Writing in the Daily Express, Anne Widdecome offers her views on the case of the Ellesmere Port pupil whose mother refused to allow her to participate in a school visit to a mosque (a story from last month belatedly latched onto by the Daily Mail, followed by the Express, the Telegraph, the Daily Star and the Mirror):
Learning about another religion should not mean having to practise it and insisting that a Catholic schoolgirl should dress as a Muslim and visit a mosque is a nonsense that her parents would not have expected to encounter when they chose a specifically Catholic school.
Indeed why does the head think they selected a Catholic school? Presumably it was to enable that child to learn that faith.
The bishop should have a quiet word with the headmaster of Ellesmere Port Catholic High School and suggest that he revert to the usual practice of teaching children to defend not surrender their faith and to know the difference between tolerating other faiths and adopting them.
If he cannot pass that test the diocese should find a head who can. Would that same head insist a Muslim child attend Mass wearing a crucifix?
No, of course he wouldn’t, but he would undoubtedly ask pupils to dress appropriately for a visit to any place of worship. And that is what the pupil at the centre of this controversy was asked to do – not “dress as a Muslim”. Is Widdecombe perhaps suggesting that the head would have no problem with a pupil attending Mass dressed in a bikini?
It’s worth noting that other parents at Ellesmere Port Catholic High School voiced their objections to the mosque visit, without bothering to hide behind the nonsense about “dressing as a Muslim”. As one of them explained: “I’m not racist or anything but I live in England, I send my daughter to an English speaking catholic school, so I don’t see why she should go to a mosque.”