The Guardian’s “Comment is free” pages ask the questions about compulsory, collective, “broadly Christian” worship in schools. Remember it’s not just ‘faith’ schools but even state-run comprehensives that are meant to perform these divisive daily acts in assemblies and wotnot. (As the Guardian points out, the BHA campaigns for a repeal of required collective worship, so that assemblies can talk about values and explore philosophy and belief in a more inclusive way.)
All schools are required by law to have an act of worship of “wholly or mainly Christian character” every day. Almost all don’t. So what should be done about this? The British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society want the requirement abolished entirely. There is a very small lobby in favour of enforcing it exactly as it stands.
There are, perhaps, two questions to distinguish here. Should there be any kind of daily collective affirmation of values in a school? There is a large apathetic party that would argue against this. And how particular should these values be, and how much should they be allowed to vary between schools? Obviously the values of an explicitly humanist school would differ from those of an explicitly Catholic or Muslim one.
The question is asked: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/jan/10/schools-christian-worship-state-role
(Not that there are ‘humanist’ schools as such in the UK.)
Cif’s first featured response is from “Mouse” of Church Mouse blog.
Mouse reckons that the law should be changed to end the mandatory worship requirement. Instead, schools should be required to allow faith organisations to establish voluntary clubs.
Mouse speaks: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/jan/10/religious-experience-schools
It seems Mouse doesn’t like the BHA very much. On the one hand the furry critter’s suggestion could actually sound a bit like the BHA’s policy (PDF) which allows for some “‘reasonable accommodations’ to meet the legitimate wishes of religious pupils and their parents”… but probably wouldn’t stretch to regular trips from just any organisation calling itself religious to “voluntarily” siphon off pupils into divisive little groups during school hours. After all, if religious practice was really optional and delivered by external organisations, then why shouldn’t it be outside school time? During school hours we can then focus on the beliefs and values that pupils are more likely to share together. That’s a thought echoed by today’s response from New Humanist editor, Caspar Melville.
In the interests of honesty, clarity and simplicity I support the British Humanist Association’s call for the government to withdraw the statuary guidance on collective worship currently in place, and produce new guidance about how to conduct school assemblies, focusing on shared values appropriate to our polyglot multicultural society, with lots of flexibility so that heads can adapt to their local circumstances. Most schools do an admirable job of ignoring the law and have rebranded and desanctified dreary Christian rituals (this year my son’s brilliant Christmas play was called CinderAbba, you can imagine why), but we should remove the threat of them being penalised for this, and protect young people from overzealous religionists in the future by rationalising the rules now.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]Guardian asks: Should schools require Christian worship?,