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Agnostics Anonymous

Offer fair treatment to people who want special treatment and you'll be accused of mistreating them. Hence the accusations heard in France when La Charte de la laïcité à l'École announced 15 secularist principles to be enforced in schools. Among these were: no wearing of religious symbols; no expression of political or religious convictions by teachers; and equal treatment of boys and girls. Clearly, said the President of the French Council for the Muslim Faith, this could only lead to French Muslims being 'stigmatised'.

Here, Michael Gove's free school experiment has allowed Muslim communities to develop their own approach. Thus last month Ofsted closed down Derby's Al-Madinah free school, which had segregated girls, devoted large swathes of the school day to Qu'ranic studies and prayers, and banned singing and stringed musical instruments.

One-third of all British state schools is religious, but only 12 of these 6,750 state-maintained institutions are Muslim. More than 99 per cent are Christian, a statistic noted by Theos which has exonerated faith schools of the charge of being 'socially divisive' - to its own satisfaction at least. Meanwhile, all schools are obliged to have a daily act of worship that must be 'wholly, or mainly of a broadly Christian nature', even those without a religious character.

Despite this exorbitantly special treatment, British Christians are eager to whine about their religion being mistreated by policymakers. When Ofsted criticised the standard of religious education in October, the Church of England deplored the neglect of RE as 'a scandal'. In fact, though Ofsted's analysis was widely reported as the story of Christianity being forced to the margins, its actual criticism was less sectarian. Ofsted did not claim to find (as the Huffington Post reported) 'Christianity "Squeezed Out" Of Schools', but rather that 'RE lessons were often squeezed out'.

RE lessons should not be synonymous with evangelising. In fact, one of Ofsted's criticisms was that RE teachers often presuppose the worth of religion: 'Teachers signalled to pupils that they wanted a positive "right answer" about the value of religion, limiting the opportunity to explore more controversial possibilities'. Further, teachers fail to encourage their pupils to 'rigorously investigate and evaluate religion and belief'.

Since the religious are willing and able to corrupt the schools system, it would be preferable if we secularised it. With that done, the kind of RE lessons Ofsted suggests would become the best defence against a religious resurgence. Would Christianity still enjoy special treatment if the national curriculum fearlessly and rigorously evaluated its claims? The religious will be feeling a lot more 'stigmatised' if it does ever happen.