The British Humanist Association leads the national campaign against state-funded ‘faith’ schools, and employs the only dedicated campaigner – Richy Thompson – working on this and related issues such as RE, sex education, creationism and Collective Worship. We’re currently fundraising for our campaigner’s salary, so that we can continue to employ him for another year. Please donate today at http://www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools
We wanted to share with you an email Richy received this past year, highlighting the importance of what Richy does. This mother, as with many others, contacted us about Collective Worship. Currently, every single state school is legally required to have a daily act of collective worship. If the school is not a ‘faith’ school, this must be Christian in character. Here’s what the mother told Richy:
After researching and thinking it over for several years, I informed the Head of my children’s school that I was removing them from collective worship. She said she completely understood and agreed to it. She then went on to ask what religion I was – ‘Is it Christian Science, or something like that?’ I had mentioned in the past that I am a scientist. I replied, ‘No. I am an atheist.’ She appeared a little put out.
At the end of year service, not attended by my children, the school handed out certificates for completion of their first year at school. My daughter was supposed to get hers later at the class picnic. That evening she burst into tears and said that as she had not gone to the service, she did not get her certificate. My daughter is 5 years old. It was then the summer holidays so I had no way of complaining and thought I would see if the next year started well; it could have been an innocent over sight. It is now 3 days into the start of the school year and my children have just told me that they are still going to assembly every day.
Do you have any suggestions as to where I go from here? I do not want an ugly confrontation at school but I also believe that if I was the follower of ANY religion, that this would not be happening to me; I would be protected by law. As I am without a religion, I do not seem to have any rights over my children’s spiritual well being.
This is clearly a very distressing situation, and highlights a common issue with Collective Worship: that opt-outs are inadequate because the child typically has to sit out in the hallway or alone in the library, singled out from their peers, and misses out on school notices or other inclusive aspects such as certificates.
The alternative – not opting out – can all too often be just as bad. Last year, for example, we highlighted a teacher telling an eight-year-old he is a Christian because he celebrates Christmas; the common issue of an evangelical group proselytising in a school; and a girl being traumatised by Collective Worship due to age-inappropriate tales of a god who killed first born children, turned rivers into blood and murdered millions in floods – ultimately being unable to sleep at night.
We need to reform this law, and replace the current legislation with the requirement to hold assemblies inclusive to all children, regardless of religion or belief. This is something we have been working hard on, and we have real plans to develop a wider campaign around this issue, drawing in broader support for reform.
But this requires your support, so that we can continue to employ Richy so that he can work on this issue. Please donate to his salary at http://www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools