BHA Education Policy

Taken from its website in March 2008

Quotations in Green

"We believe that the rights and entitlements of both the religious and the non-religious can be respected within community schools."

Neither can be satisfied if either is being promoted. i.e unless RE is unbiased.

Religious Education must be honest and objective and the religions will not accept this. Ones view of religion is entirely a matter of opinion, and one cannot, or should not teach opinion as fact on any subject.

we propose that religious schools are phased out by absorption into a reformed community school system in which the faith communities are offered facilities for voluntary worship, religious instruction and other "accommodations" in line with developing anti-discrimination law.

I agree with the first half of this sentence but not the second.

There is no justification for schools to provide facilities for worship RI or any other accommodations, unless of these were to be balanced by equal promotion of atheist and secularist opinion. We do not agree that there should be any such promotion of ideology in children’s education.

We have researched and collated a mass of evidence in support of our arguments on religious schools and our briefings and policy papers have been widely disseminated - to policy-makers, to ministers, MPs, peers and civil servants, to education journals and the media, and at education conferences and seminars. Our views are respected and there is considerable support for our arguments, but also resistance to the radical changes we are demanding.

Humanists and secularists have been making the case for secular (unbiased) RE for many decades and it matters not how much rational evidence is produced – to the religious and the religions state or church – how much evidence we produce because it is not a matter of rationale, but one of politics and belief. Integrating religious schools is radical, but bringing back Religious Instruction in schools is a seriously retrograde step.

The expansion of religious schools, if it happens, will be piecemeal and local. Opposition will continue at local level, with BHA support.

This has always been the case and it has never succeeded (to my knowledge) in preventing any increase in the number church schools.

We are strongly in favour of inclusive school assemblies………. We oppose acts of collective worship in school, ……………………, and believe that the parental right of excusal is not a proper solution. We would like to see changes in legislation to give schools much more flexibility about how they conduct assemblies, the immediate withdrawal of Circular 1/94 (which insists on a narrow interpretation of the legal requirement for "broadly Christian" worship) in favour of new guidance from the DfES recommending inclusive assemblies, suitable for all. This should be followed by repeal of the legislation requiring acts of worship in schools.

The BHA policy on assemblies is muddled and contradictory. It should not be assumed that schools  have any responsibility for having any religious input into school assemblies – on the contrary, if humanists claim to embrace secularism, they should be promoting secular education and assemblies completely free from religion.

Much if not most of the general aspirational aims of the teaching of moral, values, critical thinking, philosophical, historical and community aspects are shared by humanists, secularists and athieists, but it is clear that there needs to be a more robust response to any claims by the religions that they have special insights or claims in these areas, and we should be demanding nothing less that honest and objective teaching if and when religions claims are made in places of education.

........Schools should, however, provide time and space for optional worship for those who want it.

This is the most contradictory, dangerous and retrograde sentence in the document. Inviting religious teaching back into schools would reverse the only advance in religion in schools that has been achieved by the secular humanist movement in the last 40 years. It opens schools up to become a battleground for the  religions with clerics, evangelists and imams competing for children's attention on school premises. Anyone who thinks such a policy would persuade the churches to give up their church schools is living in cloud cuckoo land and to imagine that some religions would not pressurise parents into volunteering their children to take part underestimates the struggle that is taking place between religion to keep their believers away from heretics and infidels. To imagine that evangelicals, Catholics and other enthusiastic preachers will not make the most of such a presence in schools that should be places of education not worship is naive in the extreme.

Campaign for Secular Education