Saturday, May 24, 2008

BHA joins in parliamentary call for children’s right to withdraw from school worship

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has called on the Government to support today’s report from Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights which calls for any child of ‘sufficient maturity, intelligence and understanding’ to be given the right to withdraw from compulsory religious worship in schools.

Currently, only sixth form students have the right to withdraw themselves, and other children can only be withdrawn at the request of their parents,
but the Human Rights Committee have said that this violates children’s rights to freedom of belief and conscience.

Writing in support of the Committee’s report to Minister for Schools and Learners, Jim Knight MP, the BHA said, ‘ We agree with the JCHR that the law is clearly inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights and that
children of ‘sufficient maturity, intelligence and understanding’ should be permitted to withdraw themselves from prayer and other worship.’
Andrew Copson, BHA Director of Education and Public Affairs, commented,
‘The best situation would be the replacement of the law requiring religious worship with a law requiring inclusive assemblies that would be suitable for all children. For as long as the current law remains, however, children must be allowed to decide for themselves whether they wish to participate. To compel them to pray, or worship in other ways, is a clear interference with their right to freedom of belief – one of the most important rights that we enjoy.’

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