Wales debates the place of acts of worship in schools

Written by: Greg Lewis | Published:

Schools in Wales could be no longer obliged to hold religious acts of worship following a campaign by two school girls.

Rhiannon Shipton and Lily McAllister-Sutton, both 15, collected more than 1,300 names on an e-petition on the National Assembly for Wales website.

The petition calls on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh government to “pass a law that removes the obligation on schools to hold acts of religious worship”.

And now the Welsh Assembly’s Petitions Committee has agreed to write to the education secretary Kirsty Williams asking her to investigate whether the legal requirement on mainstream schools to hold collective acts of worship is compatible with human rights laws.

Ms Williams will also have to consider a counter-petition asking for religious worship in schools to remain as it is. This petition has received even more support.

Rhiannon and Lily, of Ysgol Glantaf in Cardiff, had said they were not anti-religion but they did not see why they, or other non-believers, should be forced to join acts of worship.

But 2,231 people have now signed a petition by 13-year-old Cardiff pupil Iraj Irfan urging the Welsh government “to keep religious assemblies in state schools in Wales as ‘opt-out’ and ‘wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character’, while considering ways to ensure that they continue to be relevant to people of different faiths and no faith”. Rheinallt Thomas, president of the Free Church Council of Wales, was among those who supported Iraj, stating that many people value a

“Christian tradition” and “want it to be transferred to our children and young people”.

The Petitions Committee, which has been told that Ms Williams has said rules regarding collective worship in state schools are laid down by law, is now asking for a review.

Committee chairman David Rowlands said: “(We will) write to the cabinet secretary for education to ask whether the Welsh government will consider reviewing the current law and guidelines surrounding collective worship and if any consideration has been given to the compatibility of the current requirements with human rights law as the first question.”

The Welsh government says collective worship should be “sensitive to the range of beliefs and non-beliefs held by pupils” and should give pupils the opportunity to worship, “without encouraging them to do something that is against the teachings of their own religion or beliefs”.

“Parents can request for their child to be withdrawn from collective worship and schools must agree to such requests in all circumstances,” it stated.

The National Secular Society recently launched a manifesto calling for the abolition of the current legal requirement on English and Welsh schools to hold collective worship.


Comments
Name
 
Email
 
Comments
 

Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
 
Claim Free Subscription