Category Archives: consumer rights

Wandsworth Council endorses religious discrimination in education

By Community Correspondent Stephen Evans

The new Equality Bill may be working its way through Parliament, but Wandsworth Council is still wholeheartedly endorsing religious discrimination and segregation in education.

A recent edition of Brightside, the magazine of Wandsworth Council, proudly announced that a “New Catholic school comes a step closer”. The Council has announced that the Saint John Bosco school will be the only completely new school to be built in the borough as part of the government-funded ‘Building Schools for the Future’ project.

Unfortunately, for the non-Catholics amongst us, this will be yet another religious school in Wandsworth that discriminates against the children of non-religious parents and those of the ‘wrong’ faith.

Just take a look at some of the admissions criteria for Wandsworth’s new state school:

• Baptised Catholic students whose parent(s) and themselves are active committed Roman Catholics.

• Baptised Catholic students who are active committed Roman Catholics.

• Baptised Catholic students who are currently attending a Roman Catholic school.

• Baptised Catholic students for whom there is evidence that the Church (e.g. parent(s), priest, parish worker or godparent) is actively and prayerfully working for their Roman Catholic upbringing.

• Christians who are active in their churches which are in membership of Churches Together in England.

• Other students, subject to their numbers and/or attitudes not endangering the Catholic ethos of the school.

There’s a further warning on the Wandsworth Council website that the Governors will “request proof of baptism and evidence of practice from the relevant Parish Priest or Minister.

How on earth can such backward and antiquated discrimination against the non-religious be allowed in modern Britain?

The National Secular Society has consistently campaigned against faith schools, arguing that they are unjust, discriminatory and detrimental to community cohesion. Many experts seem to agree.

For example, research from London South Bank University demonstrates that the only way to achieve full integration in our communities is for all children to be educated together from primary stage. These findings are backed up by a new study carried out by Psychologists at the University of Ulster on the effects of integrated and segregated schooling in Northern Ireland. They found that sectarianism could be defused if more Catholic and Protestant children were sent to mixed-religion schools. Further recent research by the LSE and the Institute of Education demonstrates that religious schools not only fail to improve standards, but also create ‘social sorting’ of children along lines of class, ability and religion.

By endorsing faith schools, Wandsworth is colluding with religious organisations in segregating children by their parent’s faith – and often as an indirect result, by their race. Many areas of Wandsworth, like most other London boroughs, while being very multicultural remains heavily segregated. We desperately need less division in our communities, not more.

Faith schools are notorious for ‘cherry-picking’ the most promising children from the most affluent families, resulting in a version of ‘private schooling on the rates’. The effect is to deprive community schools of such pupils, making their already-difficult task nearly impossible. Religious schools may well be popular with parents lucky enough to get their children into them, but less so with the population as a whole who just want good schools, not religious schools. An ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper found two thirds of the population said there should be no state funded faith schools at all.

So why is the Labour Government, and Tory opposition for that matter, so intent on handing over the education of children to religious organisations?

I put that question in a letter to local MP Sadiq Khan, but have yet to receive a response. Perhaps this is unsurprising. After all, the honourable member for Tooting is a well known advocate of mixing religion and politics and was the former Chairman of Tooting’s Gatton Primary, a state funded Muslim faith school which, in its own words, aims to: “inculcate in pupils the character and religion to live as a true Muslim.”

What makes the whole situation even more perverse is that there is little doubt that religious belief is in serious decline. Normal Sunday attendance at churches in England in 1980 exceeded 10% of the population. Today it’s around 6% and is projected by Christian Research to drop to 1.2% by 2050. The Government’s own latest Social Trends Survey revealed that 45.8% of British people now regard themselves as non-religious. In light of such findings how can anyone justify an expansion of religious schools?

The faith school system gives the religious, or those that pretend to be religious, greater choice while leaving the non-religious seriously disadvantaged. With state funded ‘minority’ faith schools on the increase, the situation is only going to get worse.

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Witches’ coven claims religious persecution after church hall ban

Sandra Davis - High Priestess at the Crystal Cauldron: Witches claim religious discrimination after church ban

Sandra Davis, the “high priestess” of Crystal Cauldron group in Stockport, Greater Manchester, said she was shocked to be told that the pagan group was not considered to be compatible with the church’s “ethos”.

Mrs Davis, 61, booked Our Lady’s Social Club in Shaw Heath, Stockport, for the group’s annual “Witches Ball” due to be held in October.

She hoped to attract up to 150 people to the social evening offering a buffet dinner and music from an Abba tribute band and selected the hall because it had disabled access.

But when she went to pay for the booking she was told by the manager that the Diocese of Shrewsbury, which owns the centre, had refused permission for the group to use it.

“It makes you think that there is still a little bit of that attitude from the past of the Catholics wanting to burn witches,” she said.

“I thought we had made progress, tat we could accept other people’s religious paths.”

Mrs Davis, who has 11 grandchildren, gave up her former job in a forklift truck company to set up the Crystal Cauldron, where she is known as “Amethyst Selmeselene”.

Based in a former post office, the 30-strong group runs a new age bookshop and sells cloaks, jewellery and medieval costumes on the internet as well as organising a children’s group called “Little Crystals”.

It also supports a local cat sanctuary as its designated charity.

Mrs Davis has since secured a new venue for the ball which she hopes will become an annual fixture in the town.

“It is a full family thing and it is a posh do too,” she said. “It is evening dress or fancy dress, last year most of us went in medieval costumes.”

The Reverend John Joyce, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic diocese of Shrewsbury, said that it was out of the question for a pagan group to use its facilities.

“Parish centres under our auspices let their premises on the understanding users and their organisations are compatible with the ethos and teachings of the Catholic church,” he said.

“In this instance, we aren’t satisfied such requirements are met.”


Terror law used to stop thousands ‘just to balance racial statistics’

Thousands of people are being stopped and searched by the police under counter-terrorism powers simply to provide a racial balance in official statistics, the government’s official anti-terror law watchdog has revealed.

Lord Carlile said in his annual report that he has got “ample anecdotal evidence”, adding that it was “totally wrong” and an invasion of civil liberties to stop and search people simply to racially balance the statistics.

“I can well understand the concerns of the police that they should be free from allegations of prejudice,” he said. “But it is not a good use of precious resources if they waste them on self-evidently unmerited searches.”

The official reviewer of counter-terrorist legislation said there was little or no evidence that the use of section 44 stop-and-search powers by the police can prevent an act of terrorism.

“Whilst arrests for other crime have followed searches under the section, none of the many thousands of searches has ever resulted in a conviction for a terrorism offence. Its utility has been questioned publicly and privately by senior Metropolitan police staff with wide experience of terrorism policing,” said Carlile.

He added that such searches were stopping between 8,000-10,000 people a month.

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the “section 44 stops” allow the police to search anyone in a designated area without suspicion that an offence has occurred. But Carlile is critical of the use of the powers used by the Met police, saying he felt “a sense of frustration” that the force did not limit its section 44 authorisations to some boroughs or parts of boroughs but used them across its entire area.

“I cannot see a justification for the whole of the Greater London area being covered permanently. The intention of the section was not to place London under permanent special search powers.”

None of the many thousands of searches had ever led to a conviction for a terrorist offence, he said. He noted, too, that the damage done to community relations was “undoubtedly considerable”.

Examples of poor, or unnecessary use, of section 44 abounded. “I have evidence of cases where the person stopped is so obviously far from any known terrorism profile that, realistically, there is not the slightest possibility of him/her being a terrorist, and no other feature to justify the stop.”

The Met has announced a review of how it uses section 44 powers. And the home secretary, Alan Johnson, is to issue fresh guidance to the police, warning that counter-terrorism must not be used to stop people taking photographs of on-duty officers.

Carlile uses his annual report to endorse complaints from professional and amateur photographers that counter-terror powers are being used to threaten prosecution if pictures are taken of officers on duty.

He said the power was only intended to cover images likely to be of use to a terrorist: “It is inexcusable for police officers ever to use this provision to interfere with the rights of individuals to take photographs.” The police had to come to terms with the increased scrutiny of their activities by the public, afforded by equipment such as video-enabled mobile phones. “Police officers who use force or threaten force in this context run the real risk of being prosecuted themselves for one or more of several possible criminal and disciplinary offences,” he warned.

He mentioned an incident in which two Austrian tourists were rebuked by officers for photographing Walthamstow bus station, in east London.


Brown adjusts FOI to allow greater secrecy for royals

In a classic piece of doublespeak that would have made George Orwell proud our government has stated that secrecy is required to ensure the impartiality of the head of state.

Gordon Brown has won a few muted accolades for his modest new reform agenda announced in the Commons yesterday. What has attracted less attention was his remark that “there will be protection of Royal Family and Cabinet papers as part of strictly limited exemptions” while informing the Commons of his plans to reduce the 30 year rule to a 20 year rule.

The new restrictions will remove all FOI access to documents relating to the royal family, whereas at the present time they are subject to a public interest test. This is a serious challenge to those, like Republic, who want to hold the monarchy to account and challenge their position in our constitution.

There is absolutely no defence for this reversal of FOI laws. The government clearly agrees, as it has resorted to an extraordinary bit of doublespeak to explain the change. In a statement sent to BBC blogger Martin Rosenbaum, the Ministry of Justice said:

To ensure the constitutional position and political impartiality of the Monarchy is not undermined, the relevant exemption in the Freedom of Information Act will be made absolute for information relating to communications with the Royal Household that is less than 20 years’ old. After that point – if the relevant Member of the Royal Family is still alive – then the exemption will continue to apply until five years after their death – on an absolute basis for the Sovereign and the Heir to the Throne, and on a qualified basis for other members of the Royal Family.

So the government believes that impartiality and accountability require secrecy. Of course the opposite is true, impartiality needs openness, transparency and scrutiny – it needs to be demonstrated, to be seen to be done, not just promised.

This move clearly has nothing to do with impartiality, it’s to do with protecting the interests of the Windsors. No doubt a lot of royal lobbying has gone on over the past several months to secure this change.

The big question mark is how far will this exemption extend? Will we not be told how Andrew spends his time and our money in his role with UKTI? Will we not be told how many times Charles writes to ministers in an attempt to influence policy? Will there be a block on knowing if Harry and William are abusing their positions to gain favour in the military? Their finances are already opaque as it is, what chances will there be for full disclosure under the new rules?

It all leaves us with one question in mind: what do they have to hide?

http://www.republic.org.uk/blog/?p=208


Census question on religion as “flawed” and discriminatory

During a debate in the House of Lords, speeches criticising the Census question on religion as flawed and contributing to discrimination against non-religious people. Lord Harrison and Lord Macdonald of Tradeston both contributed to the debate on public confidence in government statistics, raising a number of concerns about the question from a humanist perspective.

Lord Harrison, a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association (BHA), said he was ‘Appalled to learn that the ONS will keep the flawed 2001 question – “What is your religion?” – in the forthcoming 2011 census’. He argued that ‘This is a leading question…it not only overrepresents the religious in our country, but underrepresents the non-religious. It also fails because it confuses and conflates the concepts of belief and ethnicity…It is, indeed, arguably discriminatory under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2006.’

Lord Harrison suggested some improvements that could be made to improve the question but, failing significant changes, that the ‘question should be eliminated, especially in this flawed form.’

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, stated that ‘It undermines our confidence in the Office for National Statistics when [the Census] contradicts other authoritative surveys to declare that only 15 per cent of British people are non-religious’, and provided examples including the ‘ONS’s own Social Trends survey, which reported about the same proportion of people saying that they belonged to no religion as saying that they belonged to a Christian denomination’ and the British Social Attitudes Survey, which ‘reported that 69 per cent of people either did not claim membership of a religion or said that they never attended a religious service.’

Lord Macdonald highlighted that the question is really aimed to measure ethnicity and not religion: ‘The ONS wants to identify by stealth as many members as it can of two ethnic groups protected under race legislation, by asking its leading question on religion, which, it claims, “provides a reasonable proxy for Sikh and Jewish ethnic groups”.’

However, Lord Macdonald made clear that this was highly problematic, saying, ‘It matters because inaccurate data can lead to the misallocation of resources and public funds. It matters because misleading statistics can be used to argue the religious case for the expansion of faith schools, when some of the more divisive institutions discriminate against non-religious people in their staffing and admissions policy. It matters because more accurate statistics would offer reassurance to those who fear that their sceptical, tolerant, vaguely agnostic Britain is being defined and divided increasingly by religion. It matters because accurate statistics might have particular importance for the Equality Bill currently before Parliament, which would mandate public authorities to treat non-religious citizens equally and with the same respect as religious people.’

The Minister stated that he would respond to all questions asked in the debate.

The BHA has been campaigning to raise awareness of the wholly inaccurate measurement of the religiosity of the population by the Census question on religion and its very damaging effects, and for a change in the question.

Notes

For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips at on 020 7079 3585

Read more about our campaign on the Census 2011 question on religion

Read the full debate on public confidence in government statistics

The British Humanist Association represents and supports the non-religious. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.


McTimoney Chiropractors told to take down their web sites

The Quackometer reports;

This letter has been issued from the McTimoney Association to all its members…

Date: 8 June 2009 09:12:18 BDT

Subject: FURTHER URGENT ACTION REQUIRED!

Dear Member

If you are reading this, we assume you have also read the urgent email we sent you last Friday. If you did not read it, READ IT VERY CAREFULLY NOW and – this is most important – ACT ON IT. This is not scaremongering. We judge this to be a real threat to you and your practice.

Because of what we consider to be a witch hunt against chiropractors, we are now issuing the following advice:

The target of the campaigners is now any claims for treatment that cannot be substantiated with chiropractic research. The safest thing for everyone to do is as follows.

  1. If you have a website, take it down NOW.

When you have done that, please let us know preferably by email or by phone. This will save our valuable time chasing you to see whether it has been done.

  1. REMOVE all the blue MCA patient information leaflets, or any patient information leaflets of your own that state you treat whiplash, colic or other childhood problems in your clinic or at any other site where they might be displayed with your contact details on them. DO NOT USE them until further notice. The MCA are working on an interim replacement leaflet which will be sent to you shortly.
  1. If you have not done so already, enter your name followed by the word ‘chiropractor’ into a search engine such as Google (e.g. Joe Bloggs chiropractor) and you will be able to ascertain what information about you is in the public domain e.g. where you might be listed using the Doctor title or where you might be linked with a website which might implicate you. We have found that even if you do not have a website yourself you may still have been linked inadvertently to a website listing you or your services.

CHECK ALL ENTRIES CAREFULLY AND IF IN DOUBT, CONTACT THE RELEVANT PROVIDER TO REMOVE YOUR INFORMATION.

CHECK OUR PREVIOUS EMAILS FOR SPECIFIC ADVICE AND KEY WORDS TO AVOID.

KEEP A LOG OF YOUR ACTIONS.

  1. If you use business cards or other stationery using the ‘doctor’ title and it does not clearly state that you are a doctor of chiropractic or that you are not a registered medical practitioner, STOP USING THEM immediately.

5. Be wary of ‘mystery shopper’ phone calls and ‘drop ins’ to your practice, especially if they start asking about your care of children, or whiplash, or your evidence base for practice.

IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ADVICE, YOU MAY BE AT RISK FROM PROSECUTION.

IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ADVICE, THE MCA MAY NOT BE ABLE TO ASSIST YOU WITH ANY PROCEEDINGS.

Although this advice may seem extreme or alarmist, its purpose is to protect you. The campaigners have a target of making a complaint against every chiropractor in the UK who they perceive to be in breach of the GCC’s CoP, the Advertising Standards Code and/or Trading Standards. We have discovered that complaints against more than 500 individual chiropractors have been sent to the GCC in the last 24 hours.

Whatever you do, do not ignore this email and make yourself one of the victims. Some of our members have not followed our earlier advice and now have complaints made against them. We do not want that to happen to you.

Even if you do not have a website, you are still at risk. Our latest information suggests that this group are now going through Yellow Pages entries. Be in no doubt, their intention is to scrutinise every single chiropractor in the UK.

The MCA Executive has worked tirelessly over the last week keeping abreast of development and contacting at risk members. We have decided that this is our best course of action to protect you and the Association at this time of heightened tension. This advice is given to you solely to protect you from what we believe is a concerted campaign, and does not imply any wrongdoing on your part or the part of the Association. We believe that our best course of action is simply to withdraw from the battleground until this latest wave of targeting is over.

Finally, we strongly suggest you do NOT discuss this with others, especially patients, Firstly it would not be ethical to burden patients with this, though if they ask we hope you now have information with which you can respond.

Most importantly, this email and all correspondence from the MCA is confidential advice to MCA members alone, and should not be shared with anyone else.

Please be aware that the office phone lines are likely to be busy, so, if you need our help, please send an email to the office and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Yours,

Berni Martin

MCA Chair.

Best wishes,

Nicki

Stunning. What have they got to hide?

The McTimoney web site itself now just reads:

For all enquiries regarding McTimoney chiropractic, please contact :

McTimoney Chiropractic Association
Crowmarsh Gifford
Wallingford OX10 8DJ
admin@mctimoney-chiropractic.org
Tel : 01491 829494

The most stunning admission is that Chiropractors are told:

IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ADVICE, YOU MAY BE AT RISK FROM PROSECUTION.

****************************************************************************************************

All the missing websites have been archived here: http://yaxu.org/tmp/chiros.html

Smashing job yaxu

PS Dont forget to sign the Simon Singh support campaign.

http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/333/


Should ‘alternative medicine’ be taught in universities?

The use of complementary therapies on the NHS will be explored in a More 4 documentary, which will reveal that £12m has been spent on homeopathy over the last three years.

Why does it matter? Homeopathy – where patients are treated with a diluted dose of the substance that caused their original symptoms – has been widely discredited as little more than “sugar pills” by scientists.

After a six-year campaign by Professor David Colquhoun at University College London, the last BSc in homeopathy was suspended by Westminster University in March after it failed to recruit enough students. Five homeopathy degrees have been scrapped since 2007.

But there are still plenty of complementary and alternative medicine (Cam) courses available in universities, and the NHS continues to offer a variety of therapies, including homeopathy, despite a lack of research evidence to show their effectiveness.

The Liberal Democrat science spokesman, Dr Evan Harris, says the NHS is wrong to spend money on unproven treatments and effectively to give them a “stamp of approval” by doing so.

But Dr Peter Fisher, of the Royal London Homeopathic hospital, argues that there is strong evidence that patients benefit in the long term.

What do you think? Should universities be allowed to run such courses, or the NHS to provide patients with these alternative therapies?