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Austin Cline

Tony Blair Backing Creationist Schools?

By June 19, 2004

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In America creationist beliefs are relatively (and sadly) common, but in other western nations they are relatively rare. That explain why there is so much surprise and criticism over the fact that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has close ties to and is supportive of someone who wants to run a chain of schools that teach literal, biblical creationism.

The Independent reports:

Mr Blair, said to be the most religious Prime Minister since Gladstone, has backed the millionaire car dealer Sir Peter Vardy in his attempt to take over seven comprehensives and turn them into Christian Academies promoting Old Testament views of the world's creation. This includes the claim that it was made in six days, 10,000 years ago. Two of Sir Peter's schools are open already, in Gateshead and Middlesbrough, and a third is under construction in Doncaster.
Mr Blair, a committed Christian, has presided over an extraordinary growth in the number of faith schools, with 80 new Church of England secondaries now running or in the pipeline. He personally opened King's Academy in Middlesbrough, run by Sir Peter, an Evangelical Christian. When Emmanuel College in Gateshead, the first Vardy school, came under attack for teaching creationism, Mr Blair sent Andrew Adonis, one of his most senior policy advisers, to smooth the issue over.
Nigel McQuoid, principal at King's Academy and director of schools at the newly created Emmanuel Schools Foundation (covering all the Vardy colleges), has said: "Clearly, schools are required to teach evolutionary theory ... Clearly, also, schools should teach the creation theory as literally depicted in Genesis. Ultimately, both creation and evolution are faith positions." ... Martin Rogers from the Education Network, an education think-tank, said there was nothing wrong with the principle of academies, and that large investment in struggling schools should be applauded. But the lack of accountability was a big concern. "For a very small sum of money ... you can peddle the most appalling garbage," he said.

Garbage like creationism, it appears. Evidently Blair is not himself a creationist, but he does have long, close ties to Vardy. It’s unclear to what degree Blair’s support of Vardy stems from these personal ties and to what degree this support stems from a sympathetic view of Vardy’s creationist and literalist perspective on religion.

It’s interesting to read the Independent’s critical posture towards conservative Christianity and Christians — such language would never pass muster in an American newspaper. In the United States, politicians who are “committed Christians” are lauded for it, not treated skeptically because of it.

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