Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Rev calls to remove compulsory worship from UK schools

Fri 09 Aug 2019
By Heather Preston

A reverend is urging the government to change the law that obligates schools to provide an act of daily Christian worship to its pupils. 

Rev Steven Terry, Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education - an organisation that campaigns against religious discrimination in schools says that worship assemblies exclude others.

Speaking to Premier, Rev Steve said the law needs to be reconsidered: "quite simply, it's out of date with the situation that we have in modern society. The original legislation, of course, dates right back to the Butler act of 1944, which means its 75 years old.

 

He argues: "the world has changed greatly in the last 75 years. And anything that happens in school needs to take account of the society that we're currently operating in."

Most Britons agree, according to a new survey that suggests the majority of people consider compulsory school worship as "inappropriate".

A YouGov poll by Humanists UK found 50 per cent of people opposed the current legal obligation of a daily act of Christian worship.

The study also found that 72 percent of those surveyed want things like the environment and pupils' achievements to be talked about in assemblies instead.

Rev Steven says that the current law is unfair and not reflective of the diverse worldviews of modern Britain: "We live in an extremely diverse society, where all sorts of different views, both religious and non-religious, have been very much talked about and lived. And we feel that it is unfair, that any one particular religious approach should be given preferential treatment."

"It basically tends to the exclusion of the communities and groups, which do not accept the Christian approach to life.

When asked if we should be advocating for a Christian presence in our schools, given our country's heritage, he responded: "Education is there to prepare children and young people to engage with the world as it is, not with the world as it might have been, or as perhaps we might like it to be.

"Religious and non-religious worldviews need to be given equal and appropriate status within the curriculum as it is delivered.

"Collective worship really can't happen these days without being exclusionary, because, the number of people who profess a Christian faith has dwindled."

This comes after an atheist couple took legal action against an Oxford school over the issue.

The couple said they didn't want their child subjected to "harmful" and "divisive" messages that went against their "rights to receive an education free from religious interference."

Speaking on Premier's News Hour, Alice Probert from Faith in Schools has defended the positives of school assemblies, saying: "They encourage moral development, spiritual development and social development so they have a really important place."

Probert did however say those leading assemblies should tread carefully.

"People do need to be trained and equipped so it can be done appropriately so schools and parents are happy," she said. "It's really important we are authentic in our beliefs but to do it in an inclusive way."

 

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