BHA calls for abolition of collective worship as poll again shows majority opposed

6 September, 2011

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The British Humanist Association (BHA) has renewed its call for the Government to heed widespread public concerns and abolish the requirement for daily Christian worship in schools.

The call comes as the BBC Regional Religion Unit publishes a new poll finding 60% of the general public think the requirement for all state-funded schools to hold a daily act of collective worship should not be enforced, versus just 33% who think that it should be. This percentage drops to 30% of those with children.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘The continuing requirement to hold collective worship is widely opposed. Teachers don’t want it, parents don’t want it, pupils don’t want it. The fact that so many schools don’t enforce the law shows that the law, as it stands, is not workable. Where it is enforced it is a violation of young people’s right to freedom of religion or belief and a barrier to the development of better, genuinely inclusive, assemblies which would build community and be educationally useful.

‘Requests for advice in connection with collective worship are the single largest category of advice requests received by us. It is long past time that this law is repealed, and that collective worship is replaced by inclusive assemblies, which can bring together pupils of all beliefs to celebrate shared values and purpose.’

The BHA has been campaigning for inclusive assemblies and against the law requiring collective worship since it was first introduced in 1944. Last week the BHA launched a new Government e-petition calling for its repeal, which is one of the most popular education petitions on the website. In July, the BHA supported humanists in the House of Lords to table an amendment to the Education Bill seeking to replace worship with assemblies seeking to ‘further the spiritual, moral, social and cultural education of pupils.’ Earlier in the year, the BHA briefed MPs on using the Protection of Freedoms Bill to change the law in this area. This followed on from the abolition of collective worship being one of the most popular proposals for a law to be scrapped on the’ Your Freedom’ website launched by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

In 2010, the BHA organised a joint letter to Michael Gove calling for the abolition of collective worship, which was supported by the religious think tank Ekklesia, the National Union of Teachers, the Association of School and College Leaders, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches and the Accord Coalition. The BHA has organised similar joint briefings regularly since 2005, which have also been supported by religious groups such as the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is, the Hindu Council of the UK and the Sikh Education Council.


Take Action! You can sign our e-petition calling for the abolition of compulsory collective worship.

For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07534 248596.

The ComRes English poll for the BBC Regional Religion Unit found that 60% of the public did not think the requirement to hold a daily act of collective worship should be enforced, versus 33% who thought it should be. 30% of parents thought it should be enforced, versus 39% of those without children. 51% of over-65s thought it should be enforced, but just 29% of 18-24 year olds thought likewise. The BBC also asked parents whether their children were attending collective worship at their school. 28% reported their children were, whilst 64% reported their children were not. Many reported that in practice, schools held assemblies less regularly, and that these were used to teach children more generally about morals and ethics.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on worship in schools.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.