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Humanist parents and their children await judgment on RS GCSE after hearing in High Court

Government rejected the results of its consultation, and went against the opinion of RE subject experts and religious leaders, by omitting Humanism from the GCSE RS subject curriculum

Following a hearing in the High Court yesterday, three humanist parents and their children are awaiting the outcome of their legal challenge to the Government’s decision to exclude non-religious worldviews from the latest subject content for GCSE Religious Studies. Supported by the British Humanist Association (BHA), the three families believe that the content fails to respect their non-religious beliefs or treat them on an equal footing with religions.  The judge presiding over the case, Mr Justice Warby, is expected to hand down a judgement in the next few weeks.

Acting on behalf of the claimants, David Wolfe QC stated at the hearing that the Government had a ‘duty of neutrality and impartiality’ when dealing with different religions and beliefs, and that in elevating religious beliefs above non-religious worldviews, the GCSE was therefore not compliant with those obligations set out under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Whilst it is not known at this stage what remedial action the Government would have to take should the claim be successful, Mr Justice Warby stated that this may be the subject of further submissions from both the claimants and the Secretary of State.

Speaking from the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson, said ‘We are just as clear after the hearing as we were before it: the relegation of non-religious worldviews in the RS GCSE is out of step with popular and professional opinion, unreflective of the make-up and character of this country, and an affront to the rights of non-religious parents and their children. The Government has very obviously failed to uphold its equalities and human rights obligations in this case, and we very much hope that this will be confirmed by Mr Justice Warby when he comes to hand down his judgement.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman on jay@humanists.uk or 020 7324 3078.

Read the new GCSE RS subject content: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/gcse-religious-studies

Read the DfE’s consultation on the subject content:  https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/gcse-and-a-level-reform-religious-studies

Read the BHA’s response: https://humanists.uk/wp-content/uploads/Reformed-RS-GCSE-and-A-level-subject-content-consultation-response-from-the-BHA-with-annexes-publication.pdf

Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from GCSE curriculum’ https://humanists.uk/2015/11/09/parents-sue-government-over-exclusion-of-humanism-from-gcse-curriculum/

Read the BHA’s briefing on why Humanism is now normally included in Religious Education syllabuses: http://humanismforschools.org.uk/guidance/why-humanism-is-included-in-religious-education-re/

Read more about the BHA’s work on RE: https://humanists.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/religious-education/

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