HC Deb 03 December 1936 vol 318 cc1423-4

asked the President of the Board of Education whether it is the view of his Department that leaflets attacking Communism may properly be distributed during school hours in non-provided elementary schools receiving grants from public funds; and if this is the basis of his refusal to take any action in the case of the distribution of such pamphlets at St. Mary's Roman Catholic school, Boston?


In view of the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards the anti-religious teaching associated with Communism, I do not regard the distribution in a Roman Catholic non-provided school of a leaflet on Communism published by the Catholic Truth Society as infringing the principle of the impropriety of permitting the distribution of political literature to school children during school hours.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of the arguments applied against Communism in this leaflet might easily be applied against Socialism, and is he aware that by refusing to take action in this matter he is opening a wide door for political propaganda in State-aided schools, and will he therefore reconsider the matter?


I would if I thought that it was opening a wide door for political propaganda, but in this particular case I regard this leaflet as in the nature not of political but of religious propaganda.


In view of the pernicious literature of the Communist party, which calls religion "dope," may I remind the questioner of the fact that in Russia no religion must be taught to an adult under 18 years of age, and is it not essential as a protection to the faith and morals of Catholic children that the Catholic Church should defend them against pernicious literature?


May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman appreciates that he has enunciated a principle of the very gravest political importance, and whether he does not recognise that other people from another point of view may equally justify political propaganda on their side? In that case, will he not reconsider the announcement that he has just made?


I entirely disagree with the assumptions in the hon. Member's question. I do not think that this enlarges the position at all. I regard this particular pamphlet in this particular school as part of the religious teaching of the school, and not as political propaganda.


In view of the thoroughly unsatisfactorily nature of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, I give notice that I shall raise this matter at the earliest opportunity on the Adjournment.

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