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Civil religion in the UK, Canada, Australia and the Commonwealth

By Norman Bonney,
Manchester University Press, October 2013

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Monday, 2 September 2013

Why does the Scottish Government give 'guidance' on religious worship in state schools?

On Tuesday (3 September 2013 ) a petition is being presented to the Scottish Parliament to change pupil’s participation in state school religious observance from an ‘opt-out’ to an ‘opt-in’ basis. But isn’t a debate needed in the Scottish Parliament as to whether there should be religious worship at all in our schools?

Scottish Government guidance on religious observance was re-issued in in 2011. That government should be issuing ‘guidance’ is surely, in itself, questionable. What business does government have in determining religious rituals in school?

The guidance holds out ‘Time for Reflection’ (TFR) in the Scottish Parliament as a model for religious observance in schools. But to be reflective of belief in Scotland TFR has had to provide time for 6 major faith traditions (Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Judaism, Bahai’i) and 14 different Christian denominations but even then it has not given fair representation to atheist, humanist and other non-religious beliefs.

I have some considerable sympathy for teachers given the impossible task of creating unifying religious observance for pupils from such diverse backgrounds which all insist on own their separate religious distinctiveness.

Also worrying is the shelter which the current guidance gives to Christian evangelical groups to step into our schools to influence the education of our children as is evident a new report by the Edinburgh Secular Society.

Is it not about time that the Scottish Parliament fulfilled its initial promise of more transparent and participatory government by actually debating whether religious observance in our schools should be a compulsory legal requirement at all?

Letter in the Scotsman 2 September 2013. Full version
For more on Christian evangelical penetration of state schools visit