HSS secure rights of non-religious young people in Joint Civil Society Report

The British Institute of Human Rights has published the Joint Civil Society Report to the United Nations.


The Joint Civil Society Report was coordinated by the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) and featured input from a range of Civil Society Organisations, such as HSS.

In response to the call for evidence from the BIHR, the Humanist Society Scotland submitted evidence about the ongoing discrimination faced by non-religious children and young people in Scotland in relation to their rights to opt-out of religious observance.

Gary McLelland, HSS Head of Communications and Public Affairs commented:

“I am pleased to see the rights of non-religious young people highlighted in this report to the United Nations. For too long the rights of non-religious people have been completely ignored.

“Earlier this month we announced that we would be seeking to challenge the Scottish Government in Court after it refused to allow young people to opt-out of religious observance at school.

“We hope that with pressure coming from the United Nations, academics and policy-makers, the Scottish Government will take seriously its responsibilities to non-religious young people.”


For more information contact Gary McLelland on 07813060713 or gary@humanism.scot.

Comments on report:

The report can be viewed and downloaded here: https://www.bihr.org.uk/HRCheckReport

The report highlights concerns raised about several areas of policy:

  • the provision of sex and relationships education, particularly in Scotland (pp.18). In 2014 HSS ran a campaign to reform the Scottish Government’s guidance on relationships, sexual health and parenthood education. We cautiously welcomed the new guidance published in December 2014, whilst drawing attention to the fact that denominational schools retained a veto on it.
  • lack of opt-out available for young people from ‘collective worship’ (Religious Observance in Scotland) (pp.18). HSS is currently in the process of a Judicial Review after the Scottish Government failed to implement recommendations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to give young people in Scotland an opt-out of Religious Observance.

The report then went on to recommend that the UK Government (the Scottish Government is not a State Party to the Convention) should:

  • Provide adequate and compulsory Sex and Relationships Education to young people
  • Ensure children are free to withdraw from religious observance

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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