Church-Humanist agreement on education change 'a positive sign'

EDINBURGH & LONDON, January 25th, 2014: The Christian think-tank Ekklesia, which works to promote a just society open to people of all beliefs, says that a joint education reform initiative from the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society Scotland is a “positive sign” about the future of religious and non-relgious belief in the world today.

“It is excellent news that a major Christian denomination and a society representing the concerns of a growing number of ethical, non-religious people in a plural society are agreed that the concept of ‘Religious Observance’ in schools should be replaced by an equal and inclusive ‘Time for Reflection’,” commented Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow.

He was referring to a joint submission from the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society Scotland, released today, which will be considered by the Petition Committee of the Scottish Government on Tuesday 28 January.

“It is vital for a healthy society that people of different religious and non-religious outlooks can learn to share public space fairly, collaborate on common values, uphold the rights and dignity of all, and negotiate disagreements with informed respect,” said Mr Barrow.

“A ‘Time of Reflection’ in schools ought to be a space where these virtues can be put into practice by breaking down barriers, challenging prejudices and providing opportunities for the appreciation of different viewpoints and experiences,” he added.

“The Kirk and the Humanist Society Scotland are right that such vital space for reflection in schools should not be restricted on grounds of religion or belief. A genuinely multi-voiced education system is to the benefit of all,” said the Ekklesia co-director.

Ekklesia researches the changing place of belief in the contemporary world from a Christian perspective. It argues that religions should neither be established nor excluded within the social order, learning instead to play a positive, equal role alongside others in civil society. It also advocates for equal access and treatment regardless of religion or belief within the taxpayer-funded education system.

ENDS

Notes for editors:

[1] Founded in 2001 and based in London and Edinburgh, Ekklesia examines politics, values and beliefs in a changing world. It is an independent, ecumenical think-tank which is not aligned to any particular denomination, but draws particular inspiration from the Anabaptist and ‘peace church’ traditions. More information here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/about

[2] The Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society Scotland will make their joint submission as additional evidence to the Petition Committee of the Scottish Government on Tuesday 28 January 2014, when there will be discussion of the petition of the Scottish Secular Society (PE01487) to make Religious Observance an opt-in activity. They will ask the Public Petitions Committee to urge the Scottish Government bring forward legislative proposals to remove the reference to ‘Religious Observance’ in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 and insert ‘Time for Reflection’ instead.

[3] The joint Church of Scotland Humanist Society Scotland statement can be found on the Kirk website here: http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/news/2014/time_for_re... HSS: http://www.humanism-scotland.org.uk/

[4] Ekklesia is a founder of the Accord Coalition for inclusive education in England and Wales, and is also a member of the Fair Admissions Campaign.

[5] For further comment: Simon Barrow, co-director, Ekklesia: Tel. 07850 120413. Email: simon.barrow@ekklesia.co.uk Twitter: @simonbarrow