Give children the right to decide on religious services

School church service web

Forcing children to attend services in school time could impinge on their rights, charities have claimed

21st December 2017 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Charities and groups that work with young people have joined forces to call for a rethink on religion in schools.

A joint letter to cabinet secretary for education John Swinney calling for young people's rights to be respected when it comes to religion in school has been penned.

This follows a campaign, led by the Humanist Society, to respect young people's right to choose if they attend religious services during school hours.

The open letter has been written by the Humanist Society Scotland, Scottish Youth Parliament, LGBT Youth Scotland, Together - Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO). The call is also supported by the children's commissioner Bruce Adamson, who is making separate supporting representations to ministers.

A survey by the Humanist Society has revealed that over two thirds (67%) of Scots support allowing young people to choose whether they attend services.

Society chief executive Gordon MacRae said: "Given that 2018 is the Scottish Government's Year of Young People, we can't think of any better way to start the year than John Swinney confirming that he will respect young people's rights on freedom of religion and belief.

"The Scottish Government have properly placed universal rights at the heart of their plans for social security, health and justice. However when it comes to education there is a danger that ministers are talking the talk, but not walking the walk on young people’s right to freedom of thought, belief and religion.”

Amy Lee Fraioli, chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP), said that young people should have a say on religious observance.

She said: “Under the United Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is protected, and by forcing Scotland’s young people to participate in religious observance, this right is being flouted.

John Downie, director of public affairs for SCVO, said: “The idea of compulsory religious observance in school settings is archaic and ignores the fact that many people in Scotland are of no faith. You need only look at the Scottish Youth Parliament to see that society is changing and passionate, empowered young people are now more engaged and involved in decisions affecting their lives.”