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LUDICROUS as it may seem, each pupil attending a community, foundation or voluntary school in England is required to take part in an act of collective worship each school day.
This, despite the fact that more than 50 percent of young people—the baby boomers, the millennials and generation Z—are all turning away from Christianity, according to latest figures.
Under the headline “Census data suggests UK faces ‘non-religious future’, say campaigners”, The Guardian reported this week that campaigners for non-religious people want the government to adjust public policy and “renegotiate the place of religion or belief in today’s society”.
Campaigners have been battling for years to get worship out of schools
As far back as I can remember, organisations such as the National Secular Society have vigorously campaigned to have collective worship in schools replaced with something far more relevant. I would suggest origami, which is far more engaging.
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Then in 2021 Liberal Democrat Baroness Burt of Solihull, above, introduced a private member’s bill—The Education (Assemblies) Bill [HL]—which reached its third reading in the House of Lords.
If and when it will be passed by parliament is anyone’s guess.
Burt’s bill points out that:
The UK is the only sovereign state in the world to impose Christian worship in state schools as standard. Many parents are unaware that compulsory worship takes place in their children’s schools, or that they have a right to withdraw their children from it.
However, there is no meaningful alternative to worship offered in the vast majority of schools, so parents are forced to choose between exposing their children to daily acts of worship or isolating them from their peers with little or nothing of educational worth to do.
UN entered the fray in 2016
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for the repeal of legislation concerning collective worship in schools.
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At the time anti-gay marriage campaigner David Burrowes, above, Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, described the recommendation as “ludicrous and mad.”
Law & Religion UK quoted him as saying:
The collective act of worship is not an indoctrination exercise. It is recognising and respecting the Christian heritage of the country and giving people an opportunity to reflect before the beginning of the day.
The UN should spend more time doing its main job of preventing war and genocide rather than poking its nose in other countries’ classrooms. We can respectfully put those kind of reports in the bin where they belong.
Stephen Evans, the National Secular Society’s Chief Executive, had welcomed the bill.
He has argued ending the requirement to hold acts of collective worship in non-faith schools would “strike a blow for children’s rights and common sense”.
Humanists UK has also given its support for the bill, stating current requirements concerning collective worship were “not appropriate for the diverse, multi-belief society that the UK is today”.
However, Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s chief education officer, has argued daily acts of collective worship should be retained in schools. He described them as:
[…] a powerful tool in bringing pupils together, giving them a rare opportunity to pause and reflect in the midst of a busy day.
In its guidance to schools for collective worship, the Church of England has said that religious assemblies should be “inclusive, invitational and inspiring”.
The Catholic Education Service has also stated its support of maintaining the requirement for collective worship in schools. It has argued that collective worship was essential, providing a “shared language of values to build a close-knit cohesive community” within schools.
Faith-based homophobia is hastening Christianity’s demise
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The Guardian report quoted Abby Day, above, a professor of race, faith and culture at Goldsmiths University of London as saying that last week’s rejection by the Church of England of demands to allow clergy to conduct same-sex marriages is likely to drive more young people away from the church, which continues to show itself as “radically out of step”.
Christianity is fading fast because of generational change The baby boomers, the millennials and generation Z are all turning away from Christianity.
Andrew Copson, the chief executive of Humanists UK, added that latest figures:
Serve to underline the archaic place that collective worship and faith-based discrimination have in our schools.
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