BHA: priest’s suggestion that children of unmarried couples should be turned away from Catholic schools is ‘deeply unjust’

The BHA has reacted with outrage at the suggestion made by Fr Ashley Beck, Dean of Studies for the Archdiocese of Southwark, that children of married couples should be given priority for places at Roman Catholic ‘faith’ schools. Such discrimination is currently prohibited by the admissions code, although many ‘faith’ schools are allowed to use religious criteria in allocating places.

Fr Beck argued in The Tablet, the influential Catholic weekly, that ‘if a couple is not in any kind of married relationship, they are not living according to Catholic teaching … Parents in this position should not, as a matter of justice, displace married parents if a school is popular.’

BHA faith schools and education campaigns officer James Gray said: ‘It is deeply unjust to suggest that state-funded schools should turn children away based on their parents’ personal circumstances. Fr Beck’s views are completely out of step with modern Britain – the public has chosen to reject insular and intolerant religious agendas.’

‘Whatever the official view of the Catholic Education Service, it’s clear that senior figures within the Catholic Church view our state-funded education system as a means to impose a hardline moral code on children and families. Fr Beck’s comments have given us a glimpse of the kind of discrimination we may see if the government continues to increase the influence of religious groups in our schools.’

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For further information or comment contact James Gray on 020 7462 4993 or james@humanism.org.uk.

Fr Beck’s comments were reported in today’s Daily Telegraph.