Sunday school fun or radical indoctrination?Sunday school fun or radical indoctrination? (Photo by Jim Watkins, courtesy of The Edge summer camp, Cornwall)

“Where are the Sunday School teachers who incite young people to join terrorist organisations?” asks evangelist’s MP son

CHRISTIAN MPs HAVE URGED THE GOVERNMENT TO ‘BURY’ plans to regulate Sunday Schools and young people’s church groups.

The head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has said that if whistle-blowers raise concerns about ‘registered settings’, such as Sunday schools, inspectors will go in.

We should promote Bible teaching to kids, not restrict it - Steve Double MP
We should promote Bible teaching to kids, not restrict it – Steve Double MP

But 20 MPs, many of them known to be Christians, attacked the plans. MP Steve Double, the son of popular evangelist Don Double, demanded, “Where are the Sunday School teachers who seek to inspire and incite young people to join terrorist organisations?”

Double told MPs in a debate at Westminster Hall, “In this country, we have already sacrificed too much of our liberty in the name of equality.”

Very bad evidence

Warning that Government ministers were in danger of “making a bad decision based on very bad evidence”, Double, Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, suggested that there is “no evidence whatsoever” to impose such restrictions on Sunday Schools and other church groups.

Inspired to help others

Steve Double said that when young people go to Christian events and camps – as a result of the teaching they receive – “they often find not just faith but a mission in life to go and serve humanity.

An awful lot of good

He told MPs that they should “promote Bible teaching to kids, not restrict it”, because it does “an awful lot of good.”

And challenging the Government over its proposals that could see Ofsted checking on church youth work, he said thousands of volunteers should not be tied up with “unwarranted” bureaucracy.

Mr Double, who worked for a church and ran his own business before becoming an MP, said that the Government is “trying to walk a tightrope on this issue to appear even-handed”, but he added, “We need to be clear about where the source of the threat comes from”.

However, Prime Minister David Cameron has said he does not intend to cover Sunday schools and summer camps in the scheme.

Mr Cameron said that the Government has held “productive” discussions with the Church of England and other faith groups to make sure that the system will be “targeted” and “proportionate.”

How did this unholy mess come about?

In an effort to curb extremist brainwashing of young people out of fears that madrassas are inculcating terrorism, the Government has proposed giving Ofsted legal power to investigate any place which provides instruction to under 19-year-olds for more than six hours in any week.

But the messages are contradictory, as the Christian Institute’s timeline here shows.

Out-of-school settings proposals

7 October 2015David Cameron announced in a speech that he wished to legislate against institutions which teach hate and intolerance.
He said, “if an institution is teaching children intensively, then whatever its religion, we will, like any other school, make it register so it can be inspected. And be in no doubt: if you are teaching intolerance, we will shut you down.”
26 November 2015The consultation on regulating out-of-school education settings is launched.
11 January 2016The consultation closes. Four MPs write to The Daily Telegraph stating their concerns over the plans. conservative/12093949/Tory-MPs-warn-that-Sunday-schools-could-be-banned-from-teaching-that-marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman.html
13 January 2016The Secretary of State for Education stated that the plans would not cover Sunday schools or one-off residential summer camps.
14 January 2016The head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, stated in a radio phone-in that Sunday schools would be covered by the proposed regulations.
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education, Lord Nash, stated in the House of Lords that: “We do not propose to regulate institutions such as Sunday schools and one-off residential settings which teach children for a short period every week.”
20 January 2016A Westminster Hall debate is held in Parliament. Over 20 MPs spoke out against the proposals. Conservative, Labour, SNP and DUP MPs all raised concerns.

The MPs who put their beliefs before party loyalty

Of the 20 plus MPs who made the effort to defend Sunday Schools, summer camps and youth groups, the majority were Conservative, putting their faith before party obedience by speaking out against the proposals to regulate out-of-school settings.

The debate was led by Sir Edward Leigh. As the debate took place in Westminster Hall, and not the floor of the House of Commons, no vote took place.

Those MPs who are in areas which HEART reaches have been highlighted; there is just one MP each for Sussex and Kent and London. This paper also reaches Cornwall via a local ministry, hence including Steve Double.

Nic Dakin (Labour) and the Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb, also spoke during the debate.

The following MPs made good points or arguments against the scheme:

Gerald HowarthConservativeAldershot
Wendy MortonConservativeAldridge-Brownhills
Gavin RobinsonDUPBelfast East
Graham StuartConservativeBeverley and Holderness
Fiona BruceConservativeCongleton
Stephen TimmsLabourEast Ham
Caroline AnsellConservativeEastbourne
Sir Edward LeighConservativeGainsborough
Carol MonaghanSNPGlasgow North West
David RutleyConservativeMacclesfield
Helen GrantConservativeMaidstone and The Weald
Caroline SpelmanConservativeMeriden
Michael TomlinsonConservativeMid Dorset and North Poole
Catherine McKinnellLabourNewcastle upon Tyne North
Seema KennedyConservativeSouth Ribble
Steve DoubleConservativeSt Austell and Newquay
Jeremy LefroyConservativeStafford
Robert FlelloLabourStoke-on-Trent South
Jim ShannonDUPStrangford
Kevin FosterConservativeTorbay
David SimpsonDUPUpper Bann
Sir Edward Leigh“Although the consultation process was, I believe, inadequate, the Department received thousands of responses, because people, especially Christian groups, are really worried. They are terrified because, for the first time, Ofsted will decide whether to bar someone or close down their youth work by assessing whether their teaching is ‘compatible with, and does not undermine, fundamental British values’”
Steve Double“We should be promoting the teaching of the Bible to our children, not seeking to restrict it, because the results of that produce an awful lot of good.”
Stephen Timms He stated that he is “particularly uncomfortable about the idea that religious instruction should be placed under the authority of some vaguely defined British values administered by Government officials”.
He added that: “Making religious instruction subject to a state-controlled version of values is deeply problematic.”
Sir Gerald HowarthSaid that, “the scheme is hopelessly broad, covering vast swathes of activity with children and young people in respect of which there is not a shred of evidence of anything remotely resembling extremism. Any scheme must be evidence-based, intelligence-led and tailored to the problem that it is designed to solve, which is that of Islamic fundamentalism poisoning the minds of young people in this country. This scheme represents none of those things.
Helen Grant“…the proposals are rushed, reactionary and very badly thought through”.
Gavin RobinsonSaid the proposals are: “completely unlawful and completely unworkable”.
Fiona Bruce“The proposals are disproportionate and likely to be ineffective, and pose a real threat to freedom of speech, conscience and belief.”

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