ESS response to the Woolf Commission’s Report

We were disappointed by the conclusions of the Woolf Institute’s report on Religion and Belief in British Public Life chaired by Baroness Butler-Sloss. 

We applaud that it has called for the abolition of the requirement on schools to provide a daily act of worship but its answer to the problems of Christian privilege seems to be the similar promotion of other religions in the name of fairness.

The way in which religion is reported by the press is proposed to be policed by a panel of “religious experts.” This is a dangerous precedent. 
Despite its conclusion that faith schools do “segregate children” the report makes no recommendations to remove their exemption from equality legislation and meekly calls on bodies responsible for school admissions to “reduce selection on grounds of religion in both pupil admissions and employment practices.” 

Perhaps most disturbingly its answer to the anachronism of unelected bishops in The House of Lords (unique among Western democracies) is to have more unelected representatives from other religions! 

The freedom to believe in any religion is not in doubt but these issues of Christian imbalance in a society which is increasingly multi-faith and generally less religious are better addressed by protecting all religious beliefs as privately held views with none enjoying unrepresentative public privilege. 

Neil Barber 
Edinburgh Secular Society

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