National Secular Society, England, UK discussed on National Secular Society Podcast
Would sing hymns say prayers and listen to sermons week after week. We sang about the bliss which only the Children of Zion would have access or exhauted sorted each other too smart the troops of million after one of these invigorating sessions. I remember a senior teacher long since retired coming onto the stage and repeating with Gusto the part about non-christians being damned for eternity even back then in the hotter rural England there were a number of students in the audience who had Jewish Jewish Muslim or from a nonreligious culture like China quite apart from inveterate unbelievers like myself nonetheless our daily Christian worship although in theory it might have been optional was in practice compulsory and even though it gave heathens like me something rebel against it was hardly conducive to a tolerant atmosphere but that was two decades ago since then we in Britain become on average less religious as a nation and more diverse in our religious affiliations affiliations or lack of them given this variety of beliefs in the country today. Surely no-one still expects school children to have to engage gauge collectively in Christian worship or any other kind of worship on a daily basis. It turns out that there are two on sister this question the legal opposition and the actual practice in schools. Neither is particularly satisfactory from a secularist point of view and that's why abolishing collective worship is still on the national secular societies campaign list. I am now joined by Alastair Richton to find out more Alastair. Hello I am I this. Can you explain what the lure was. In terms of collective worship in schools well the law mandates that all school children take part in a daily out of broadly Christian collective worship like so much else this dates back to the seminal nineteen forty four education act although the common law is found in the nineteen ninety eight school standards and Framework Act Northern Ireland has assigned requirements and in Scotland. There is religious observance events at which he didn't faces is being replaced with time for reflection a term collective. Worship is a problem as it doesn't really sum up what it what it's all all about. I mean if you had a collective within the school who wanted to come together for worship for volunteer. Ship may be a lunchtime or after school club now. It'd be very different issue. The issue here is that it's mandated worship mandated by the state to be directed often coerced by school authorities which is why campaign is to end compulsory worship in schools how does the position in England and Wales compare with Lou and other countries well very differently the UK as far as we know is the only democratic country which leaked the imposes a daily act of worship in state schools miss. We completely a in almost any of modern liberal democracy. We have such a variety of schools in this country state schools independent schools this faith schools. How is the legal requirement for collective worship enforced in these different schools in practice. How much room is there for schools to interpret the the law in their own way in practice. Most schools ignore the requirements or simply reinterpreted in such a way that they hold perfectly inclusive topical Michael Ethical Assemblies we say then just cool collective worship and they might have a moment of silence of the end to invite people to pray or affected that they want but they basically carry out December with no directed at no element of directed worship. The requirement is in fact so unpopular in popular offset of long since abandoned any sort of enforcement inspection of and the deify tacitly supports position although the situation he's he's very different in faith schools for example. It's well over ninety percent of Chechnya primary schools according to recent survey have daily Christian collective worship ship and also a non-faithful community for schools. We have the particularly religious head teacher or group within the school who wants him. WHO's King Tempos Hose isn't keen to take a literal interpretation of the requirement unequally some schools managed to the right to draw reasonably well but this the woman is seen as unsatisfactory because parents really don't want their children marked out by being withdrawn and scores can make this difficult as well. It sounds it's like there is a lot of room for maneuver and the situation very much depends on the school. So what are the National Secular Society's biggest objections to collective elective worship requirement is quite important. We don't believe the states. We mandating directed worship. It's a violation of pupils freedom of belief and without now any educational basis or justification this goes so clearly and obviously against principles of equality. That's actually requires. Its own special exemption. I'm from the Equality Act wash. It should be voluntary and it should never be imposed coerced mandated. If your possibly awesome religious community fan of worship personally that's fine but you may not appreciate the matters of exclusivity sends you may not just appreciate just how alien this practices too many families and the way in which many parents want to raise their children as long as we had this leak requirement it provides a platform from those that do want to impose their religion and worship in schools whether that's School of foreign or external evangelical groups so it's it's the NSS campaigning for change in the law changing the law the understanding of the various law laws across the UK is a must but the columbine could do better to manage the situation with improved guidance his longtime. This was updated last month. We vote. The New Education Secretary Gathering Williams aww urging him to consider an update guidance and we hope that will happen in the next parliament needs to make clear what schools need to do to provide vita meaningful alternative to worship and meaningful to a genuine meaningful alternative that doesn't stigmatize or cause any detriments redrawn pupils pose the CONNOISSEUR car exactly what for fleeing the collective requirement collective worship require means this could regulate regulate realized situation where schools milly hold an assembly in which there is an opportunity for voluntary worship without them directing it or imposing it and also the should make clear what consultation if any school fortieth need to take particularly those we've leadership protected committee for Community Committee squeak for says to ensure that policy is suitable for their community. Is there a particular reason why the NSS should be concerned with this issue right now. The Autumn term tends to see a big uptick in all case work related to impose worship in schools simple. Reason reason is that many parents are only just now discovering the requirements. You also tend to get a lot of stuff around Christmas. Unfortunately some schools try make make Christmas assemblies a particular religious or other schools. Even Gusts Foss trying to exclude people some so Christmas related activities that we've drawn from collective worship big issue. The moment in England is a case of the Harris family. The harassed on me yeah this. This is since it's been taken up by the unsupported by the Humanist Association so that's put the issue in the news a low background on that we supported the Harris family last year they attend to community was Academy Nassir Faith School but part of a Christian Monte can trust which they feel is acting a bit like a faith school and the way in which the Christian worship is managed makes withdraw very difficult lack of any meaningful alternative so that's a human rights case that's going for at the moment will follow closely and the where we expect that this is going to push the DSP into making in some sort of new guidance which could be good or bad for us but we'll keep up the pressure and need to wait and see elsewhere in the UK in Wales. It's moving up the agenda as the big curriculum reform issues start to move on this could be one of the next issue look at they're also campaigns in Scotland learned whether has already been some reform and in Northern Ireland so we across the UK. Are you getting any other specific examples of parents or that children. I'm talking to you about difficulties. They've been counted yet. I mean we just look at the stats dot our page on compulsively worship and information condado is one of the most visited there's a wide range of practice in terms of how exclusive or how aggressively the worship element is pushed ashed various testimonies on the website and is a big part of our casework. That's no people approaching us for help. Although there are few parents then go onto withdraw their children because of the difficulties that can come with that with ad community schools with prayers four times a day pupil sold off or not taking parv off parents accused of intolerance or just Natoli not welcome at the school because I don't want their children being directed to pray to religion they don't follow and all of it is not not getting into any of the other more extreme or outlying samples we have external evanger who groups or local local religious religious leaders coming in to lead worship for example with parents people's really upset by one assembly were paper cops were apparently set on fire one one wet and dry and this was to symbolize and teach that Christian baptism is necessary to avoid how completely inappropriate lesson to be teaching in a school but about British society as a whole. Is there widespread support for keeping the collective worship requirement on the statute book absolutely not just this week actually we've seen the just the recording the church and then released a new poll spinning to claim support collective worship overseen they understand that the collective worship requirements populace they didn't appear to ask about in the poll and then just use the press release to suggest it that the tip wash it was possible loss year our own polling in conjunction with census. White found that just twenty ninety six percent felt of the public school assemblies need to feature worship. All the polling is is sporadic. Ns there was a in the newsroom law in two thousand eleven when there was a comrade survey for the BBC and that found that around seventy percent of parents were opposed to enforce in the requirement. How do you see public perception of the collective worship requirement developing in the future well pretty society looks set that just keep getting more religious religious diverse unless religious the idea of needing the state to mandate particular impose particular religious activities seems more and more old fashioned a legal requirement from the nineteen forties seems complete in Congress. Stay and there's no do. We really think there's anything suggested this requirements can have become more popular on more suitable for skulls of course many schools will just continue to muddle on motto. Fru as they are at the moment but the pressure for reform is just going to keep going up and up. You've told us about the reasons then for opposing collective worship what is the NSS actively doing at the moment to campaign against it. We're in regular contact with the deify and Dan devolved administrations on this issue continuing to build up the evidence Bankin to raise public awareness so ready to respond to consultations in case pressure up and the main thing we do is we probably loss of casework support so parents pupils and even school was affected by the requirement and if we is concerned and members of the public agree with you. What can we do to support the necessities. Campaign were linked to the campaign page show notes that'd be really helpful if you could visit and use our temp letter to write to your MP or MSP or am you can sign the national petition which before the two devolved administrations as well you can really get the.