Tag Archives: Religious Observance

Scottish state schools must have prayers! (religious observance). Westminster laws inherited in 1999 by Scottish Parliament still prevail.

ESS Communications Officer, Neil Barber, explains in the Scotsman (14 June) the difference between Religious and Moral Education and religious observance;

RME teacher Isdale Anderson accurately describes the important need for religious education:To remove religious education from schools would be to leave pupils ignorant of the beliefs of millions of the world’s population” (letters 13th June). However, her description of her work as “ teaching religious and moral education (RME) in state non-denominational secondary schools” underscores an ongoing concern.

In addition to RME, so-called “non-denominational” schools are statutorily obliged to have regular Religious Observance (RO) which is often led by evangelising outsiders who might be less concerned than Ms Anderson to “encourage pupils to think for themselves.” RO is quite different from RME and, depending on the ethos of the school and the personal beliefs of the head teacher, may become exactly the “force-feeding” which she rightly condemns.

Let us not blur the distinction between RO and the work done by conscientious RME teachers like Ms Anderson.

The laws that govern religious observance in Scottish schools were determined by the UK Westminster Parliament before devolution and are similar to those that apply in England. They have never been reviewed by the Scottish Parliament in the fifteen years of its existence. Is it not about time that it used the powers that it has?

‘Reconciliation is the business of the church’

Says the new Moderator of the Church of Scotland. But what about:

  • the over 500 year split with the Church of Rome?
  • the refusal to give up Church of Scotland nominations to every Scottish local authority education committee
  • Insistence on conducting religious observance in all ‘non-denominational’ state schools
  • insistence on continuing preeminent positions among churches if voters agree to independence
  • insistence on continuing with legal privileges established with the Act of Union of 1707 even if there is a new Scottish constitution after a ‘yes’ vote
  • claims Church should be able to continue to conduct marriages and conduct prison chaplaincies

Not much of a record of achievement of reconciliation there!

Image from Coventry Cathedral

Concerns about school prayers raised in Scottish Parliament and with Edinburgh City Councillors

Edinburgh Secular Society’s  second Petition Bulletin concerning the petition to hold a local ballot to end prayers in Edinburgh schools highlights concerns about religious observance in Scottish schools raised by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council as well as by ESS.

END, NOT AMEND, SCOTTISH SCHOOL PRAYERS

This Bulletin has been sent to all elected members in Edinburgh.

Second Petition Bulletin.

ESS Press statement on sectarianism in relation Scottish schools

Saturday 14 December 2014 – For immediate release

A recently published report commissioned by the Scottish government  (Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland Independent Advice to Scottish Ministers and Report on Activity 9 August 2012 – 15 November 2013) claims that denominational schools have no causal influence on sectarianism.

This seems hard to believe.

The report expresses concern about sectarianism but offers no alternative explanation for its existence.

It is incredible that even as the advisory group endorses educational apartheid according to the religious beliefs of parents, it urges schools both to work on their “co-operation and relationship building” and to be “imaginative” in constructing “anti-sectarian partnerships.”

It flatly contradicts the experience of Northern Ireland which has had to deal with this problem at its most acute. Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said in November 2011 "We cannot hope to move beyond our present community divisions while our young people are educated separately.”

Edinburgh Secular Society Education Officer and parent Veronica Wikman says:

“Segregation of children is always going to be counter-productive to the aim of creating social cohesion. It is naïve to suggest that segregated schools are not a huge contributing factor to sectarianism.”

ESS Press and Communications Officer Neil Barber adds:

”This suggestion flies in the face of common sense. Is the faith school lobby so powerful that the Government’s advisory group on tackling sectarianism is ignoring the elephant in the room?”

Response to Church of Scotland news release

For immediate release | Thursday 31st October 2013 | Contact details at bottom.

Response on behalf of Edinburgh Secular Society.  Edinburgh Secular Society is currently supporting a petition in Edinburgh to remove religious observance in the City’s schools.

ESS is affiliated to the National Secular Society, although views expressed are that of ESS alone.

Edinburgh Secular Society believe that education should not be used as a vehicle for evangelisation by religious lobby groups.  ESS works for the complete removal of religious observance, and does not support a recent petition to The Scottish Parliament to change the requirement for prayers to ‘opt-in’ from the current ‘opt-out’.

We believe that this is treating the symptoms and not the cause, and that the time (if there ever was one) for compulsory religious worship must end.

You can view out original response to the ‘Opt-in/Opt-out’ petition here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_PublicPetitionsCommittee/General%20Documents/PE1487_P_Edinburgh_Secular_Society_11.10.13.pdf

In a report authored, among others, by Rev Ewan Aitken (Secretary, Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council) in 2005, it was admitted that:

“It seems that until a model of RO for non-denominational schools is developed that provides an understanding of non-religious ‘spiritual development’ as well as shared classroom practices to enact this model, an inevitable result is an RO of the ‘lowest common denominator’ that gravitates to moral exhortation and communal singing rather than spiritual development……”

The report went on to say:

“When one of the primary school pupils, when asked whether his RO teacher helped him understand what it is to be a spiritual person gave the honest answer: ‘I don’t know what spiritual means,’ there seems to be a challenge issued to educators that goes unmet by practices such as schools organising religious retreats for pupils, or having specialists come into the school to give sessions on prayer, mediation or contemplation.”[1]

Responding to the Church of Scotland’s latest remarks, Gary McLelland, Chair of Edinburgh Secular Society said:

“The vague and un-specified notion of spiritual development advanced by the Kirk is obviously a euphemism for religious belief.  The Church of Scotland should be embarrassed by its latest attempt to shoehorn compulsory religious belief into Scottish schools.The idea that religion is a prerequisite to inter-personal development is an insult to those Scots who wish to live a good life without reference to religion.”

McLelland continued: “It’s time to end, not amend, compulsory worship in Scottish schools.”

[1] http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/68010/

  • ESS can provide photos, speakers and comments.  Please contact Gary McLelland, Chair of the Society at 07813060713.
  • ESS is a leading secular campaign group, based in Edinburgh we cover issues across Scotland.
  • ESS is affiliated to NSS, although views expressed are that of ESS alone.

Kids should get to enjoy Hallowe’en

My pal Scott is five and loves Hallowe’en. He insists that his birthday too is Hallowe’en-themed and his parents happily comply (Originally from Edinburgh Evening News).

What is it about Hallowe’en that kids love? Is it the immersion in the gruesome which works as a healthy end-of-summer catharsis for them? In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche suggests that classical Greek dramatists looked bravely into the abyss of human darkness and affirmed the meaning of their own existence. So is Hallowe’en Oedipus Rex for kids?

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Edinburgh Secular Society comment on the 2011 census religion statistics

News release – For immediate release – 8th Oct 2013

Edinburgh Secular Society comment on the 2011 census religion statistics.

• “No religion” polls at 37 per cent…higher than The Church Of Scotland.

• Church of Scotland polls at 32 per cent…a 10 per cent fall since the 2001 census.

• Another 7.5 per cent of the total Scottish public turn their back on the Kirk since the last count.

• ESS questions the mandate of the Church of Scotland to have privileged access to our education system.

The religious statistics produced after Scotland’s 2011 census show, as many had expected, that religion is an ever decreasing choice for many Scots.  The 2011 census figures for Scotland reveal such plunging numbers declaring religious beliefs that it is predicted in a few years the total number of people declaring any religious belief will be a minority.  The most striking figure is that “no religion” has increased dramatically to 37 per cent. This is higher than The Church of Scotland at 32 per cent which is a reduction of well over 400,000 from its numbers in the 2001 census.

An ESS spokesperson said, “We respect individual adult religious choice but the Church of Scotland cannot presume to speak for anyone other than its followers. It continues to impose its minority beliefs in our non-denominational schools and together with other religions has unelected representatives on all Scottish education committees. Almost two million Scots now declare that they have no religion. So what does that mean for the age-old religious assumption of church involvement in our education system? Religious Observance is still compulsory and evangelising missionaries use this  to infiltrate the school system.”

ESS continued:

“The right to evangelise is an important religious freedom but it does not extend to recruiting from our schoolchildren.”

ESS calls on the Scottish Government to begin the process that will :

  • Repeal the legislation that requires Religious Observance is all Scottish schools
  • Repeal the legislation that imposes unelected religious representatives on all Local Authority Education Committees.

***Ends***

  • Speakers available for TV/Radio and other interviews.  For further information contact Gary McLelland – Chairman on 07813060713 or Neil Barber – Press and Communications Officer on 07986183977.
  • ESS is a leading secular campaign group in Scotland. We are based in Edinburgh and cover a range of national issues relating to Secularism.  ESS believes in freedom of religion and freedom from religion.
  • ESS is affiliated to the National Secular Society, although views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the NSS.

www.edinburghsecularsociety.com

Edinburgh Secular Society meet with representatives of the Church of Scotland

On Friday 27th September 2013, Gary McLelland, Colin Emerson and Norman Bonney (Chair, Vice-chair and Honorary President of Edinburgh Secular Society) met with representatives of the Church of Scotland at their offices in George St, Edinburgh. Present from the Kirk were Ewan Aitken (Secretary of Church & Society Council), Sally Fulton-Foster (Convener of Church & Society Council) and Sandy Fraser (Convener of Education Committee).

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Edinburgh Secular Society member Neil is featured in Herald Scotland

Neil G

Sunday Herald: Scrutiny needed in schools–Edinburgh Secular Society

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Opinion piece by Sunday Herald.

RELIGION in non-denominational schools is a sensitive matter. (View online here)

Recent claims that only 20% of parents feel adequately informed about their right to remove children from church services or assemblies have, for example, prompted calls for the rules governing religious observance to be changed. But non-religious parents will not be the only ones to be alarmed by evidence suggesting that some ­evangelical groups are ­providing volunteer helpers. Edinburgh Secular Society says these groups encourage members to offer support to teaching staff, or provide services such as outdoor education centres.

These volunteers may be well-intentioned and it is perhaps understandable that, with tightened budgets, headteachers are grateful for additional support and resources. However, religious education is supposed to be ­regulated according to nationally agreed guidelines, and it is important that teachers and local authorities are aware of what is going on within their premises.

Recent events at Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride should alert us to the need for vigilance. An inquiry is under way there into West Mains Church of Christ’s involvement in school activities, after books denouncing the theory of evolution were handed out to pupils. Given that some evangelical groups hold contentious views on issues such as homosexuality or the validity of science, all parents will want to know what their children are being told. The fact that a West Mains Church of Christ preacher had been helping out at Kirktonholme for eight years before questions were asked raises doubts as to whether the involvement of religious organisations in Scottish schools is being adequately monitored.

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