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East London Humanist chair Paul Kaufman is thrilled about changes to religious education syllabus

PUBLISHED: 10:49 16 December 2015 | UPDATED: 10:50 16 December 2015

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The government has just sustained a massive defeat in the courts in proceedings brought by the BHA (British Humanist Association).

In its landmark decision the High Court decided that government was wrong to exclude the teaching of non-religious world views, such as Humanism, from the GCSE Religious Education syllabus. In the judgement delivered on November 25 Mr Justice Warby said “….the state must accord equal respect to different religious convictions, and to non-religious beliefs.” The ruling means that government must now reconsider the contents of the Religious Education syllabus and must include teaching about Humanism. It has far reaching implications for policy.

The fact the case had to be brought at all is one example of the powerful hold the conservative religious lobby has over this government’s policies. Another is its refusal to legalise Humanist marriages, a right afforded in Scotland and to even the most obscure religious sects here. Perhaps most concerning is its headlong rush to create more faith schools. There is increasing recognition across of the risk posed by dividing children at the school gate based on their parents’ faith. The government attempt to exclude the teaching of Humanism flew in the face of advice from leading theologians who value broad and inclusive education, such as Farid Panjwani, Director of the Centre for Research and Evaluation in Muslim Education at the Institute of Education, and former Archbishop Rowan Williams. It is also important to pay tribute to forward thinking boroughs such as Newham who do already include teaching about Humanism in local authority schools.

It’s hoped government will have learned that to build a cohesive society and tackle religious extremism all children in all schools should receive a balanced education and think critically about the range of different world views. More from Paul

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