Compulsory worship anomaly

The time is ripe for reform of the law which requires state schools to hold a daily act of Christian worship. Opinion piece Barking and Dagenham Post 29.9.21

This is the only country in the world which imposes Christian worship on state schools – even those without a religious character.  It cannot be right to tell children to pray to a god they don’t believe in, or sit in another room separated from their classmates.  A bill supported by Humanists UK offers hope of reform.

The law that schools must hold a daily act of Christian worship goes back to 1944. If you believe it can be safely disregarded, then think again. In April Education Minister Nick Gibb said in a Parliamentary answer that schools which don’t comply will be ‘investigated’ and ‘reminded of their duty…’   

The private members bill passed its second stage in the House of Lords on 10 September. It aims to replace the current archaic requirement with assemblies which bring ‘all children together in a community to reflect on matters that affect them – and us all.’  The bill was supported by peers across party lines, and by the former Bishop of Oxford, but not by the present Bishop or the Government Minister, Baroness Chisholm.

Figures recently published show only one in five marriages in 2018 were religious. According to the latest British Social Attitudes survey 71% of 18–24-year-olds say they belong to no religion. Religious die-hards are anxious to turn back the tide. But fairness and social cohesion call for school assemblies, and schools, which are inclusive and respectful of all faiths and none.

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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