In a judgment in the High Court on the 25th November, Justice Warby ruled that the Government had made an ‘error of law’ in leaving non-religious worldviews such as humanism out of the Religious Studies GCSE, amounting to ‘a breach of the duty to take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in a pluralistic manner.’ Three sets of parents, supported by the British Humanist Association, were responsible for bringing the case (See humanism.org.uk for a full report). Hopefully, that GCSE syllabus will now give more prominence to non-religious worldviews.
Justice Warby said, “In carrying out its educational functions, the state owes parents a positive duty to respect their religious and philosophical convictions … the state must accord equal respect to different religious convictions, and to non-religious beliefs; it is not entitled to discriminate between religions and beliefs on a qualitative basis; its duties must be performed from a standpoint of neutrality and impartiality as regards the quality and validity of parents’ convictions.”
Religious Education syllabuses around the country will now have to re-think the exclusion, where it exists, of non-religious worldviews such as humanism. In Somerset, for example, a member of its SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for RE) recently asked, “RE (religious education) is about religion, so why should it include non-religion?” We can now reply, “Because it’s unlawful not to.”
Norman Bacrac, member of the LB Haringey SACRE