By Tim Montgomerie
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I'd rather churchleaders used the holiest day in the Christian calendar to talk about one thing and one thing only – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. They get two guaranteed opportunities every year when they know that news outlets will definitely report what they say. If, today, they talk about the Easter message and only the Easter message that's what will be reported. If they bash Israel or talk about RE teaching in schools – as Rowan Williams has done – that's what will lead the 8am Radio 4 bulletins etc etc and, surprise, surprise, that is exactly what has transpired.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is, nonetheless, correct in principle to raise the question of RE's status in schools. He will apparently use his sermon at Canterbury Cathedral to warn Michael Gove against excluding Religious Education from the English Baccalaureate:
"There is plenty to suggest that younger people, while still statistically deeply unlikely to be churchgoers, don't have the hostility to faith that one might expect, but at least share some… sense that there is something here to take seriously – when they have a chance to learn about it. It is about the worst possible moment to downgrade the status and professional excellence of religious education in secondary schools."
The Education Secretary's English Baccalaureate will rank English schools according to the number of pupils who get good GCSEs in five core subjects. Those subjects being English, maths, science, a language and a humanities subject. That humanities subject has to be geography or history. The EBacc is, overall, a very good idea and attempts to discourage schools from gaming exam tables by organising their students into studying softer subjects. I agree with Dr Williams, however, in thinking RE could be one of the five subjects, sitting alongside history and geography in the humanities slot.
Anyway it's Easter Day – so I'd like to wish all readers a very Happy Easter and for those fellow Christian readers out there: "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today! Hallelujah!"