Tag Archives: Religious Observance

Religious Clarity: Norman Bonney writes in The Scotsman


The furore in a South Lanarkshire school that has led to the banishment of members of the Church of Christ from the chaplaincy and volunteer roles in the school and the reassignment of the head and deputy head to other duties with the local education authority (your reports) raises numerous issues.

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Church and State…or not! – Blog by Cllr Paul Edie

Cllr Edie wrote the following blog post, after hearing evidence from Edinburgh Secular Society on the ESS backed campaign to remove RO in non-denominational schools.

“Today, so far, has been about religion. The councils petitions committee has been considering petitions for and against religious observance in non denominational schools.

We had well argued cases on all sides of the divide ranging from the secular society’s view that they should allow religious education, but not observance, even if it included all faiths and humanists, to a very woolly stance taken by the Church of Scotland representative that most of the committee  struggled to understand.

In France and the USA you have political and public traditions which carefully and clearly separate church and state but the UK is not like that. Here there has been a long standing Christian tradition (and indeed a long standing but less voluble humanist tradition too).

The Scottish Parliament has a moment of reflection for all faiths and none bringing in leaders of each community including humanist celebrants  in turn to  speak to MSP’s.

I personally favour that diverse approach.

My memory dredged up one incident relating to religion in schools immortalised by the late Matt McGinn.”



Media Officer, Neil Barber’s letter is published in the Scotsman


Secular petition

Published on 05/06/2013 00:00

On Monday Edinburgh City Council’s petition committee heard a petition from Veronica Wikman to remove religious observance from non-denominational schools.

The author of the counter petition to retain it did not show up and was represented by a Church of Scotland minister. The meeting was chaired with grace and clarity by Councillor Maggie Chapman and Ms Wikman was supported by representatives of both Edinburgh Secular Society and The National Secular Society. The petition was moved to the next stage which is to be heard by the education committee later in the year

We applaud city council for its relatively young petitions procedure which makes local democracy and accountability ever more accessible to Edinburgh citizens.

Neil Barber

Edinburgh Secular Society

Saughtonhall Drive


View online here.

Edinburgh Evening News runs this story about the ESS appearance before City of Edinburgh Council’s Petition Committee


Let us pay: £10m bill to axe religion in schools

A referendum costing millions would be required to decide future of religious assemblies in city schools. Picture: David Jones/PAA referendum costing millions would be required to decide future of religious assemblies in city schools. Picture: David Jones/PA

Published on 04/06/2013 12:00


A MOVE to scrap religious assemblies in Edinburgh’s schools would land the city with a £10 million bill, councillors have been warned.


It has emerged that if the council wants to end the practice, the 1980 Education Act requires it to hold a city-wide referendum to get the backing of voters.

And as the last Edinburgh referendum – on congestion charging in 2005 – cost £9 million, officials have calculated this would cost at least ten per cent more.

The potential bill was revealed as rival petitions for and against religious observance were debated by the city council’s petitions committee.

Committee convener Maggie Chapman said: “Religious observance is enshrined in the Education Act and a referendum is the only way it can be removed. I don’t think there is much appetite for that given it will cost millions of pounds when we are considering so many cuts.”

Secularist campaigners say they are happy for schools to provide religious education, which they say teaches “about belief”, but not religious observance, which teaches “to believe”. But their petition to the council sparked a rival one, claiming that Christianity was being 

Tory councillor Jeremy Balfour said holding a referendum on the issue would not be a good use of taxpayers’ money at a time of austerity. He said: “No constituent has ever contacted me about this. I don’t think it is a pressing issue for the people of Edinburgh.

“I think the majority of people think it’s good to have some kind of religious observance in schools.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Paul Edie added: “I’m not sure this is what we would want to spend £10m on at the moment.”

But he said: “There is a significant opinion against religious observance in schools and we have to recognise that. There must be a better way of determining this than a hugely expensive referendum.”

Gary McLelland, chairman of the Edinburgh Secular Society, said the provision for a referendum on abolishing religious observance had also been part of the 1872 Education Act, which “suggests there was some dubiety about the practice even then”.

He said: “We don’t know the full costs of any referendum. With modern technology it’s possible it could be done much cheaper. Schools are not just for parents, teachers and pupils, they are social establishments paid for by the residents of Edinburgh and they are entitled to a say in whether religious practices are allowed.”

Veronica Wikman, who brought the petition calling for an end to religious observance, suggested: “The referendum need not cost so much if you combined it with another 

The issue will now go to the education committee for 


View online here.

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