Religious reps shouldn’t have a special say in our schools

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Unelected religious representatives should no longer be given a special say in education says Humanist Society Scotland

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7th March 2016 by Paul Cardwell 2 Comments

A Scottish charity has called for the removal of all unelected religious representatives from council education committees.

Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) is demanding politicians rip up a law, set in 1973, which states local authorities have to make three such appointments, claiming it is anti-democratic and out of step with modern Scotland.

In a new report, released in time for May’s Holyrood election, the society says 88 religious representatives are currently in place on boards across Scotland.

One representative to feature was Clackmannanshire’s Pastor David Fraser.

Last year, speaking at the funeral of five-year-old schoolboy Scott Chiriseri, he said Satan was to blame for the boy’s murder. Speaking at the launch of the Enlighten Up campaign outside the Scottish Parliament, Gordon MacRae, HSS chief executive, said: “The presence of unelected religious representatives is anti-democratic  and out of step with modern Scotland.

Parents should not be left guessing who has a right to make decisions over their children’s education

“Parents should not be left guessing who has a right to make decisions over their children’s education. Every full voting member of local education committees should be accountable through the ballot box.

“Instead, religious groups should have the same, not more, rights as teachers, parents, trade unions and community groups to contribute to and shape local education decisions.

“The law to force councils to appoint religious representatives only came in under the Conservative government in 1973. As we look to the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections we hope Scotland’s politicians will agree that it is time to end it once and for all.”

Authorities are required to appoint one representative from the Church of Scotland, and (with the exception of Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands and Western Isles) one representative from the Roman Catholic Church. Local authorities are then required to appoint an additional third representative based on the “comparative strength within their area of all the churches and denominational bodies”, except Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands and Western Isles who appoint two.

The HSS has over 14,000 members. Supporters of its latest campaign include Liz Lochhead, Scots’ poet and former Makar, as well as Dame Anne Glover, professor of biology, and former chief scientific advisor to the Scottish Government.

Glover said: “A vibrant and engaged modern Scotland needs an education policy that reflects the reality of modern Scottish society. That is why I support the Enlighten Up campaign for education reform in Scotland.”

The latest report follows on from the Religion in Scots Law report, funded by the HSS, last week, which found the position of religion in education has been significantly strengthened in recent years.

In response to the HSS, Church of Scotland principal clerk, the Very Rev John Chalmers, said there is no evidence for change being needed.

"The Church of Scotland regards its place at the table as appropriate and would not agree that religious influence on education has grown in recent years,” he said.

"It is measured and appropriate given that churches and faith groups of every kind are invited to reflect the traditions and beliefs which are a significant part of our common culture through religious observance and time for reflection.

"Repeated scrutiny of the current arrangements through the Scottish Parliament in recent years has not found any compelling need for change."

10th March 2016 by Rose

14000 members of the humanist society and several hundred thousand people who attend church, temple or mosque in Scotland each week

10th August 2016 by bodycount

Children have to chose what to learn. And religious representatives can't be involved in this process.