BY SCO Admin | April 20 | comments icon 6 COMMENTS     print icon print


RE attacked by ‘opt out’ clause push

Humanist Society Scotland challenges religious education in schools

Secular campaigners are about to launch a new campaign against religious education in Scottish schools.

The Humanist Society Scotland is set to start pushing for parents to withdraw their children from religious education and religious observance.

The society, which campaigns against religion in education, claims schools’ legal obligation to offer a meaningful alternative to RE for those opting out is also not being delivered.

Michael McGrath, the director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, this week dismissed these claims as disingenuous.

Religious education

“Religious observance is a statutory part of the curriculum because successive governments believe it is an important part of a young person’s experience to develop spirituality,” Mr McGrath said. “The right for parents to opt out is included in every school handbook in the country.

“In practice, what we often find is that non-Catholic pupils talk very positively about being included in the faith life of the school and participating is positive for all concerned.”

A Church of Scotland spokesman also dismissed the secularists’ claims.


Since 2005, Scottish schools have been required to make parents aware they can remove their children from religious education and observance.

The Humanist Society is planning to advance their agenda at an exclusive conference next month, that charges £270 for a single attendee.

The Affording Parity of Esteem conference, which takes place next month in Edinburgh will look at ways to encourage parents to remove their children from religious education and will feature such noted opponents of Catholic education as Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

The Scottish Humanist Society openly admits on its website its opposition to Catholic schools, the single biggest provider of religious education in Scotland, and its aim to scrap them.

“Humanists wish to see all children educated together under the one roof,” it says. “God should be introduced as an idea and not a fact, especially to young and therefore impressionable children. The teaching of various religious stories should not contradict what they learn in science; there should be a clear distinction between the supernatural and the natural.”


Comments - 6 Responses

  1. Al Dente says:

    In reference to the ‘exclusivity of the conference’ snipe- do you not think that there’s an obvious comeback to that, bearing in mind the fabulousness wealth on display in Rome vs. the ongoing financial crises in many European states?

  2. dbwheeler says:

    Just as the nazis tried to destroy the Church in Germany and Stalin in Russia, the Church survived despite the horrendous persecution. Rational and thinking people (as opposed to those calling themselves HUMANISTS…oh, the irony) must never forget the millions and millions of Catholics that died in German death camps and Russian gulags. This is where it starts isn’t it? These vicious bullies won’t stop until judges uphold laws that protect religious freedom that is NOT a gift from government but the inalienable right from God. It’s so sad to see them gaining ground in Scotland. As our beloved Pope John Paul II said, “Be not afraid”.

  3. Angela says:

    Of course the Catholic Church has never done anything questionable based on its religious beliefs, and if you beleive that you are bigger fools than I thought

    • Liz Leydon says:

      With respect, mistakes, past or present, made by those within the Catholic Church have no bearing on the validity of Catholic education or of Catholic schools in Scotland today. Catholic education and schools, as protected by law, is not a personnel-based issue.

  4. Angela says:

    with mutual respect, parents rights to opt out is also protected by laws that most parents are not aware of, all the humanists want is some clarity and the right of the individual to choose, but more than that if RE and RO was unbiased there would be no need to opt out

  5. Billy McLean says:

    I consider myself to be a reasonable open minded and rational person and when I have said my piece I hope you will agree.

    First of all please let me defend Patrick Harvie and the Scottish Green Party. Their policy is not and never has been to shut down or ban Catholic schools. Patrick is a very intelligent, thoughtful and considerate sort of person who,like myself has friends who have deeply held religious beliefs, many of them Catholic. He simply thinks that those beliefs, or indeed anyone’s beliefs, including his own, should not be thrust upon children in our schools.

    The main thrust of the Scottish Greens policy on secular education is to attempt to move toward stamping out bigotry in Scotland. It never was, and never will be, an attempt to eradicate any faith or system of belief.

    Similarly it was never meant to be an attack on schools of any particular faith, the policy would apply equally to non denominational schools and simply seeks to ensure that children get a well rounded education where they learn about people of all faiths and none. Unfortunately the current situation where children are preached one faith whilst being taught about other faiths only serves, I think, to create, however unintentionally, a them and us mentality. In fact even the terminology used to describe other faiths as “other world religions” gives them an air of “airy fairy foreign stuff”

    When I was 5 years old growing up in Easterhouse in Glasgow my best friend was Catholic, I was protestant. We were both blissfully unaware of this until we had to go to seperate schools. From that day on the difference was made clear to us and although we felt no animosity towards one another we knew we weren’t the same as each other. Luckily for us our immediate circle of friends at the time were a mix of both Catholic and Protestant who weren’t bigoted and just took the difference as one of these things that didn’t make any sense but hey that’s grown ups for you, making up daft rules.

    When it did become an issue was when other kids from different areas would challenge us, often with the question “are you a Catholic or a Proddy?” Usually one of us would answer according to his alloted faith. If it was accepted then we were all that faith, if it wasn’t then we all fought on the same side ie all Catholic or all Protestant. I must say I did take a few good beatings on behalf of the Catholic church!:-)

    If we multiply this up and look at the history of Europe with Catholic and Protestant persecuting each other through the ages or consider events in the middle East today where people of all religions seem hell bent on killing each other, then highlighting religious differences doesn’t seem to me to be the sensible way forward.

    My vision is one where no faith of any kind is actually preached in schools. Time could be given for necessary religious observances as a basic human right eg Muslim need to pray at certain times of the day for instance.

    Children would be taught about all religions with represenatives of each religion attending the school to talk about their beliefs and traditions, children could even learn common prayers and acts of meditation practiced by the different faiths. They would be encouraged to contrast and compare different systems of belief and talk about their own beliefs or their family’s beliefs and share their experiences. They would also visit chapels Mosques Temples etc to see and experience acts of worship but from an educational perspective not one of indoctrination or persuasion. This would also extend to Humanists and other non faith based philosophies.

    Uppermost in this method would be the emphasis on accepting what other people believe and embracing their cultural traditions. Not just tolerance!

    This approach would prepare the children of today to go out into society well prepared to interact with the different cultures they will experience, not just in Scotland but world wide.

    Don’t you think that would be a better system than the one we have at present?

    Anyway that’s my tuppence worth

    Cheers for now


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