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Church of Scotland calls for references to "religious observance" in schools to be removed

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The Church of Scotland has joined the Scottish Humanist Society in calling for references to “religious observance” to be removed from the 1980 Education (Scotland) Act.


In a joint submission to Holyrood’s public petitions committee, the two groups have called for the phrase “religious observance” to be replaced with “time for reflection”.  

The submission claims that the move would make religious observance in schools more "inclusive" and ensure that “one faith belief system [is not] promoted over another”.


The recommendation comes as the committee considers proposals from the Scottish Secular Society to require parents who want their children to participate in religious observance to “opt-in”.

Currently, religious observance, such as assemblies, is compulsory in Scottish schools.

“Secularist agenda”

But the proposals have been strongly criticised by other Christian denominations, with one leader of the Free Church of Scotland describing it as a sign that the Church was “capitulating to the secularist agenda.”

"We have the extraordinary situation where the Church of Scotland, which claims to be the Church of John Knox, is undermining his core policy, that there should be a Christian school in every parish,” said Rev David Robertson, minister of St Peter’s Free Church in Dundee and director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity.

“Prevent Christian worship”

“We now have a so-called national church collaborating with atheists to prevent Christian worship and prayers happening in the State education system – a system created by the churches when they handed over their schools on condition that they remained specifically Christian.

“I sometimes wonder if the Monty Python scriptwriters are running the Church of Scotland – essentially they are helping godless secular humanism to be lifted to the status of state religion.”

“Stab in the back for Christianity”

He added: “If the Church of Scotland stab in the back for Christianity is accepted I would suggest that Christians should automatically opt their children out of this compulsory state godless religion.

“It would be far better to have meaningful Christian worship which pupils and teachers could ‘opt in’ to, rather than force everyone to go to the beige, bland, brain-dead, unquestioning banalities that would inevitably result.”

Pastor Ade Omooba, co-founder of Christian Concern, says: “Religious observance in schools is based on Christian teaching.  To change this to a ‘time for reflection’ is another attempt by secularists to remove the influence of Christianity in public life. 


“It is of great sadness that the Church of Scotland has cowered to pressure from secular groups on this issue, and is now at the forefront of the call for this change.

“Christian assemblies have been an integral contributor to the moral bedrock of society for decades.  It should be recognised that Christianity is not just a private observance but is for the good of all.”


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