Secularists Will Challenge Threat To Stop R E Withdrawal
Proposals to scrap the right for parents to withdraw their children from Religious Education lessons have been attacked by the National Secular Society, on the grounds that such a move would be an abuse of human rights.
The proposal came in a report, A National Strategy for Religious Education by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, which is also suggesting a £60 million cash injection into RE teaching, which could be far better spent on general education.
Commenting on the proposals, Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said: “If the government goes ahead with this suggestion, the National Secular Society will launch a human rights challenge. An increasing number of parents are contacting us to ask how they can protect their children from what they see as proselytising in schools. They are not made aware of their statutory right to withdraw their children from both Religious Education and Collective worship, and even when they do find out about it, schools can be obstructive and some even refuse to permit it, even though they have no legal right to do so.”
Mr Wood added that “parents who do not practise any religion, probably the majority, were now becoming increasingly alarmed at the increasingly evangelical nature of religious education in some schools. Some of it, even employed brainwashing techniques – and this has been publicly defended by the highest educational authorities of the Church of England.
“Although we are told that RE teaches about religion and doesn’t teach how to be religious, we are receiving an increasing number of reports from people who tell us otherwise. While Religious Education remains heavily influenced by ‘faith groups’, with their vested interests, it will never be objective.
“The Government’s policy of increasing the number of single-religion schools also makes a mockery of the idea of objective teaching of religion. The whole point of these schools is to promote that particular religion – with the implication that it is superior. Religious Education as it is currently formulated is too easily hijacked by sectarian interests. It needs a much more radical rethink than the one recommended by the RE Council.”
7 May 2007