Thursday, September 15, 2016

Catholic Church hits back over 'opt out of religion' call for pupils

Image result for catholic church scotlandHUMANISTS should set up their own schools in Scotland rather than seeking to change the way existing establishments are run, the Catholic Church has said. 

The suggestion comes after the Humanist Society Scotland launched a legal challenge to give pupils the right to opt out of religious observance. 

The HSS is seeking a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh after the Scottish Government rejected calls for a change to the current rules which permit only parents to opt out on their children’s behalf.

The action follows a recent review by the United Nations Children’s Rights Committee which recommended the parental right to opt out of religious observance should be extended to young people. 

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “The church supports wider forms of denominational provision where there is public demand and where the management and regulation of such schools is in accord with national guidance and practice. At present, schools in the state sector do not reflect the plurality of beliefs in society.Although only a very small number of Scots adhere to a secular humanist belief system that should not disbar them from seeking to have their children educated in accordance with their beliefs. 
If demand exists and secular humanist schools, were to be managed and regulated in accordance with national guidance and practice, as Catholic schools are, there is no reason why they could not be established." 

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church of Scotland's church and society council, said faith continued to play a significant part in the lives of a great many people. 

He added: "The idea of a Time for Reflection in schools is something we support. Such moments do not seek to indoctrinate or give preference to one faith tradition, but instead enable shared reflection and a deepening of our understanding of the rich range of spiritual and secular traditions held within our society." 

In Scotland, all young people require parental permission to opt out of religious observance, unlike England and Wales where sixth form pupils – typically aged between 16 and 18 – have the right to opt out. 

A Scottish Government spokesman said religious and moral education enables children to “explore, debate and, more importantly, understand” the world’s major religions “as well as approaches to living independent of belief”. 

He added: “Religious observance is a whole-school activity which should be sensitive to traditions and origins, and should seek to reflect these but it must equally be sensitive to individual beliefs, whether these come from a faith or non-faith perspective.” 

In its report, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child stresses its concern children in Scotland do not have the right to withdraw from “collective worship without parental permission”. 

It concluded: “The committee recommends the state party repeal legal provisions for compulsory attendance at collective worship in publicly funded schools and ensure that children can independently exercise the right to withdraw from religious worship at school.”

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