Humanist Society drops court action against Scottish Government

Web religion in school

​The Scottish Government has issued new guidance to head teachers telling them to consider pupils' views when it comes to taking part in religious ceremonies

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30th March 2017 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

The Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) has dropped its legal threat to the Scottish Government after guidance regarding pupils taking part in religious ceremonies in schools was changed.

The Scottish Government today announced that from now on headteachers will have to ensure students views are considered when discussing their involvement in religious observance at school.

The HSS has been campaigning for young people to be allowed to opt out of religious observance at school if they wish to do so after the UN Children’s Rights Committee stated it believed that should be the case.

While the new guidance does not fully provide an independent statutory right for young people to opt out in Scotland, the society has decided to withdraw its legal action.

Gordon MacRae, chief executive of the HSS, told TFN that the organisation will instead work with young people to continue its campaign based on a human rights approach.

"Today's updated guidance gives young people in Scotland a voice, but not yet a choice, when it comes to their participation in religious observance in state schools," MacRae said.

"Scottish ministers are to be congratulated on this new guidance and for responding positively to the court decision to consider our judicial review last year.

“We were happy to agree a pause proceedings last December to allow them to take action and today's guidance is a clear step in the right direction in the protection of young people's human rights.

"Today's updated guidance only came about due to the legal action undertaken by Humanist Society Scotland and funded by our members and supporters.

"We remain disappointed that court has not had an opportunity to consider our view, backed by expert legal opinion, that the current religious observance requirements in the classroom is incompatible with young people's article 9 human rights to freedom of thought, belief or religion.

“HSS is now working with a number of young people to seek the earliest possible opportunity to support representations based on this human rights argument."

In England and Wales pupils who are 16 or over have been allowed the right to opt out of religious observance. In Scotland pupils' parents are able to do so on their behalf.