NSS calls for “secular overhaul” as NI religious landscape shifts

Posted: Thu, 22nd Sep 2022

NSS calls for “secular overhaul” as NI religious landscape shifts

The National Secular Society has called for a "secular overhaul" in Northern Ireland as those without a stated religion are now the second largest belief group.

Approximately 19% of people said they had no religion (17%) or did not state their religion (2%) in the 2021 NI Census, the results of which were published today.

In comparison, 17% said they were Presbyterian, while 12% belong to the Church of Ireland.

In 2011 17% of people said they had no religion or did not state a religion, compared with 19% Presbyterians and 14% Church of Ireland.

The largest belief group is now Catholicism for the first time. Approximately 42% of people in NI identify as Catholic, compared with 38% who belong to other Christian denominations.

In 2011 41% were Catholic, while 42% belonged to other Christian traditions.

Additionally, 46% of people in NI were raised Catholic, compared with 43% raised Protestant or according to another Christian tradition. In 2011, the figures were 45% and 48% respectively.

There has been an increase in those raised without a religion from 6% to 9%.

Around 93% of children in NI attend schools that are largely segregated along religious lines. A research paper from Ulster University published earlier this month has called for a single education system in NI, including an end to Christian-centric religious education and collective worship.

In July NI's High Court ruled that both religious education and collective worship breach children's human rights.

The NSS has supported movements to make NI's education more inclusive, including laws to promote integrated schools and to eliminate religious discrimination against teachers.

NSS: Integrated NI "must start with its schools"

National Secular Society chief executive Stephen Evans said the figures showed the need for a "secular overhaul" throughout the UK.

He said: "Northern Ireland's shifting demographics underline the necessity of promoting integrated, cohesive communities and ending segregation. And that must start with its schools.

"NI has already made significant progress in this area, but fundamental changes are still essential to ensure its schools treat all children and their families equally, regardless of religion or belief. That includes abolishing its collective worship laws and reforming its Christian-centric religious education, which have already been identified as in breach of human rights."

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