Humanists and Scottish Government agree to ‘hit pause button’ on court challenge

Humanist Society Scotland has secured an agreement with the Scottish Government to pause its current legal challenge regarding the rights of young people to opt out of religious observance in Schools.

A motion to pause the court action for three months was jointly lodged by Scottish Ministers and the charity in the Court of Session. This follows agreement from the Scottish Government to launch a consultation on updating guidance to Head Teachers to give young people a voice in process when discussing their participation in Religious Observance.

Gordon MacRae, HSS Chief Executive

Gordon MacRae, HSS Chief Executive

Speaking today, HSS Chief Executive Gordon MacRae said:

“It is a step in the right direction that the Scottish Government have agreed to revisit its guidance for schools on the basis of a wider recognition of children’s rights. By agreeing to launch a new consultation Scottish Ministers for the first time are making it possible for young people to have a voice in the process.

“I am pleased that we were able to secure an agreement to suspend the court action for three months to allow this to happen. This will allow the consultation to take place and we will engage positively in that process to maximise the rights of young people in Scotland.

He added:

“This announcement is a welcome step in the right direction but it will not deliver the independent right for young people to opt out of Religious Observance that the United Nations and two independent commissions have called for.

“However, we have been overwhelmed by the level of public support for our legal challenge. This is a step in the right direction, but even if successful, would fall short of a legal right to withdraw from Religious Observance.”


For more information or comment contact Gary McLelland on 07813060713 or

Humanist Society Scotland is the national charity for humanists, atheists, freethinkers and agnostics who seek to live an ethical, rational fulfilling life. We have over 14,000 members and our celebrants conducted more than 3,500 weddings last year.

  1. This news comes only weeks after HSS was given permission to proceed with a Judicial Review on restricted grounds.
  2. See the original letter from the Scottish Government to HSS on 13th June:
  3. HSS and Scottish Ministers jointly moved a motion for a Sist (legal term for ‘pausing’ the legal action) on 3rd November 2016 in the Court of Session, which was approved by Lord Clark.


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