Sect's preacher spent 8 years at primary school

The Scotsman, UK/September 7, 2013

By Claire Gardner

An investigation is being carried out by education chiefs after it emerged a preacher from a creationist Christian sect had been helping at a primary school for more than eight years – apparently without teachers being aware of his fundamentalist views.

Alex Gear, from the Church of Christ, a US-based sect that does not believe in evolution and condemns gay relationships, was invited by the headteacher of Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride to become one of its chaplains.

Mr Gear also ran a club at the school on Monday evenings and spoke to pupils about beliefs as part of their religious education lessons.

However, many parents at the 400-pupil school only realised their children were being exposed to the evangelical group’s agenda when pupils took home creationist books they had been handed at assembly on Monday.

Last night, South Lanarkshire Council said the school only became alerted to Mr Gear’s beliefs after the literature had been handed out.

They have now demanded that he sever all contact with the school as well his role as chaplain at Greenburn Primary School, a special-needs school, also in South Lanarkshire.

Officials said they were urgently reviewing “a number of practices” across all school areas.

The two creationist books, one called How Do You Know God is Real? and the other Exposing the Myth of Evolution, which denounce the theory of evolution and warn of a world without God, were handed out to pupils.

Both were written by American author Kyle Butt, whose other works include a book called Homosexuality – Sin or Cultural Bad Habit?

His books are printed by the Alabama-based Apologetics Press, which is closely affiliated to the Church of Christ.

In a letter to parents, which was sent out after the books were given to pupils, one of the headteachers, Alexandra MacKenzie, defended the decision.

She said: “Whilst I appreciate that not every family in our school are practising Christians, I was only too happy to accept this generous gift on your behalf. I hope you will all accept it in the spirit with which it was offered.”

Some parents have made official complaints to South Lanarkshire Council about the books, while others have threatened to withdraw their children in protest.

The school’s parent council is meeting teachers next week to discuss the issue.

The Church of Christ, based in Alabama, believes the Bible predicts the future and is 100 per cent accurate.

It has called Scotland “a field ripe for harvest”.

Last night, a spokeswoman for South Lanarkshire Council said: “Earlier this week, pupils at Kirktonholme Primary School received two books which had been donated by the West Mains Church of Christ.

“The theories explored in these books do not feature in mainstream teaching and it was not appropriate for them to be given to pupils in this way.”

The spokeswoman went on: “The council is carrying out a full investigation into how this came about. This will inform any further action, including a review of the guidance received by headteachers.

“In addition, it has been agreed that the chaplain will now withdraw from the chaplaincy team, and neither he nor the [Church of Christ] workers will have any further input into Kirktonholme Primary School. “This brings to an end the association between the school and the church. All parents have been made aware of this.”

However, Mr Gear said last night he was “astonished” at the claims by staff at the primary school that they had no idea about his anti-evolutionary stance.

“I’ve been working in that school for eight years,” he said. “They’ve always known I’m a Christian and that I’m anti-evolution.

“I think they are just trying to protect themselves. I’m not trying to indoctrinate people.”

Mr Gear added: “I thought we were supposed to be a tolerant society.”

Kevin Turbeville, youth minister at the Church of Christ, in Rogersville, Alabama, said that Mr Gear had visited his church about “three times in three years”.

He defended Mr Gear’s actions, saying “If it is unlawful, then he shouldn’t have done it – but if this is a bunch of parents having their feelings hurt, then let’s see how they like the public ridiculing their belief systems.”

Asked whether it was fair for Mr Gear to have described the area as “fertile ground”, he said: “Sure. The fertile ground comes from Alex and his relationship with the school and kids and parents. He is a good man and has cultivated fertile ground.”

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