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Plans to stifle Christian freedoms in schools

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The requirement for schools to have an act of collective worship should be abolished, says a report co-authored by former Education Secretary Charles Clarke.

The report claims there should be a “new settlement” in the relationship between religion and schools, and the obligation for compulsory worship has failed to keep up with changes in attitudes to religion since its introduction in the 1940s.

The wide-ranging plans found in the report would see the Government seize control of religious education in church schools, forcing them to teach humanism, a system of beliefs only 15,067 people subscribed to in the 2011 Census.

Clarke and the report’s co-author Linda Woodhead, a professor of sociology of religion at Lancaster University give thanks to Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Society (BHA) for his help with the report.

The report entitled “A new settlement: Religion and Belief in Schools” backs a number of the policies endorsed by the BHA, such as reviewing the freedom of church schools to appoint Christian teachers.

The report calls for:

  • The scrapping of the law on daily Christian assemblies in schools
  • A new national religious education syllabus drafted in consultation with “representatives of religions, humanism and other belief systems”
  • The Government to consider forcing all independent schools, as well as all state schools, to adopt the proposed new national syllabus
  • A review into the current arrangements which allow schools with a Christian ethos to recruit Christian teachers, claiming there are “legitimate concerns about their necessity and their effects”.
  • The ending of the right of parents to withdraw their children from religious education when the new national RE syllabus is implemented
  • The stopping of any “religious instruction” on school premises, from Christian Unions or any State funded school
  • Reconsideration of the ability of church schools to control the inspection of their own collective worship and RE

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern said:

“The proposals found in this report would have a profoundly negative impact on our schools, if they were implemented leading to a further erosion of Christian freedoms.

“Church schools would be stripped of their identity and ethos, losing control over their staff appointments.

“The plans found in this report are deeply worrying. They stifle the freedoms schools currently enjoy and make those schools wide open to legal action from secular campaign groups like the British Humanist Association, and National Secularist Society.”

Related News:
Scotland's Education Minister: 'Creationism should not be taught in schools'
Christian ethos school challenges Education Secretary

Related Coverage:
Ban morning prayers: Christian worship in schools should be scrapped, says Charles Clarke (Express)
Call to end compulsory worship in schools (BBC)