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Repeal the legal requirement on state maintained schools in England and Wales to practice ‘daily collective worship’ of a ‘broadly Christian character’

Comment 31st July 2010

Under statute law, guided by Department for Education guidance in the form of Circular 1/94 (Circular 10/94 in Wales), state maintained schools in England and Wales must provide 'daily collective worship' of a 'broadly Christian character'. The only exception to this are religious schools for which such worship is required but may be in line with the particular faith of that school. This law should be repealed immediately and non-religious state funded schools should have no requirement on them to facilitate worship which is, after all, a private and not a public matter. This in no way affects schools's opportunities or obligations to teach children about religion and faith issues, which is a matter of education and not preaching or worship.

Why does this matter?

The existence of the current statutory obligation is in direct contrast to the ideals of liberal democracy that this coalition Government advocates, whereby choice is held to be paramount. If parents wish to send their children to religious schools then they should feel free to do so, but to require all schools to provide such worship opportunities as a matter of default is entirely at variance with choice. Moreover, it forces the segregation of children who themselves, or whose families, do not wish to take part in such Christian worship. As such, it will facilitate a feeling of separation from mainstream society among different religious groups (such as Muslims) and among children of decidedly non-religious parents. Whilst this country's Christian heritage is important, and should be taught both as a matter of history and religious education in schools; to legally require Christian worship in schools today does more than teach this heritage: it prescribes a certain belief system and view of the world to children of new generations. This is incompatible with freedom of religion and should most certainly not be the case in 21st century Britain.

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