Swinney asked to step in after school Mass row

Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Toal
Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Toal
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Humanist Society Scotland are writing to Education Secretary John Swinney today asking him to intervene personally after reports that up to 50 non-Catholic pupils were punished for refusing to attend a religious service at a Catholic secondary school.

The service at Taylor High School in New Stevenston, Motherwell was a Patron’s Day Mass with the Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Toal, as its principal celebrant. It was reported that following the incident the pupils involved received a week’s worth of detentions.

Gordon MacRae, HSS chief executive, said the row highlighted the urgent need to reform the “outdated” requirement for Religious Observance in Scottish state schools.

“Suspending a young person from school, and thus denying them access to education, for choosing not to take part in religious worship is outrageous. At a time when the Scottish Government is so focused on reform of our education system, the silence on this issue speaks volumes about how committed they are to children’s rights’.

The HSS recently launched a judicial review against the Scottish Government over its refusal to allow sixth-form pupils to opt out of religious services.

Mr MacRae added: “On Wednesday we learned that the Scottish Government is to appoint a QC to represent them against our judicial review. Our members ad supporters have already helped us raise money to get to this stage, and we’ll do all that we can to make sure we’re not outgunned by expensive lawyers.

“Parents across Scotland will be dumbfounded to learn that the Scottish Government is using senior lawyers, at their expense, to fight off our calls for progressive reform.

“The Scottish Government talk the talk on children’s rights, but have found themselves on the wrong side of this issue time and time again.

Nicola Daley, the school’s acting head teacher said the service, held on 30 September, was also been a memorial service for two staff members who died in May: “Regrettably, a small number of pupils, who had attended school in the morning, opted to truant in the afternoon and miss the service.

“The pupils have been subject to school discipline as a consequence of their actions.”