BY MURRAY WHITE
NON-CHRISTIAN FAITHS expressed concern this week that they were to lose their representation on some of the local bodies which set up and monitor religious education.
A late amendment to the new Education Act is to change the membership of local syllabus conferences and SACRES, Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education, to more accurately represent the religions of the local population. The education director of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Laurie Rosenberg, said that the reform would "disenfrachise" Judaism from a number of shire counties and London authorities.
But a member of the Plymouth diocesan schools' commission, whose area includes Cornwall, acknowledged that it would be very difficult to ensure Jewish representation on a local committee, in cases where there was such a "minute" Jewish popuation.
Fr Hugh Martin, Secretary to the commission, said: "Where do you draw the line? In somewhere like Cornwall, I don't think there are any synagogues. In fact there are probably more Jehovahs Witnesses; should they be included?"
Fr Martin pointed out that until now, Catholics actually had very little input on RE provision in non-Catholic schools. He agreed there was a case for more involvement because of the numbers of Catholic pupils in non-Catholic schools.
One evangelical body, The Christian Institute, was delighted at the changes. Director Colin Hart said: "They will end the practice of discrimination against Christian denominations."
He said that a recent syllabus conference in South Tyneside included two Muslims and only one Catholic, although "any objective analysis of the area would conclude that Catholics vastly outnumber Muslims in south Tyneside".