Government broke law by excluding humanism from curriculum

November 25, 2015

In a landmark judgment handed down in the High Court today, a judge has ruled in favour of the three humanist parents and their children, supported by the British Humanist Association, who challenged the UK Government’s decision not to include non-religious worldviews in the latest subject content for GCSE Religious Studies in England. In his decision, Mr Justice Warby stated that the Government had made an ‘error of law’ in leaving non-religious worldviews such as humanism out, amounting to ‘a breach of the duty to take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in a pluralistic manner.’

In his judgment, Mr Justice Warby said, ‘In carrying out its educational functions the state owes parents a positive duty to respect their religious and philosophical convictions… the state has a duty to take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in a pluralistic manner… the state must accord equal respect to different religious convictions, and to non-religious beliefs; it is not entitled to discriminate between religions and beliefs on a qualitative basis; its duties must be performed from a standpoint of neutrality and impartiality as regards the quality and validity of parents’ convictions.’

 

This case was brought in relation to the curriculum in England. The content of the Religious and Moral Education in the Curriculum for Excellence already includes an expectation for students to cover non-religious world-views, such as Humanism.

Responding to the judgement, HSS Chief Executive Gordon MacRae said:
“This is a very welcome judgement from the court today. It is incredible that the UK Government continued to exclude non-religious world-views for so long, in the face of clear legal requirements, and changing demographics in religion and belief across the UK.

“This judgement relates solely to the curriculum in England, here in Scotland we already have a requirement for pupils to study non-religious world-views; however it will require the Scottish Government to reflect on their duties to treat all beliefs with equality.”

Image Courtesy: Dinwiddie Classroom, Creative Commons

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