Thursday, June 05, 2008

UK Religious Education Policies Violate Human Rights, Critics Say

-- From "UK Religious Education Policies Violate Human Rights, Critics Say" by Kevin McCandless, Correspondent, 6/4/08

London ( - Charging that the human rights of teenagers are being violated, lawmakers and humanists are calling for religious education to be scaled back in British schools.

Christianity is the official state religion in the United Kingdom, and students in most public schools are required to take religious education classes and participate in acts of collective worship.

Such acts must be predominantly Christian in nature over the course of the year and might include opportunities for prayer and mediation, or assemblies with a religious theme. Schools with a majority of students who are of other faiths can apply for an exception to this rule.

Government surveys have found that a number of schools in England have neglected daily worship, but the requirement remains a sore point for many humanists.

Parents are allowed to keep their children out of religious education and daily worship, and since 2006, pupils in their final year of school also have been allowed to choose not to participate in worship.

Last month, a parliamentary human rights committee issued a report recommending that students below the age of 16 also be allowed to opt out of religious education classes and daily worship as long as they have "sufficient maturity, intelligence and understanding."

The lawmakers said forcing a student to engage in these activities was "incompatible" with the child's freedom of thought, conscience and belief. It also violated the European Convention on Human Rights, the report said.

The report by the parliamentary committee came shortly after Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, warned that Britain was in danger of becoming a "God-free zone."

"One of the things which I challenge is the desire to separate Christianity from rational inquiry," he said. "Many of our 'new atheists' seem unable to cope with the notion of an intelligent, reflective Christian faith."

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.