Charity’s court battle with Scottish Government put on hold

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​Humanist Society Scotland's call for a judicial review into religious observance policy in schools has been paused until 31 March

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8th February 2017 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

A court battle between the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) and the Scottish Government has been put on hold until 31 March.

The charity is challenging government ministers over their decision not to allow pupils to decide for themselves whether they take part in religious activities occurring in schools.

It was granted permission to proceed with a judicial review by the Court of Session in October but agreed to pause proceedings shortly afterwards.

The court has now granted another pause in the proceedings to allow the Scottish Government to complete a review into the guidance for religious observance in state schools, and issue new guidance.

The decision follows on from a meeting last week between deputy first minister John Swinney and the Humanist Society where issues of children’s rights were discussed.

At the meeting the society reiterated its concerns that a lack of ability to opt-out for young people may breach the European Convention on Human Rights, and that the society is committed to testing it.

A consultation on the guidance for religious observance in state schools is ongoing, and due to be concluded on 24 February.

Although amended guidance will not result in a legal right for young people to opt-out, Humanist Society has previously welcomed it as a step in the right direction.

Commenting on the latest announcement, HSS chief executive Gordon MacRae said: “We welcome this opportunity to work constructively with the Scottish Government. Everyone wants to avoid unnecessary court action, however it is our job to stand up for the rights of children in this process.

“We hope that the Scottish Government can conclude its narrow review of this guidance quickly, and avoid further costly court action.

“At my meeting with the deputy first minister I stressed our commitment to children’s rights, and asked him to take all steps necessary – including legislation – to ensure that the human rights of Scotland’s young people are respected.”