Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Me and SACRE

Posted in Humanism in RE by sheelanagigcomedienne on September 5, 2011

I am a member of the Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education in Wandsworth!!!. Of course, I don’t believe that there should be Religious Education, but while there is, people  like me are trying to get a Humanist perspective into the curriculum. As a philosophy graduate I reckon that there should be philosophy, including ethics, on the curriculum. Humanists are trying to ensure that wherever there is a  ‘faith’ initiative which, by definition, is discriminatory and divisive that this is expanded to ‘faith and belief’ which would be inclusive of all. For instance the Scout and Guides excludes youngsters who do not believe in a deity as it is insisted upon in the ‘initiation promise’  for all youngsters who wish to join that militaristic youth movement. Two thirds of young people in Britain are not religious believers and so we think that their beliefs should be respected and represented within schools. This is important to their sense of identity, individuality, autonomy and self-respect. As we say ‘Don’t label children’. Let them make their own decisions about what they believe and keep religion/supernaturalism as a private matter. I don’t think that describing the supernatural fantasy beliefs of relgionists is educational, that it spreads ‘community cohesion’  or creates tolerance. I think it clutters and confuses young minds to present them with the dogma and fiction of the various religions whilst insisting that Christianity is given prominence and thus endorsing the notion that somehow it is better and truer than the others.

We are contesting the legislation about schools having to have a daily act of worship that is ‘wholly or mainly of  broadly Christian character’!!!  This is unworkable hypocrticial, counter productive and divisive. ‘ Collective worship’ is a contradiction. It is an idiotic educational requirement and the law on this is asinine. The Tories brought it in and New Labour has refused to change it as.  So Humanists, like me, serve on these fora thus finding ourselves in blood pressure raising situations and discussions but we do it in the cause of enlightenment and rationality because someone has to!!!

So, I am the Humanist representative on SACRE in Wandsworth and took part in the Faith and Belief event in the Town Hall. I enjoyed it but was told off by Councillor Tracy, who joined a session,  for telling the youngsters that I told God to ‘feck off’ as child when I was asked how I became an atheist.

Here is a report of this event.


Students from schools across the borough have attended the fourth annual Faith Direct event.

Faith Direct is a unique ‘speed-dating’ style event where students are able to fire a series of quick-fire questions at representatives from the borough’s different faith groups.

The event was organised by the council and the Wandsworth Local Strategic Partnership Faith-Sub-group. It brought together speakers from local Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Baha’i, Humanist and Buddhist communities.

Faith Direct aims to increase young people’s knowledge of the different faiths and beliefs practised in the borough, promote understanding, tolerance and respect and offer an open forum for dialogue.

Seventy students from six secondary schools conducted a whistle-stop tour round the room interviewing each representative in turn. The questioning lasted 15 minutes before a bell was rung and the students moved on to the next table.

The ten tables were manned by: Kumar Prem Dhall (The Hindu Society); Venerable Phrakru Samu Lom (Buddhapadipa Temple); Rev McKinney (Holy Trinity Anglican Church), Paul Teece (St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church); Farooq Mirza and Mahmood Khan (The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community); Irene Sheridan (Wimbledon and District Synagogue), May Jones and Reem Shaheed (Baha’i), Jeanne Rathbone (Humanist), Mr Gangat (Balham Mosque and Al-Risalah Education Trust), and Andy Pring (Interfaith Youth Worker).

Executive member for children and young people’s services for Wandsworth Kathy Tracey said:

“Wandsworth is a diverse borough where different cultures and beliefs work together as a community. This event set out to improve young people’s understanding of different faiths by exploring challenges and stereotypes in an informal atmosphere and a climate of mutual respect.

“The students were very inquisitive and asked incisive questions about faith issues including religious extremism, the role of marriage, attitudes to women, respect for different beliefs and the significance of having a faith.”

The event was open to young people in Year 9 or above taking Religious Studies at school. All those attending received a fact pack in advance summarising the main characteristics of the different faiths.

After the event, speakers said they enjoyed having the opportunity to challenge stereotypes about their beliefs and students said the event had added to their knowledge.

Find out more about the work of the multi-faith sub group and the council’s commitment to equality at

The picture shows the partipants of Faith Direct with the mayor of Wandsworth Cllr Brian Prichard.

Photo to accompany this press release I am standing beside the Catholic boys and an Imam along with Mayor Brian Pritchard who is a Tory Councillor but I knew him in the seventies when he was Labour Councillor for St. John ward Battersea. His father, Sir Norman Pritchard was a a GLC Labour Councillor and a lovely old socialist.


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