May 16, 2008

Religious Education contravenes children’s human rights

by David Masters

A committee of MPs has released a report contending that forcing school children to engage in religious acts of worship and religious education classes could constitute a breach of their human rights.

The report from the cross-party joint committee on human rights states that any child of ‘sufficient maturity, intelligence and understanding’ should have the right to opt out of religious activity whilst at school.

This includes religious acts of worship in assemblies, and religious education classes.

If measures to allow opt-outs aren’t put into place, the committee warns that this could constitute a breach of children’s human rights under Article 9 of the European convention of human rights.

Currently only 6th form students are allowed to choose whether or not to attend religious acts of worship.

The National Secular Society welcomed the report, and have said that they will take legal action against the government if the report’s findings are not acted upon.

The British Humanist Association also support the report’s findings, and have written to the government endorsing the report.

However, the Church of England has defended the continuation of compulsory worship in publicly funded schools. Religious worship was made compulsory in schools in 1944.

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