The Church of England has called for parents to lose the right to withdraw their children from religious education classes – because some parents are apparently using it to pull their children out of lessons on Islam.
Currently parents can choose for their children not to take part in religious education (RE) lessons, and can do so without giving a reason.
But Derek Holloway, the head of RE in the Church of England’s education office, has called for that right to be removed from parents and for their children to be taught other world religions regardless of the parents’ views.
“Seemingly [some parents] do not want their children exposed to other faiths and world views, in particular Islam. We are concerned that this is denying those pupils the opportunity to develop the skills they need to live well together as adults,” he told The Times.
He added: “Anecdotally, there have also been some cases in different parts of the country of parents with fundamentalist religious beliefs also taking a similar course. This is not confined to any one particular religion or area of the country.”
In a blog post on the Church of England’s Facebook page, he insisted that children should be taught about all religions to prepare them for life as global citizens.
“Religions are global in their reach and are global in their organization. The UK is part of a global community and so the time is now right to consider the RE curriculum content balance in global terms rather than in terms of parochial English census data,” he wrote.
The Church of England runs approximately 4,700 schools, of which around 200 are secondary or middle schools. The Church is, therefore, responsible for educating around a million children each year.
However, although Government guidelines stipulate that religious education must reflect that “the religious traditions of Great Britain are in the main Christian”, they continue that it must take “account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions”.
In his blog, Mr. Holloway supported this principle, writing: “Church schools are not ‘Faith schools for the faithful, they are church schools serving the community’. Therefore, we do not seek to deliver a Religious Education (RE) curriculum suitable only for those from Christian backgrounds but a Religious Education that is an essential component of an education that enables all the pupils we serve from all faiths and none to flourish and be prepared for life in modern Britain.
He added: “The right of withdrawal from RE now gives comfort to those who are breaking the law and seeking to incite religious hatred.”
However, Mr. Holloways’ blog has raised concerns from parents over state interference. Martin Earnest commented: “This is an appalling proposal and crosses the line too far of church interfering in the State and privacy of conscience.
“I will be pulling my child from RE to avoid religious indoctrination via the State.”
Another reader, Eric Norton, accused the church of hypocrisy, taking issue with Mr. Holloways assertion that church schools are not faith schools. “If that’s true, why has the Church lobbied for and gained exemptions from equalities legislation that allows its schools to do precisely what you claim not to?” he asked.