Why are UK Creationist schools getting funding?

Reblogged from the Heresy Club:

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist.

It’s taken me years to be proud of those words, and to realise the power they have. For years, they were my shameful secret, to be hidden away like an abusive stepfather.

I’ve come to realise that, like an abusive stepfather, it is nothing to be ashamed of, and that by shining a light on it, I take the power back from the abusers.

I went to an Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) school – one of fifty in the UK – for three years. For those not familiar with it, ACE is a school curriculum which looks like a collaborative effort between Sarah Palin and the Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell.


There are still around 50 private ACE schools in the UK today (some of them listed here), teaching the same deceit and misinformation. So you can imagine I was less than pleased to discover that some of them have received government funding.

The government’s nursery voucher scheme enables private childcare providers to receive funding for looking after children below the compulsory school age. Most Accelerated Christian Education schools have pre-school sections. Since twenty-ten, at least five ACE schools have received taxpayers’ money under this scheme, according to their OFSTED reports. They are Excellence Christian School, Tower Hamlets, Redemption Academy, Stevenage, Kings Kids Christian School, New Cross, and The Lambs Christian School, Birmingham.

Top of the list is Carmel Christian School, Bristol, which in the current academic year has a whopping 17 Early Years Foundation Stage children receiving government funding.

Read the whole thing at the Heresy Club.

About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on March 21, 2013, in Accelerated Christian Education, Creationism, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I suspect it has something to do with the fact the creationist movement isn’t as prominent here, so the counter-creationism network so thoroughly developed in the US hasn’t fully formed in the UK. That’s why government reassurances that they won’t fund free schools that teach creationism don’t actually reassure me. As most people in America can tell you there are plenty of ways of subverting evolution without directly teaching creationism. Intelligent design anyone?

    • That’s why it’s good that the government has at least included a positive stipulation about free schools teaching evolution, as well as a negative one about them not teaching creationism. I agree though, I could well see an evangelical biology teacher saying “Well, this is all rubbish, but you have to learn it for your GCSE. By the way, go to AnswersinGenesis.com to find out why it’s a pack of lies”.

      • Exactly. There are similar stipulations by the government in the US, forcing creationists to develop a range of tactics that they can now ship over here. Unfortunately most people are woefully under-prepared for them.

  2. Public funding for religious instruction? What’s the harm? After all, religious belief is morally good, right?… or so this long-held prejudice assures us… so any expression of religious faith in action in the public rather than the private domain must also be morally good (except for the actions of a few bad apples, of course).

    This is why it’s so important for first-person accounts about this effect need to be heard, that religious indoctrination carries real harm to real people in real life. And when it is funded by taxpayers, religious indoctrination becomes a systemic harm, an institutionalized harm. This harm always accompanies religious belief funded by the public in the public domain. Always. And it must stop for compelling reasons and good evidence.

    Welcome to the world of New Atheism. But daring to legitimately criticize publicly funded faith-based belief because it causes demonstrable harm will ensure vilification, usually in form of name calling and drive-by smearing of one’s moral character, with ridiculous religious terminology such as ‘fundamentalist’, ‘zealot’, and ‘heretic’, accompanied by negative descriptors like ‘militant’, ‘shrill’, ‘dogmatic’, and so on. Criticizing public funding and tax exemptions and other privileges for these ‘sacred (cash) cows’ like religious academies is a sure-fire way to be labeled as intolerant, someone who is against ‘fairness’ and ‘academic freedom’, treated as someone who simply doesn’t get the moral benefits of faith, who lacks knowledge about the various religious frameworks and scriptures, who must be lacking something important.

    Of course, what’s lacking is clear thinking on the part of religious supporters whose myopic and selfish desire to promulgate the faith by any means fair and foul through the indoctrination of innocents in their charge don’t for a moment imagine public funding for such indoctrination contrary and in conflict with their own. But if this happens (where numbers warrant) then – POOF! – all of a sudden, such funding becomes unfair, even dangerous!

    If religious freedom (a secular value, let’s be absolutely clear) is to be a guaranteed and an exercised right for all citizens, then this can only occur if and only if religious belief is wholly and solely a private affair. The systemic and institutionalized religious Indoctrination of children acts directly against this right. It is contrary to the very value of religious freedom used by the supporters of public funding for religious promotion to defend such practices! How’s that for irony. Irony aside, that is the kind of muddled thinking fatheists of all stripes must use (including beleiving and non believing apologists and accommodationsists) to support the unsupportable, the kind of thinking that produces such confused and convoluted gems of moral relativity rather than principle that we soon encounter why ‘up’ must mean ‘down’ and ‘black’ really another kind of ‘white’… a hint that something’s not quite right upstairs.

    • I agree. The fact that religion is still with a positive influence, and held to be something that we should encourage, is more than anything than a persistent meme. Add to that we have the supposed virtues of “tolerance”, meaning here that we should respect beliefs just for being beliefs, a misguided notion of collectivism as a recipe for social cohesion, and a moral education based on duties rather than values.And of course, we also have the common usage definition of an atheist as one of low moral character.

      Religion acts directly against the discovery and understanding of the values that we need in order to survive, develop, prosper and relate to each other as human beings. We can see this in terms of the activities of the so-called fundamentalists, with the literal interpretations and evolution-denial, but generally fail to understand this fundamentalism as the tip of the iceberg. The fact that – in the first world excepting the US – people do in general have lives independent of religion doesn’t diminish this.

      While fundamentalism is easily attacked for its antipathy to science, its morally reprehensible promotion of Hell as a repository for the non-believers, and even for its promotion of a particular political ideology among other things, this does not label the so-called moderate versions of religion as benign. These moderates frequently attack new atheists for concentrating on the fundamentalists and attempting to equate fundamentalists with all forms of belief. I take a different view. Fundamentalism, even if it doesn’t always seem that way, is digging its own grave. The moderates, on the other hand, still promote the notions that we live in a fundamentally incomprehensible universe and can be rescued by a faith that is itself a virtue – ideas that act as a brake on moral and social understanding just as much as the evolution-deniers of ACE act on scientific understanding.

      It will be correctly pointed out that, say, church attendance is declining, and that the churches are being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern world, anyway. This is true enough, so, at least here in Europe we’re in no danger of societal dysfunction due to religion. But the feeling persists that religion brings benefits to all, whether or not we believe in the metaphysical existence of a god. But, just as we give undue respect to “deeply-held beliefs” we also allow religion to interfere and discriminate, with little questioning, based on the notion that religion represents something to be admired and encouraged. No mistake, if I did see any evidence that religious belief or adherence, or collectivism of any kind, was of benefit to us all then I’d be up there with the accommodationists. But I’m not.

      All the time we hear preaching of “the evils of secularism”, which – based on an incorrect understanding – fails to point out that it is secularism, not religion itself, that guarantees religious freedom, as tildeb points out. Indeed, violations of religious equality most often come from the religions themselves. Nowhere is this more acute than within our schools, where by law “each pupil … shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship” where the worship must be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”. The politicians, unfortunately, go along with this and encourage religious intervention in education. In the UK, something like 33% of schools are attached to a religion (and close to 50% of primary schools in my own area of Herefordshire) and this is growing under conditions of official encouragement. It’s no wonder that under such a system groups such as ACE are able to gain a foothold without anywhere near enough scrutiny.

      Jonny is is to be commended for the stand he has taken. I admit I don’t do enough. But where he and I differ here (or maybe not) is where we should concentrate the view that state funding of religion is harmful. Rather than concentrate on the activities of fundamentalists as a distortion we should be questioning and campaigning against the whole idea of use of any public money to promote religion.

      • It’s not just a persistent meme but one that is incompatible with secularism. That’s why advancements towards legal equality (as well as respect for best practices in research, medicine, education, and so on) for all franchised citizens is often intentionally thwarted by religious leadership calling on the faithful to respect religious authority over and above respecting the equality of rights and freedoms of their neighbours. Religious freedom in this sense is promoted to be the imposition of faith-based beliefs on others without their consent, and standing against these actions is too often described as ‘intolerance’, as ‘making war’ on various aspects of this religious ‘freedom’! That’s equivalent to saying that I’m ‘free’ only so far as I am able to take away your freedom and if you complain about me, my actions, or my intentions to achieve this goal, then you’re being intolerant!

        That’s why we as new atheists who do not respect religious authority and privilege are subject to a barrage of wildly inappropriate and negative words, such as ‘militant’ and ‘strident’ for daring to point this absurdity out.

        Theocracies have a long and glorious and ongoing history of tyranny. Secular liberal democracies do not, although the danger of throwing away equality rights and freedoms – in the name of some other concern (like nationalism and social policies and security) by those who fail to appreciate why and how the values of secularism are essential ingredients to the maintenance and protection of their own legal rights and freedoms – is always a temptation utilized by those who would establish tyrannies. The last pope during his speech in England went so far as to call those of us who uphold the values of secularism (over and above respecting his religious authority, granted to him by a bunch of unelected geriatric virgin men in dresses, to dictate what rights and freedoms and practices are acceptable and which are not) to be equivalent to Nazis… ironic considering his own past as a member of the Nazi Party and his switch in allegiance to the RCC at war’s end (as well as his efficient running of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and his signatory cover-ups of abuse within the church under, and with the signatory approval, of his geriatric boss man John Paul II).

        There was a time when religious membership and obedience was an automatic part of nationality. These were not the best of times for most people but a time of servitude within a rigid social hierarchy based on blood and birth rather than merit and achievement. Secularism has achieved (and is still achieving) what no amount of religious authority can ever duplicate: equality and respect for responsible autonomy. These values are under attack by misguided parents who indoctrinate their children to respect religious authority, to respect its foundation for a Bronze Age morality produced mostly by polygamist illiterate goat herders, to respect those who have ‘divine’ revelations equivalent in all ways to delusion, to respect those who would reduce laws of equality, reduce best practices in medicine, research, science, education, entertainment, and so on, in order to privilege themselves and their authority based on these very poor reasons. This is what religion really teaches as core values: servitude and dependency…. sold to a non critical population by propaganda-wrapped words like love and compassion and service. My personal responsible autonomy is not available to those who believe it is theirs to award based on the self-awarded authority of their faith-based beliefs. And if that makes me a ‘militant’ to want to use words to protect this autonomy, then what terms are left to describe those who would sacrifice it on their alter of belief?

      • I have no idea why there are some posts in this blog that I can reply to and some that I can’t. So this is a reply to tildeb in saying that I completely agree with his reply, save to make the small point that I don’t think, nor expressed, that high opinion of religious influence, even among the non-religious is a persistent meme. I fully agree that it is detrimental to our well-being and incompatible with the values that we should be promoting.

        This is why my view is that we ought to concentrate on the problem in its entirety and seek to create an education system completely free from such baleful influence. It is only the misguided acceptance of this meme that allows the wingnuts from ACE to establish themselves largely unnoticed.

    • The issue is not one of public funding for religious schools. The issue is the claims of creationists that their religious dogma is supported by science and should be taught as science in science classes. If they were not making this demand, there would be no issue.

      The simple fact is that creationist sources are deeply and systematically dishonest. They misrepresent science, and they ignore or lie about the evidence which supports not just evolutionary theory but many other fields of science. They offer no alternative to the scientific theories they purport to critique, and have no compunction about promoting known falsehoods, and arguments which have been utterly refuted over and over again to promote their cause. Here is my analysis of a number of creationist web sites:
      If any creationist thinks that any of the instances of distortion, misrepresentation and blatant falsehoods I have identified here, feel free to offer evidence that I am wrong. I have made this invitation many times, and the usual response (if I am not ignored completely) is to accuse me of being an atheist bent on destroying Christianity. Evidently a detestation for dishonesty is the mark of an atheist as far as creationists are concerned.

      When it comes to basics, the reason for opposing the teaching of creationism is not about science or religion. It is that I don’t think that children should be taught blatant falsehoods in any class, science or otherwise. That creationists claim the moral high ground whilst promoting falsehoods is utter hypocrisy.

      • The umbrella issue IS public funding of religious schools; it is always inappropriate because it adversely affects achieving the principles and best practices of what we call a good education. The example of teaching creationism is but one symptom among many specific examples of the harm caused by presenting faith-based beliefs as if they had some intrinsic positive value. There is no compelling case to show this assertion to be true.

        We know and can demonstrate that faith-based belief adds nothing of knowledge value to education. We can also show that its inclusion interferes with attaining it. Forcing you to pay for my desire to impose my prejudicial faith-based interference in the education of children (under the cover of the misnomers ‘academic freedom’ and ‘choice’) is not just anti-scientific but anti-secular and causes demonstrable harm by misrepresenting how we know anything at all about the reality we share.

      • ashley haworth-roberts


        In case you are not already aware, the (private) schools which use Accelerated Christian Education or ACE materials, such as the school Jonny attended, teach such gross falsehoods that even the likes of Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International tend not to advocate them (but of course other barmy claims are made by these young Earth creationists eg that evolution is ‘impossible’ because of eg thermodynamics/genetic entropy or that there was a ‘rapid ice age’ less than 5,000 years ago after Noah’s Flood and the Bible ‘supports’ this happening then despite God promising at Genesis 8 that seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter would never cease).

  3. Interesting that there are ACE schools in the UK because of the American government and history in the books. Do they have special government paces for students in the UK?

    • The American-ness has always been a problem. In a 1988 book defending the ACE system, Stephen Dennett wrote that a UK edition was badly needed. It’s 2013, and the UK history PACEs have just come out!

      (They’re terrible).

      • Lol, of course they are terrible. But even if they want to leave their fundamentalist crap in the books, they seriously need to rewrite them. Why all the emphasis on handwriting and no computer skills? ugh.

      • The English PACEs still have lessons on how to use the Dewey decimal system card catalogue. A card catalogue. I’m not a kid anymore, and I’ve never been to a library which didn’t have a computerised catalogue in my life.

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