Religious divide

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There is a great referendum debate under way as to whether the Scottish Parliament should have even greater powers than it has at present.

But for all the promises about what will be done with new powers in an independent Scotland, there is no guarantee that those powers would be used.

The Scottish Parliament has, since 1999, had great potential power over issues relating to religion in schools but it has chosen not to use them and has accepted the laws inherited from the UK Westminster Parliament even though they are increasingly out of date in 21st-century Scotland.

As MSPs have not acted, it has been left to voluntary citizens’ groups to show the lead and today (28 January) the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee will be considering a petition by the Scottish Secular Society to change the basis of religious observance in schools from an “opt-out” to an “opt-in” basis.

At the last minute, a joint move by the Church of Scotland and the Humanist Society of Scotland has highlighted the need to change the law on religious observance in schools.

What is surprising about this is that the Kirk, which Rev Robert Anderson points out (Letters, 27 January) does not appear to be able to make up its mind about whether Scotland should be an independent country or not, now suddenly indicates its willingness to remove the legal obligation for religious observance in schools.

This initiative indicates that current arrangements for religious services in schools are unsustainable, but what is worrying is that religious groups and humanists are jockeying to impose their moral agendas on schools through the replacement of “religious observance” by “time for reflection”.

Edinburgh Secular Society argues that while learning about other religions and belief systems is an essential part of the school curriculum, the practice of religion or substitutes for it is best left to families and external religious bodies rather than being part of school activities. The law requiring religious observance in schools should be rescinded.

(Prof) Norman Bonney

Edinburgh Secular Society

Palmerston Place

Edinburgh