BY ANNA ARCO
A CONSERVATIVE peer has claimed that some Catholic schools taught children that Gandhi, who liberated India through non-violence, is “burning in Hell”.
Lord Lucas, editor of the Good Schools Guide, made his remarks in a debate over the Academies Bill. Speaking in the Lords he said: “We should not see in the Bill a rowing back from the commit ment to include the wider community in faith schools that we have extracted from the churches to date. Nor should we see an increase in sectarian teaching. There are Catholic schools that teach that Gandhi is burning in hell. Frankly, I do not think that we should fund that on the state.” But David Amess, the Conservative MP, said: “I am sure that like many Catholics I find the comment that ‘There are Catholic schools that teach that Gandhi is burning in hell’ deeply offensive. It is now beholden on the person who had made the statement to give precise details of the schools where such teaching takes place.” Fellow Tory Julian Brazier said: “I am disappointed that Lord Lucas has made this allegation about Catholic schools without offering any evidence. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that pupils leaving Catholic schools are more likely to be rounded members of the community than average.” Lord Alton, a cross-bench peer, said Lord Lucas should either say which schools taught Gandhi was in Hell or the Government should order him to retract his remarks.
He said: “He cannot make damaging and offensive remarks that falsely caricature Catholic schools without providing some evidence to back up his ill-informed comment... these sort of comments betray an extraordinary ignorance of Catholic teaching and Catholic schools but, worse than that, they are deeply irresponsible. They will be believed by some people and stir up hatred between communities.” A spokeswoman for the Catholic Education Service defended Catholic schools saying that the schools were “happy to offer those places to non-Catholic pupils whose parents choose Catholic education” and that they were expected to “teach pupils to respect people of other faiths”.
Lord Lucas said he was unable to identify the schools in question for fear of reprisals. His main criticism, he said, was that Catholic schools had made little effort to open up to non-Catholics. He said he did not think Catholics should be sensitive about this because it was “a legitimate if passionate argument”.