UN committee calls for end to compulsory worship in schools

June 10, 2016

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has published its major periodic review of the state of children’s rights in the UK, and has advocated for:

Humanist Society Scotland campaigns against religious observance in Scottish schools, and has previously issued a joint call for reform with the Church of Scotland.

Earlier this year the Scottish Government ruled out making any changes to the guidance issued on religious observance, even after the publication of several substantial reports called specifically on the Scottish Government to take action.

Despite repeated urging to change its guidance by HSS, the Scottish Government guidance still does not allow pupils to withdraw themselves from religious observance without parental permission.

A recent High Court judgement in England even went on to say that “an opt­-out is not an adequate substitute for the provision of an educational programme which accords the Parents their right to respect for their convictions“.

In March 2016 HSS wrote to the Scottish Government to request further clarification on the legal position of senior pupils who wish to withdraw themselves from religious observance. No response has been received yet.

HSS Chief Executive Gordon MacRae
HSS Chief Executive Gordon MacRae

HSS Chief Executive, Gordon MacRae commented:

“We welcome the recommendations in this report.

“Whilst we would like to see religious observance scrapped and replaced with a more inclusive alternative, such as philosophy with children, we have called for updated guidance on numerous occasions to ensure that the situation in Scotland is compatible with the law.

“It is now clear that the Scottish Government’s policy on religious observance flies in the face of the recommendations of several high-profile academic reports, the views and wishes of many stakeholders and now a high-level report from the United Nations.

“We have worked constructively with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders for many years, but now it’s time for action.”

Claire-Cassidy-2
Dr Claire Cassidy

Dr Claire Cassidy, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Head of the School of Education at the University of Strathclyde, commented:

“I fully support the recommendations of the UN Committee and would urge the Scottish Government to act upon these recommendations. In doing so, this will take further the positive work already undertaken in Scotland to support children’s rights in law, policy and practice.”

The report’s recommendations

The report says the following:


 

Notes: For further information or comment please contact Gary McLelland ongary@humanism.scot or 07813060713.

About HSS:
Humanist Society Scotland seeks to represent the views of people in Scotland who wish to lead ethical and fulfilling lives guided by reason, empathy and compassion. We provide a range of non-religious ceremonies and campaign for a secular state. HSS has over 14,000 members across Scotland.

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