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It is important that children be made aware of religion. It has had a huge impact on our history and culture and the Bible is as important a work of literature as Shakespeare, Homer or Dickens. However, biblical stories should not be presented as fact to intellectually defenceless children. Yes, explain to children in an optional R.E. class that a religious worldview is a means by which some adults administer their lives, but in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, schools must provide an equal platform for non-belief so as young people can make up their own minds.

It is quite wrong that religious creationism should be considered as a viable alternative to the scientific facts of evolution and should never be taught in a science class. Schools should have policies in place to prevent religious indoctrination in education.

There should be no sectarian “faith schools” which serve only to divide communities, exclude pupils and discriminate in employment against teachers who do not declare appropriate religious allegiances.

Our local education committees are required to appoint three or four statutory religious representatives which are simply nominated by their respective churches. This privileged access to influence over education fails to represent the majority of children whose parents have no religious beliefs or indeed children of parents with non-Christian religious beliefs.  These representatives are not elected and not accountable to the local electorate.

There should be no routine religious instruction or organised worship in publicly funded schools. Scottish schools are obliged to provide “religious education” classes for pupils and a minimum number of “religious observance” assemblies. While there is provision made for parents to withdraw their children they then often have to sit alone as if being punished. Not surprisingly most parents go along with things to avoid the stigma of exclusion for their child and to avoid having to declare their position on religion to the head teacher. Religious observance serves not only to divide and disadvantage children but it carries a real risk of religious indoctrination as it opens the school gates to proselytising teachers and organisations, e.g. Scripture Union.

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