I have been surprised, and a little shocked, by the response to Rosemary Goring's excellent article on religion in society ("A desire for secular balance to the state", June 17 & Letters, June 18 and 19).

So surprised was I that I reread the article to ensure I hadn't missed an essential paragraph.

She makes an excellent argument for parents having responsibility for teaching religious belief to their offspring. At no point does she suggest adults should be prohibited from discussing religion, or that their belief systems should not inform their decision making. Her comments about religious observance in schools are well- made and add clarity to an oft misunderstood aspect of school life. I would go so far as to state that religious observation in secondary schools is so disliked by pupils it is often detrimental to the religious group represented.

It is also clear that many correspondents are confused about the role of religious education in non-denominational schools. Religious education is a rigorous academic subject which aims to teach understanding of the beliefs of others. Understanding why, for example, a Sikh does not cut his hair encourages tolerance and acceptance and helps to reduce bullying. Religious education does not force anyone to believe anything or indoctrinate them. In short it is not the religious instruction many will remember from their school days.

Surely any system which encourages parental responsibility, fosters understanding and tolerance of other citizens and refuses to be involved in any attempt to indoctrinate young people is to be actively encouraged. Rosemary Goring is to be congratulated for her courageous and lucid contribution, bringing much-needed calm and common sense to an over-inflamed debate.

Ann Ballinger,

Glen Sannox Road,


I regret the language used by some in your columns and letter pages when writing about religious faith and faith schooling. Adjectives such as "pernicious" (Rosemary Goring) and "perverse" (Neil Barber) should be used rarely and with great caution, particularly if you want to debate significant issues in a respectful and tolerant manner.

Neil Barber's characterisation of Catholic schools being dominated by "a disciplinarian, monolithic ideology" is simply at variance with reason. To suit his argument he chooses to ignore the evidence for the significantly positive impact of Catholic education on the social capital of countries where 40 million young people are educated in Catholic schools. In these other countries, there are no claims that Catholic schools cause or contribute to sectarian attitudes or behaviour.

Michael McGrath,

Director Scottish Catholic Education Service,

75 Craigpark, Glasgow.

Dr Norman Bonney is incorrect (Letters, June 19). Christianity is very used to accepting criticism and has been receiving critiques for two millenia.

The problem for many observers of the secular organisations (see their websites and many letters) is that too often they do not confine themselves to opposing religious privilege but do indeed stray into criticising or even mocking religious belief.

The dividing line is a narrow and risky one to tread, of course. Our church and state balance in these islands has served us well. We re-draw it in Scotland at our constitutional and social peril.

Angus Logan,

2 York Road,

North Berwick.

Lord Baden Powell said of the Scout and Guide movements: "There is no 'religious side' to the movement. The whole of it is based on love and service of God."

Brownies and Guides are organisations for girls and women who want to join and are willing, after some instruction, to make the promise. With God taken out of that promise, the movement is radically changed and becomes just another club. As a former Brownie, Guide and Guider I value all I learned and experienced in the Guide movement and am bitterly disappointed that it has made this change. I will no longer be supportive of Guiding and will not encourage my grandchildren to join when they reach the appropriate age.

Girls of all faiths have always been welcome in Guiding and have long been able to make a promise appropriate to their belief in God. Anyone who is not willing to make the Promise is not obliged to join. Changing the promise to accommodate those who don't wish to make it is akin to a football club cutting football from its programme in order to appease and include those who don't want to play.

Eileen McBride,

2 Norval Street,