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Creationism promoted in Welsh school – campaigners call for ban

SECULARIST campaigners have called for a ban on creationism in Welsh schools after uncovering evidence it is being promoted as part of attempts to convert pupils to Christianity.

The National Secular Society has raised concerns that the headteacher at Llanidloes High School in Powys is using school resources to promote creationist ideas alongside science and to direct pupils to the evangelistic ‘Alpha’ Christian course.

Photographs obtained by the NSS show displays at the school combining science and geography content with quotes from the Bible intended to encourage creationist ideas.

One display of marine life features the quotation: “God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing”. Another, representing the solar system, includes the quote: “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them”.

Another display depicting a map of the world says: “From one man God made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole Earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands”.

The displays, which are large enough to cover entire walls, were reportedly paid for using school funds, with a source at the school describing them as “very expensive”.

The promotion of creationism is not currently prohibited in Welsh schools. In England, teaching creationism as a scientific theory is banned.

The NSS has written to the Welsh Government requesting that new guidance be issued explicitly prohibiting the promotion or teaching of creationism as an alternative scientific theory. It also called for an investigation into the evangelism at Llanidloes High School.

The school’s headteacher, Dan Owen, is also a leader at the nearby Newtown Evangelical Church. The church’s website claims it has a “very special duty to preach the Gospel to every living person”, and to take “the Gospel to all nations”. The website also states repentance should be “preached and pressed” upon “all men”.

In addition to the wall displays, Owen is also alleged to have told teachers to show a video advertising the ‘Alpha’ course to their tutor groups. Alpha is an evangelistic course which aims to convert students to Christianity.

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Posters for a lunchtime club called ‘Lighthouse’, where pupils would follow the Alpha course, were also posted around the school.

Photographs of school planners provided to pupils also reveal an advice page, entitled  ‘Help in Time of Need’, which includes sections on suicide, sex, and abuse. The page solely refers to verses from the Bible. These verses include advice that children “flee from sexual immorality”, “flee the evil desires of youth”, and that those who look at women “lustfully” have already “committed adultery” in their heart.

The section for advice on abuse points pupils towards two verses. One says: “If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me [Jesus] — to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea”.

Another says that to “avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.”

In relation to suicide, a Psalm advises students to “entrust” their lives to God. The advice page does not direct the pupils to helplines or other professional sources of support for abuse or suicide.

Owen is also reportedly using school assemblies and the requirement to provide collective worship to promote Christian ideas and messaging.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society, said: “Promoting creationism is entirely without educational justification, and actively undermines teaching about evidence-based theories such as evolution, as well as children’s critical thinking skills.

“The extensive campaign of evangelism at Llanidloes High School is a gross violation of the trust which should exist between pupils, parents, and staff.

“Significant school time and resources have been expended on efforts to inculcate the religious ideology of the headteacher.

“The Welsh Government must urgently investigate Llanidloes High School, and introduce measures explicitly prohibiting the promotion of creationism.”