Jack Straw has made a stinging attack on worship in schools and rebuked Christians who wish to use education to impose their values on others. Straw also warned the churches that they will only “survive in this country only on the basis of what they do, not what they write into the laws for schools to do.”
The collective worship laws require schools to carry out daily acts of worship of a broadly Christian nature, regardless of the wishes of the pupils, staff and ignoring the wider aims and character of the school.
Although Straw describes himself as a Christian who goes to church he said: “…we (Christians) should judge what should become law not by what is suitable for ourselves but by what is suitable for others, who may disagree with us…we must be careful about imposing our approach to family life and religion upon others.”
He also attacked supporters of compulsory Christian worship in schools as being “over-zealous” and imposing “an intolerant structure” into our law and failing to respect the views of other people “They have failed to take into account those of no faith, those of other faiths and those may have begun to have doubts about their faith.”
Jack did indeed make all these statements, except not recently, but in the House of Commons debate when the then Conservative government brought in the authoritarian requirements on worship. (For reference the debate took place on July 18 1988 with Straw’s speech starting on Column 816 if you are reading it from Hansard.) Labour’s front bench opposed the introduction of compulsory worship but made it a free vote for its MPs. Labour believed that if it was inappropriate to write “Christian” into education law in 1944 when the country was overwhelmingly Christian, it was even less appropriate to do so today.
Can someone tell me when the Labour Party changed its stance on these issues? In which policy document was a change suggested, at what conference debate, at which report for the National Policy Forum? You know I am being sarcastic here, but genuinely, is there anything out there from the last 10 years which actually offered mere party members a chance to debate these issues, please let me know.