Please see below a current exchange of emails between SCES and a TV production company who want to debate the question “Is Scottish sectarianism fuelled by faith schools?” on BBC TV’s ‘The Big Questions’ programme on Sunday 13th March. As far as we are aware, no Church representative is prepared to give credence to this question by taking part in the programme. Representatives of CHAS & CHAPS have also refused.
From: Michael McGrath
Sent: 10 March 2011 15:47
To: Mentorn TV
Subject: The Big Questions
Dear Mentorn Producer
I am contacting you with regard to recent requests that I participate in this Sunday’s ‘The Big Questions’.
You will already know from your colleague that I am extremely concerned that your only contribution to the debate about Sectarianism in Scotland is to ask the question: “Is Scottish sectarianism fuelled by faith schools?” Of course, in Scotland the only faith schools are Catholic schools. By linking the two issues – Catholic schools and Sectarianism – you are legitimising the views of people who are themselves being sectarian when they proclaim (in defiance of all the available evidence) that the very existence of Catholic schools is the sources of or contributes to the blight of sectarianism.
Such a strategy on your part is foolhardy and highly suspect.
I note that this is the second time in a few weeks that you have tried to include in your programme a discussion about the place of Catholic schools in Scotland. Ironically the last time you justified this because it was the start of Catholic Education Week. On that occasion I tried to explain that this was not a “Big Question” but a tired question which we in Scotland had left behind a long time ago. In an age when we celebrate diversity and equality, we should celebrate the proven contribution of Catholic schools to our nation’s welfare. That view was expressed very forcibly by First Minister Alex Salmond in February 2008 when he gave the Cardinal Winning Education Lecture in the University of Glasgow.
Of course, you could legitimately ask significant questions about the issue of sectarianism by considering:
- the contribution of alcohol and of sectarian public houses to Scotland’s record of sectarian violence
- Scotland’s historical and cultural connections with Northern Ireland
- claims of institutionalised sectarian attitudes in Scotland.
But you appear to have chosen the soft option, or perhaps the topic which you think will generate heated responses. It is regrettable that the BBC would be party to a debate that is already pre-judged, as evidenced by your question. For all these reasons I do not wish to participate.
One final thought for you: if Catholic schools are part of the problem, why is there no sectarianism in countries around the world where 50 million young people are taught in Catholic schools?
Scottish Catholic Education Service
From: Mentorn Scotland
Sent: 10 March 2011 12:41
To: CHAS & CHAPS
Subject: Catholic Head Teachers Web Site
Address: BBC Scotland Pacific Quay Glasgow
Tel No: 0141 422 6237
I work for a BBC programme the Big Questions and we have a show coming live from Edinburgh this Sunday.
Just to give you some background on the programme, ‘The Big Questions’ is BBC1’s flagship live moral and ethical debate show presented by Nicky Campbell. Each week, three topics are discussed on the show – these are ethical or moral questions connected to the week’s news headlines. Some recent topics include: Should Britain be ashamed of its arms trade? Would Jesus be a Catholic? Is it right to rent a womb? Do we have the right to uphold our religious convictions?
The show features three panellists – prominent people from all the major faiths as well as those from an atheist or humanist perspective, columnists, broadcasters and authors. The panellists discuss the three topics with a wider studio audience which includes specially invited front-row speakers who have a particular interest, expertise or personal story that relates to one of the week’s topics. This week our panellists are Hardeep Singh Kohli, Ruth Gledhill and the Most Reverend David Chillingworth.
The Big Questions is broadcast live on BBC1 between 10am and 11am on a Sunday morning. As with all our series, we move around the country and like to have a local audience representative of the city we are broadcasting from. We ask our invited front row speakers to be at our location for 8.30am on Sunday morning and we organise all their transport.
This Sunday the show is coming live from Edinburgh and at the moment I am carrying out research into a question for debate: Is Scottish sectarianism fuelled by faith schools? I would really appreciate the opportunity to speak to a representative from CHAS / CHAPS about their views on the question and any interest you might have in taking part in the debate on Sunday morning. We are also debating Does God give life meaning? and Has porn gone too far? I would be very grateful for a few moments of your time today.