This petition was eventually signed by 910 people and the Government has now responded as follows:-
"A key aim of the curriculum is to promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and prepare them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life. The Government believes that all pupils should be given the opportunity to develop their knowledge, understanding and awareness of the major religions represented in this country. Parents, however, have the right to withdraw their children from all or any part of religious education.
Religious education teaches about the concept of religion and belief – it does not indoctrinate or provide instruction in any religion. It is important because it provokes challenging questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, the nature of beliefs and reality and the self. It stimulates thinking about issues of right and wrong and what it means to be human and helps pupils to develop their own values. It plays a central role in the curriculum of all schools and that is why it is part of the basic school curriculum.
Pupils learn to recognise the impact of religion and belief locally, nationally and globally. It encourages respect for those holding different beliefs. It also encourages consideration of issues around faith, identity and diversity which underpin community cohesion. This is an essential part of enabling young people to develop mature and informed views about the world around them."
quedula says: In an ideal world it is difficult to take much exception to this but the whole essence of the government's position seems to hang on the sentence I have italicised. Are we really asked to believe that religious education classes will always be taught by atheists or humanists and, if not, that the usual religious teacher will take much care at all to distinguish between "teaching the concept of religion" and "providing instruction" in it?
Even in the US, with a secular constitution, problems arise in the classroom as this recent case shows:-
"This past week, Judge Harvey E. Schlesinger ruled that teachers and officials at the Webster School in St. Johns County acted improperly by having third-grade youngsters practice "In God We Still Trust," composed by the country singing group Diamond Rio.
Judge Schlesinger opined that students had their First Amendment rights violated when they were forced to choose between performing "proselytizing" and "sectarian" music or skipping their school assembly? He described the song as "espousing a specific religious viewpoint and attacking those who do not share in the same belief." "