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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Collective Worship

The National Secular Society seeks an end to the law that requires schools to hold acts of worship. We would instead like to see a duty on schools to ensure that all aspects of its curriculum, including assemblies, are respectful and inclusive of all pupils, regardless of their religion or belief, including non-belief.

School assemblies are an important feature of school life. Inclusive assemblies can play an important role in fostering a sense of community in schools. Assemblies with an ethical dimension are also an ideal time within the school day to promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils.

Acts of worship are neither necessary or desirable to achieve these important educational goals.

The law in England and Wales provides that children at all maintained schools "shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship". Even in schools with no religious designation, the worship must be "wholly or mainly of a Christian character".

The law as it stands is an anachronism; the legacy of a society unrecognisable from the diverse and pluralistic Britain of today where citizens hold a wide variety of religious beliefs, and increasingly, no religious beliefs.

Particularly in non-faith schools, school communities are made up pupils from a variety of religion and belief backgrounds. Even with limited withdrawal rights, requiring acts of 'broadly Christian' worship, in which pupils by law are required to "take part", undermines young people's freedom of religion or belief.

We maintain that laws that mandate worship go beyond the legitimate function of the state. It is notable that the United Kingdom is the only Western democracy to legally impose worship in publicly funded schools.

We therefore campaign for the obligation on schools to provide acts of worship to be lifted, enabling them to provide meaningful and relevant assemblies for all pupils, regardless of their religion or belief background.

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