Atheists urge city leaders to cut religion from school

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A PRESSURE group campaigning for the rights of atheists has demanded urgent talks with the city council over the future of Edinburgh’s education system.

The National Secular Society (NSS) called for an end to “unhealthy religious divisions” in Edinburgh by scrapping separate Catholic and non- denominational schools.

The group also wants to axe all religious “observance”, such as assemblies hosted by chaplains and the celebration of religious festivals. The NSS argues Edinburgh’s non-religious residents are being discriminated against.

The move comes after council leader Jenny Dawe said she wanted to strengthen links with religious faiths.

Norman Bonney, a city-based council member of the NSS, said: “This has come about because Councillor Dawe and the chief executive are starting to have meetings with religious organisations and we feel that it’s discriminatory because a large portion of society is not religious.”

The main issues being put forward to city leaders are the “sectarian division” between Catholic and non-denominational schools and the practice of “religious activity” in schools – both of which the society would like to see scrapped.

Mr Bonney said: “We don’t think schools are the places for religious observance or any religious activity. Children come from all religious backgrounds, and many from non-religious backgrounds, so we think it is exclusive.”

The NSS is also against the inclusion of non-elected religious representatives on the council’s education committee.

In a letter to Cllr Dawe, Mr Bonney wrote: “This sectarian division between Roman Catholic and Protestant schools can only serve to reinforce unhealthy religious divisions.

“The 2001 census recorded that 35 per cent of the city’s population claimed membership of the Church of Scotland, 11 per cent with the Roman Catholic Church and that 37 per cent reported no religion.

“It is all the more indefensible that two Christian denominations that had the support of one-third and one-tenth of the population should have guaranteed places in the education committee.”

Cllr Dawe, said: “The letter raised some very interesting issues and I will consider them carefully.”