Humanist: 'Do not thrust religion on schools with daily worship duty'
Paul Kaufman, chair, East London Humanists
- Credit: Ellie Hoskins
In 2018 just one in five marriages were religious, according to the Office for National Statistics, which published the figures in August.
This comes after a British Social Attitudes survey found more than half of the public said they do not belong to any religion. This sea-change in belief should be reflected in our rights and institutions.
Decent people are horrified at the resurgence of fundamentalists in Afghanistan who seek to crush the rights of women, punish homosexuals and ban music.
The Taliban and so-called Islamic State terror group are of course at the extreme end of the religious spectrum. But a broader question is whether the religious should ever be able to dictate how the rest of us live.
I believe there are numerous examples of overreach in this country, but one stand-out is the sway religion holds in our schools.
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For example, the UK imposes worship in all state schools, including those without a religious character.
The requirement to hold a daily act of worship is enshrined in the outdated 1944 Education Act. Anyone relaxed in thinking this can be safely disregarded got a rude awakening in April.
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In answer to a Parliamentary question, education minister Nick Gibb said non-compliant schools will be "investigated" and "reminded of their duty on this matter".
Of course, the extremists in Afghanistan seek to impose their beliefs using brute force and cruelty.
We should be thankful for living in a country where we can freely campaign for equal rights. But we should not forget how our own gains in areas like women’s reproductive rights and gay equality have also involved long struggles against zealotry.
Freedom of belief, one of our most precious values, includes the right not to have religious doctrine thrust on us.
We who are free to campaign owe it to those who are not to do what we can to defend and extend everywhere advances made so far.