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Christian school assemblies breach children's rights, says UN

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The United Kingdom has been undermining the human rights of children by making them attend school assemblies, with collective acts of worship, according to a United Nations Committee report.

The controversial report expresses concern that collective acts of worship are "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character" and that children have to seek parental permission to withdraw from them.

Produced by a group of 18 experts with "high moral and recognized competence" the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child published its fifth periodic review of the state of children’s rights in the UK, yesterday.

The report contains 150 recommendations about where Britain could be breaching the UN Charter on the Rights of the Child. However, it has been criticised for not recognising the great Christian heritage of the country.

A hindrance to 'freedom of thought, conscience and religion'?

It calls on the government to repeal a law which requires publicly funded schools to hold a daily act of collective worship, of a broadly Christian character, under claims it would hinder a child’s "freedom of thought, conscience and religion".

The Committee was concerned "that pupils are required by law to take part in a daily religious worship which is 'wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character' in publicly funded schools in England and Wales, and that children do not have the right to withdraw from such worship without parental permission before entering the sixth form."

It added: "The Committee recommends that the State party repeal legal provisions for compulsory attendance at collective worship in publicly funded schools and ensure that children can independently exercise the right to withdraw from religious worship at school."

The report also advocates for the introduction for mandatory sex-education - including lessons on LGBT children; pohibiting corporal punishment within the family; and for Northern Ireland to repeal its ban on abortion.

'Ludicrous and mad'

The report has provoked strong criticism from Conservative MP, and Parliamentary Chairman of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, David Burrowes. Labelling the report as "ludicrous and mad" David Burrowes, who led a Tory rebellion over changes to Sunday trading laws, told The Telegraph: 

"The collective act of worship is not an indoctrination exercise. It is recognising and respecting the Christian heritage of the country and giving people an opportunity to reflect before the beginning of the day." 

He added: "The UN should spend more time doing its main job of preventing war and genocide rather than poking its nose in other countries' classrooms. We can respectfully put those kind of reports in the bin where they belong." 


Speaking to Christian Concern Gill Robins, of Christians in Education, said: "A regular time set aside for spiritual reflection is a vital part of school life which allows students space in a busy day to reflect on their personal response to the big questions of life: Who am I? Why am I here? How then should I live? To remove this opportunity, which is part of our Christian heritage, would be to narrow the spiritual provision which all schools are required to make."

The aim of Christians in Education is to support Christians working in the world of education, to challenge them to be salt and light, and to inspire them as they live out your faith in contemporary culture. Visit their website for a mixture of resources, news and more.

Related Links: 
Making children attend Christian school assemblies undermines human rights, United Nations warns (Telegraph) 
Committee on the Rights of the Child: Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UN)
Christians in Education (Christians in Education)