THE Scottish Government has been urged by a Church minister to allow churches and secularists to run their own state-funded schools as a petition raising the issue of provision of religious observance comes to Holyrood.
Free Church leader Rev David Robertson wants a “root-and-branch” review of state-funded schools, which he says would give parents real choices over their children’s education.
The call comes as Secular Scotland continues to gather signatures for its petition, which asks for the law to be changed so that religious observance in state schools is opt in rather than opt out.
The organisation’s petition, which has been lodged with the Scottish Parliament, argues that the current opt-out arrangement is no longer appropriate given the current religious landscape in Scotland.
It states only one parent in five is aware of their right to opt out and “situations frequently arise where by default a child takes part in religious activities of which the parents would strongly disapprove”.
The petition adds: “An arrangement whereby parents or senior learners opt in to religious observance (RO), as sought in this petition would avoid such distressing situations, ensure the integrity of participation in RO and should be welcomed by believers and non-believers alike.”
Rev Robertson, a Free Church minister in Dundee and director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, said the petition was a move to impose secular humanism.
“It may well be that an opt-in system rather than an opt-out system would work better,” he said.
“However, I cannot support the petition because it is clearly a first step for Secular Scotland, who desire to see all Christianity removed from public schools.”
He added: “In the interests of fairness, given that it is likely that the Christian state education system is being dismantled from outwith and within, I would call for a root-and-branch reform of the whole system.
“Let the secularists have their schools, teaching their values. And let the churches return to a system where we run state-funded Christian schools. This would give parents a real choice and offer real diversity and equality in Scotland.
“I suspect, though, that uniformity and the imposition of secular humanism is what Secular Scotland are after, rather than real freedom of opportunity.”