education and I never remember being aggravated by it at all. I’m so relieved that I didn’t have to deal with overt prayer and blocks of time during the school day that were dedicated to putting religion on a high pedestal that we should be forced to appreciate in a public way. I mention this because for those of us who were brought up with this RE being part of their everyday school experience, perhaps they take it for granted that it’s normal and good and can’t imagine what education would be without it. But for the Americans who read about RE taking place in taxpayer funded schools it’s a bizarre antiquated and like the article said, divisive element to exist in the daily school curriculum.

    When I said that we had instruction about world religions integrated into the curriculum it was usually dealt with in history classes and social studies classes which covered various topics that are considered to be Anthropology material now. When we cover WWII for example, we must discuss Judaism. How can we understand the Holocaust without knowing the history of Judaism? Every time we covered any historic event or did reports about other cultures we were required to know the basic facts about the religion that was part of it. I remember finding this to be very interesting and this has resulted in my love of travel and has given me an appreciation for diversity and inclusion. It also confirmed my own lack of religious belief at the same time.

    So what I’m arguing for here is for the secular community to:

    -Put their weight behind an elimination of the old prayer and singing meetings that take place in public school. There is a whole country that is doing perfectly well without them.

    -Integrate the teaching of history of religion and culture into regular history class.

    -Eliminate outward symbols of religious tribal affiliation during the school day.

    -Introduce designated time blocks for the teaching of ethics starting from the very first grade and proceeding straight through to graduation day, at age appropriate levels. Eliminate tribal thinking and introduce secular ethics that aim towards a higher level of fairness, justice, and beneficence on a societal level.

    Just thought I’d mention that in past discussions here on schools, the Americans have been confused by the term public and private. For us a public school is funded by taxpayer dollars and a private school is at least mostly paid for individuals and/or the institutions that sponsor it. Some private schools are secular and some are religious such as the Parochial schools that are directly attached to the Catholic church.



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  • integrated into the curriculum it was usually dealt with in history
    classes and social studies classes

    Same thing I argued for Laurie. Incidentals in history.



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  • There is a poll in the article. I was surprised that majority want to keep Christian privilege even if the majority are not Christian. They are attached to tradition. Similarly people want to to keep the privileges of the queen and aristocracy, even though they think wealth should be based on merit.



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  • People like Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal. A non-believer, but he, like our Richard, quite likes the ceremonial aspects of the CoE. Bringing people together and all that. A view I abhor, but I won’t stab anyone because of that !



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  • Ignorant American Alert: thanks for the explanatory coda- I was just going to look up Tory since I suspected you were using it sarcastically at the beginning. I thought I knew what it meant (I was right), though I wasn’t sure.



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  • Funnily enough, this morning on the BBC website there was an article headlined: ” We should do God”, about this exact same report. Evidently a reference to Tony Blair’s press officer, Allister Campbell, who on being questioned about the religiosity of the then prime minister replied: “We don’t do God”. I notice the headline has now been changed to : ” We all need to understand religion, report says”.

    Do atheists move in mysterious ways ?

    The article remains the same



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  • Re the apparently weird use of “Public School” in England, there is an explanation. With the increasing wealth of the British capitalist class and the burgeoning Empire, the capitalists needed somewhere to educate their kids in English whilst they set off to conquer the world. Of course the royals and aristocracy had always had private tuition, no way they were going to let their kids mix with the scum of humanity. So the “Public” schools like Eton and Harrow were set up for the public who could afford to pay. The newly rich, those with no manners or etiquette but knew enough to count money, became the great benefactors of the “public” schools. Of course the kids were brought up to become Empire rulers, arrogant, bullying, intolerant, and not afraid of handing out “justice”. As someone put it : “bullied, beaten and buggered”. The enforcement of CoE Christianity was a part of the process. No bloody “multi faith” nonsense in those days ! That has now changed at places like Eton where Arab sheikhs send their kids for a “proper” education. Eton now has places and spaces where the arm choppers’ and camel racers’ kids can pray in the Muslim faith.

    Poor old CoE, when its former dominance now has to make way for the infidels and worse ! Of course many of the proles had to endure a CoE education, like my mother, who shrugged it off.

    On the original point, yes “state” schools make the distinction much clearer, than “public” schools.



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  • As long as I am not forced to fund such places through my hard earned
    money (which of course I am in this current day and age, via collected
    taxes)

    The Church of England is not state funded.



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  • Dan Broadbent
    Dec 7, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    The Church of England is not state funded.

    Really ???????

    https://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2015/03/government-announces-additional-%C2%A340-million-for-church-building-repairs.aspx
    Many more historic churches will be able to complete essential repairs thanks to an additional £40 million included in today’s Budget.

    The Bishop of Worcester, Rt Revd Dr John Inge, lead bishop for cathedrals and church buildings said:

    “We are enormously grateful to the Chancellor for the generous promise of more funding following the heavily oversubscribed Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund and First World War Centenary Cathedral Repair Fund. The nation’s churches and cathedrals are irreplaceable historic buildings which are important both to worshippers and the wider communities. This new funding will mean that many more parishes will be able to complete essential repairs to their churches to continue to serve their communities well into the future.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Welby responded to the announcement on Twitter, saying:

    .“Trebling of money for church repairs will create local skilled jobs, improve community facilities and protect heritage, most welcome

    The announcement of additional funding for the urgent repair of roofs and rainwater goods on church buildings was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech today. This follows the £15 million announced for the Roof Repair Fund in the 2014 Autumn Statement and £20 million for the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repair Fund announced in the 2014 Budget.



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  • The Church of England is tax payer funded in that C of E schools are funded from taxes and not by the church itself. This is basically free propaganda for the church out of our pockets aimed at a vulnerable age group. I have not read the whole article as I have just got back from a school event having spent the day finding out the horrific facts of the current UK governments plan to forcibly academise all schools through lying and misrepresenting data, and should have stayed clear of every article on education.
    For those worried about compulsory acts of worship in primary schools, you can be assured that the religious worship element only ever occurs when an assembly coincides with an OFSTED inspection. Otherwise we do the moral, humanistic community based stuff that is truly what makes a society a peaceful (relatively) and tolerant (occasionally) one.
    The so called hijacking of this report by humanists is dwarfed by the hijacking of any acts of common humanity, decency or generosity by the religious claiming that a non Christian society would be compassion free.

    Apologies for being too angry today about being lied to by government, local advisers and local colleagues to stay on topic or even to proofread what I just wrote.
    The head bit of my name is getting closer to ex head every day.



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  • I can think of better ways for dwindling congregations to raise money to pay for repairs of their remaining buildings!

    https://www.churchofengland.org/clergy-office-holders/pastoralandclosedchurches/closedchurches/closed-churches-available.aspx

    Around twenty Church of England church buildings are closed for worship each year. The list below shows all the buildings that are available for sale or lease. Some of them are already under offer, but it is worth contacting the Diocese or agent if you are interested.



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  • Fair point. However…

    The Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund is available only for historically significant buildings which “are often the most distinctive building in an area, the focus for many civil and social activities as well as worship, and they provide a powerful visual connection with our past” (http://www.lpowroof.org.uk/?q=en/faqsrepairs).

    Similarly, the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repair Fund was intended to prevent deterioration of the fabric of historic buildings, specifically to “ensure the listed buildings are in a good and safe state of repair in order to host events commemorating WW1” (http://www.churchcare.co.uk/cathedrals/funding-and-grants/fabric-repair-grants-cathedrals).

    Whatever your opinion of these schemes, the point is that the motivation is the preservation of cultural heritage rather than religious. It is true that the CofE can claim gift aid on donations but its day to day workings are not taxpayer funded (see https://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/funding/wherefrom.aspx); that’s why they keep having all those jumble sales.



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  • As Keith Porteous Wood points out, the Commission was composed of vested interests. According to my reckoning, at least three-quarters of the twenty members were religionists, but I suspect that the inclusion of humanists brought a degree of sanity to their discussions. I presume this is what the CofE means when it refers to a hijacking by humanists, revealing yet again that the CofE is hardly an exemplar for “Living with Difference”.



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  • Religion should be practiced by consenting adults in private and no longer has a place in the town square.

    To distill down the issue. Religion cannot be used as the basis for any decision making, because there is no evidence for the existence of any of their multitudinous gods. It has no place in any government. If people want to cut their hair in funny shapes and chant stuff, I will support their right to do so. But I will oppose them the moment they wish to impose their particular gods view on anyone else. That is no longer acceptable. I think this is the thrust of the report. I support that as an objective.



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  • Dan Broadbent
    Dec 7, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Fair point. However…

    The Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund is available only for historically significant buildings . . . .

    Historic listed buildings remain listed buildings when they change ownership. There is a church I frequently pass which is now glass company show room. It is still a listed building. Another one is used as university offices.

    .. . . .. .. .

    . . . the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repair Fund was intended to prevent deterioration of the fabric of historic buildings, specifically to “ensure the listed buildings are in a good and safe state of repair in order to host events commemorating WW1”

    How many “celebrations of WW1” have you seen lately, and how many days of the year did they occupy?
    Is the carnage of WW1 something worth celebrating, or something which should be remembered as an event shaming the governments involved in the mindless slaughter of their citizens.



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  • Does anyone have a link to the report? I dare not follow Telegraph hyperlinks, because they are all Google infinity-symbols pages that just take you to the Telegraph talking about the same topic elsewhere.

    [The report] suggests that the compulsory daily act of worship in school assemblies should be abolished and replaced with a “time for reflection”.

    What for? When something outdated is retired, it need not be replaced with something similar but vaguer.

    The report backs moves cut [sic] the number of Church of England bishops in the Lords and give places to imams, rabbis and other non-other [sic] non-Christian clerics as well as evangelical pastors.

    This example illustrates the problem with giving religion a role in the public sphere. You have to keep updating it in some complicated way. It also illustrates that someone at the Telegraph needs to be a better writer or editor.

    Meanwhile the coronation service for the next monarch should be overhauled to include other faiths, the report adds.

    What’s the point of having a state religion led by a monarch whose coronation service includes religions other than the state religion? Why not just not have a religious element at all, to either the service or the monarchy?

    it also calls for a rethink of anti-terror policy, including ensuring students can voice radical views on campus without fear of being reported to the security services.

    I can actually see the logic of this. Both religious and non-religious views in our society can get a bit “radical” at times, but we’re only worried about the security implications of a few bodies, such as Islam and the IRA. When Muslim students in UK universities express “radical” but non-violent views, they are – if I’ve correctly understood the vague language used here – a security non-threat similar to the proverbial racist grandparent.

    It also suggests that Thought of [sic] the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme should include non-religious messages.

    I think we managed that before a grand total of one time. We could do with more… or maybe not have Thought for the Day. Every practice this report suggests we reform needs to have its entire motivation reconsidered too. I’m not saying there’s no point to TftD, but we should think about it.

    The Church of England said the report… had “fallen captive to liberal rationalism”.

    So we’re admitting the COE is against rationalism.

    The report is dominated by the old fashioned view that traditional religion is declining in importance and that non-adherence to a religion is the same as humanism or secularism.

    1: how can a view about what is statistically happening now be “old-fashioned”? The nameless spokeswoman may be confusing 2015 claims about what has happened prior to 2015 with older claims about what had happened prior to such claims. 2: if non-believers only get as much public-sphere acknowledgement as can be justified by their most formal members, shouldn’t religions also be limited in that way? The CoE will always quantify its importance by counting names on a theoretical list far larger than church attendance. The RCC defines anyone baptised into their faith who hasn’t been excommunicated as “counting”.

    anyone who thinks [Morgan] is going to pay attention to these ridiculous recommendations is sorely misguided

    That’s not really an argument, is it? (It’s also redundant; these reports never seem to get anywhere anyway.)

    Its central recommendation is for a national consultation exercise to draw up a 21st Century equivalent to the Magna Carta to define the values at the heart of modern Britain instead of the Government’s controversial “British values” requirements.

    Why do all these recommendations have to be about making something equivalent to something older? It’s not eve well-informed. The Magna Carta isn’t a list of values; it’s a legal agreement concerning power-sharing, taxation etc.

    From recent events in France, to the schools so many of our children attend and even the adverts screened in cinemas, for good and ill religion and belief impacts directly on all our daily lives

    That’s neither an argument for unnecessarily adding to religion’s impact in the public sphere nor completely accurate (cinemas don’t screen religious advertisements, a private-sector decision which apparently no-one minded until quite recently, when the CoE pretended not to understand that profit-seekers aren’t “censoring” you when they don’t feel like giving you a platform).

    The proposals in this report amount to a ‘new settlement for religion and belief in the UK’, intended to provide space and a role for all within society, regardless of their beliefs or absence of them.

    Wouldn’t the easiest way to do that be to have no public-sphere role for religion? I’m not saying the CoE should be banned, just that the law shouldn’t guarantee its leader is the Head of State. I’m not saying CoE Bishops should be banned from the House of Lords, just that how a person can get into it shouldn’t depend on whether they’re CoE Bishops. I’m not saying parents’ religious beliefs shouldn’t inform their school choice, just that the government shouldn’t assign faith norms to countless publicly funded state schools.

    But the report stops short of calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England, arguing that the special status of Anglicanism in England and the Church of Scotland north of the border, has helped other faith groups and “enables them to make their voice heard in the public sphere”.
    How is that a good thing? If it is, why is it best achieved by privileging one religion above others, in the hopes it will speak for those others better than they could for themselves if equally privileged in the public sphere?

    The Lord’s Prayer is powerful

    Where’s the journalistic integrity in that image caption? I guess after a Church was labelled a haunted hotel I should have given up on such aspirations.

    As to the next coronation, I hope it doesn’t come for a long time but when it comes, it will be an important occasion to reaffirm the constitutional basis of the nation. This is Judaeo- Christian through and through, with the monarch promising to uphold ‘the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel’.

    Our constitutional basis, which is primarily unwritten, has changed enough throughout history to not be an argument for anything specific like this. For starters, Nazir-Ali is arguing that the constitution of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland requires that its next Head of State’s constitution privilege the outdatedly named Church of England. And do we need a monarchy? (Its abolition wouldn’t even be a first, as the 17th century showed.) Too many assumptions are being made in these comments.



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  • Taking disestablishing the church seriously, yes, but I believe society still need a basis in school civics.

    A daily school assembly in the name of republican spirit should have the students learn to recite a bill of human rights summary.

    For example, in Melbourne Victoria I think using the State of Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities to base the civil and political rights – from the United Nations treaties – to create the summary list of rights.

    Pupils could then make an oath to uphold these rights and responsibilities in their daily activities.

    Let religion matters be done in private, out of school hours, defunded, not on public property either.



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  • How many “celebrations of WW1” have you seen lately, and how many days of the year did they occupy?
    Is the carnage of WW1 something worth celebrating, or something which should be remembered as an event shaming the governments involved in the mindless slaughter of their citizens.

    The quote states “commemoration” not “celebrations”. As a heritage worker I can assure you that there have been countless exhibitions, lectures and memorial events to mark the centenary of WW1 over the last 18 months; these will undoubtedly continue until 2018 which marks the centenary of the armistice. With regard to shaming governments, I couldn’t agree with you more but surely this is an entirely different debate?



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  • “… the rise of Islam and other faiths mean a “new settlement” is needed for religion in the UK, giving more official influence to non-religious voices and those of non-Christian faiths.
    … the Church of England said it appeared to have been “hijacked” by humanists.”

    Say what? Humanists have hijacked the agenda to give influence to Islam and other faiths?!

    If humanists had hijacked the agenda, all religions equally would be getting less and less influence.



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  • Dan Broadbent
    Dec 8, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    As a heritage worker I can assure you that there have been countless exhibitions, lectures and memorial events to mark the centenary of WW1 over the last 18 months; these will undoubtedly continue until 2018 which marks the centenary of the armistice.

    I am involved in putting on lectures, exhibitions and shows, on other topics, but we do not need to restore churches to do so.
    We hire halls or marquees for the duration of events.



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  • Andrew

    A daily school assembly

    Do we really need an assembly? Why not cover the civics/ethics material in a classroom setting? I like the idea of a smaller group setting that can discuss the material and consider examples and toss the ideas around. There is reading that must be done in preparation for these discussions and I hope students will do some thinking and writing about ideas for homework.

    I think Jos Gibbons has it right:

    When something outdated is retired, it need not be replaced with something similar but vaguer.

    It could be that since school assemblies were not part of my educational experience I do find them to be archaic and distinctly Harry Potter-ish. I wonder if it’s not something that Americans can relate to.



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  • I’m just curious about the picture above. Can anyone explain the groups of people? Who are those wearing red? Who are the guys in foreground wearing dark suits and who are those on the long outer walls? Does the public ever sit in on these sessions?



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  • LaurieB
    Dec 8, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    I’m just curious about the picture above. Can anyone explain the groups of people? Who are those wearing red?

    They are various lords and bishops.

    http://www.edeandravenscroft.com/ceremonial-dress/peers-robes/
    The ranks of the peerage are: Baron, Viscount, Earl, Marquess and Duke. Each rank has its own ceremonial dress. Full regalia is worn at the coronation of a Sovereign and at the State Opening of Parliament.



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  • David R Allen
    Dec 7, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Religion should be practiced by consenting adults in private and no longer has a place in the town square.

    Even there it can be very dangerous!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35060018
    German police have arrested five relatives of South Korean woman who died in an apparent exorcism ritual, prosecutors say.

    The 41-year-old woman was found dead in a Frankfurt hotel room after being gagged and severely beaten.

    Chief prosecutor Nadja Niesen said the family members wanted to “drive out a demon” they believed had possessed her.

    Police later discovered another suspected victim, a badly injured woman, in the town of Sulzbach.

    She was found suffering hypothermia and dehydration in the garage of a house the group had rented in the town west of Frankfurt, according to reports.



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