The furore in a South Lanarkshire school that has led to the banishment of members of the Church of Christ from the chaplaincy and volunteer roles in the school and the reassignment of the head and deputy head to other duties with the local education authority (your reports) raises numerous issues.
First, did South Lanarkshire Council ever have a consistent policy about the involvement of religious groups in school life and how actively did it monitor what was going on in its schools? Second, there is a need to see that the head and assistant head are not treated unjustly in that they may well have been acting within local authority and Scottish Government guidelines on religious observance in schools.
Further, the Church of Christ may also have a legitimate claim against the local authority and the school for discrimination on grounds of religion and belief under the Equality Act of 2010. For it appears to have been excluded from the school on the basis of its unscientific religious beliefs, whereas other churches that have unscientific beliefs central to their doctrines – such as the divinity and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the virginity of his mother – are allowed to be involved in school activities.
Something is clearly profoundly wrong with the involvement of religious groups in Scottish education and this is a result of a set of laws inherited from the UK government with devolution in 1999, which the Scottish Parliament has not thought it worth its time to change, despite the almost complete control over these matters that it has had for 14 years.
Further, the Scottish Government’s non-statutory guidance on religious observance in schools, issued in 2005 and reissued in 2011, has not been scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament and contributes to the widespread problems that have arisen.