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Theological Notebook--"Holy Ghost" Terrifies Youngsters

From the Yorkshire Post Today: Another example of why a little education can be a very dangerous thing.

Row over move to ban 'Holy Ghost' in RE class


Sally Cope

PLANS to tell teachers to drop terms such as "Holy Ghost" and "Old Testament" from religious education lessons have been postponed after they were branded a move too far in political correctness.

Guidelines drawn up for schools in Norfolk listed a host of terminology and images, which were to be banned for fear of frightening children, or portraying offensive images of various religions.

Under the recommendations, communion bread and wine would no longer be referred to as the "body and blood of Christ", to avoid "cannibalistic" connotations.

The phrase "Holy Ghost" was said to imply "a trivial and spooky concept" and so should be substituted with "Holy Spirit", said the guidelines.

And the Old Testament should not be referred to, as it made the Bible sound out-of-date.

The guidelines were drawn up by the Norfolk Agreed Syllabus conference, which described them as "a useful thing to help teachers prevent making mistakes".

But last night, Norfolk County Council said it was reviewing the policy after it was met by a barrage of criticism.

The syllabus and guidance notes would go to a review panel in June, when members would decide whether any changes were necessary, the spokesman added.

Nick Seaton, chairman of the York-based Campaign for Real Education, which campaigns over standards in state schools, condemned the guidelines as "sinister".

"I think most sensible people would be horrified by this manipulation of language for the sake of political correctness.

"Everyone knows that if you change the language you change the culture, and that is precisely what George Orwell was warning against in 1984.

"We think using language and youngsters need to be able to call a spade a spade if they are to make choices and decisions.

"Children love ghost stories, and what is the difference between a ghost and a spirit at the end of the day?"

The guidelines also warned against linking Islam with terrorism and violence by showing "photographs of Muslims holding swords and Kalashnikovs".

Mr Seaton said it was patronising to young people to assume they could not distinguish between pictures of sword-bearing gods, and people practising the religion in everyday life.

"Just because you see a Muslim with a sword, it doesn't make them all murderers, and children are quite capable of recognising this," he said.

A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said its guidelines for teaching religious education were based on promoting racial equality and promoting diversity.

"We have general guidelines that are put together by the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education, made up of representatives of the different faith communities, but we don't have any that are as language-specific as those proposed in Norfolk," she said.

sally.cope@ypn.co.uk
12 April 2005
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