BY Peter Diamond | September 20 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

POLICE

Church criticises former senior police officer’s claim that Catholic schools cause ‘sectarianism’

The Church has criticised comments from a former senior police officer who claimed Catholic schools should be abolished in order to ‘dig out the roots of ­sectarianism.’

Tom Wood, a former deputy chief constable for Police ­Scotland who retired in 2004 after 36 years service, made the claims in an article for The Scotsman on ­September 14.

The article concerned an ongoing dispute over loyalist and republican parades being temporarily ‘banned’ by ­Glasgow City Council.
Mr Wood, from Edinburgh, wrote that ‘we also need to look at the roots of the problem and question what divides us. And if we do that then we ­simply cannot escape ­questioning our system of religiously segregated education.’

He added that although he thought the provision for Catholic schools was a ‘good idea’ 100 years ago he ­questioned if they are ‘acceptable in the 21st Century.’

The former deputy chief ­constable for Lothian and ­Borders Police wrote: “Most advanced Western societies have, as a matter of policy, adopted strictly secular ­education systems—are they all wrong?

“As Scotland moves forward with equality as our ­watchword, our century-old practice of segregated ­education is contradictory to say the least.

“Passing stronger laws to deal with disorderly marches is easy but if we really want to dig out the roots of ­sectarianism, we must do what’s difficult, and have the courage to tackle the historical anomaly of religious ­segregation in our schools.”
The Church said the ­comments were ‘unfounded and deeply unhelpful.’

Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, said that to suggest Catholic schools ‘perpetuate intolerance is both unfounded and deeply unhelpful.’

“There is not a shred of empirical evidence to back up such claims and conspicuously, none was offered,” he added.

“This staggeringly intolerant attitude is symptomatic of a simplistic belief that educating children in a faith-based ­environment is wrong and will inevitably lead to conflict and strife in society. Crucially, the right of parents to educate their children in accordance with their religious beliefs is a ­universal human right, which many seem happy to crush with impunity.

“To suggest that children who aren’t schooled together can never interact or relate ­harmoniously to one another in adult life is clearly absurd. Taken to its extreme this would suggest that children from different parts of the country or from different ­countries or with different ­languages are doomed to ­perpetual strife as adults, since they didn’t share a playground.

“Sectarian discrimination, like racial discrimination, is not taught in schools but bred, through ignorance, in homes and spread through society at large.

“Ultimately, Scotland should be very wary of the ­self-indulgent delusion that ­sectarianism is a west of ­Scotland problem. It exists across the country, as Crown Office hate crime statistics show, in almost exact ­proportion to the Catholic ­population of different areas. The reason there are so few sectarian crimes committed in Aberdeenshire or Shetland is because there are so few Catholics against whom they might be perpetrated and not because these places are oases of tolerance.

“Like racism, anti-Catholicism tends to be found where its targets are most numerous. Its absence elsewhere should not be conflated with ­geographically distinct virtue.”

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