Open Religious Education for an Open, Tolerant Society
The uniquely open and scholarly education in Religion that has developed in Britain in our universities and maintained schools, has a vital role to play in promoting a tolerant, rational and open culture and it would be very sad if this Liberal Democrat initiative did not emphasise that.
Sadly however, considering the role the religions play in society is something many British politicians shy away from. They just see it as a hot potato. Ignoring it however is something we cannot afford if we wish to promote and build a society which celebrates our key British values such as respect for all, regardless of race, colour, class or creed, which celebrates personal freedom, personal responsibility and the promotion of democracy so that everyone can aim at achieving their potential with a realistic chance of success.
Our history shows over and over again that men and women motivated by their religion have in the past and continue today to contribute bravely and positively in promoting these values, from the ending of slavery in the Empire, apartheid in South Africa and in working for social justice here. Sadly, there are others, sometimes at the bidding of religious leaders who should know better, who use their religion in a literalist, intolerant, fundamentalist manner. They fear open and honest dialogue on issues of faith or morality, they fear the conclusions of science as regards for example evolution, and generally they fear and denigrate reason and debate. Instead they promote unthinking obedience “in matters of faith,” ignore or promote the oppression of women, the stigmatisation of those who are gay or lesbian in their life style, and express contempt for those who follow other religions or who reject any religion, and of course in extreme cases there are those who use religion to justify the adoption of violent and terrorist behaviour in ways that threaten us all.
In the face of these challenges it is essential that the importance of good open education in religion needs to be recognised and far more positively supported by government, the political parties and the religious communities.
1. Admission policies should take no account of pupils – or their parents’ religion or beliefs for all schools receiving state funfding.
2. Recruitment and employment policies in schools should not discriminate on grounds of religion or belief.
3. All schools should follow an objective, fair and balanced syllabus about religious and non-religious beliefs. (based on the excellent Non-statutary National Framework QCA 2004).
4. Religious Studies should become part of the National Curriculum.
5. Introduce a single inspection regime for RE, Personal Social and Health Ed.and Citizenship to apply to all state funded and independent schools. Intolerance and bigotry should have no place to hide.
6. Replace compulsory acts of worship with inclusive, inspiring and stimulating assemblies in schools.
7. Recruit more RS graduate RE teachers and value them more. They need extra support in the face of indifference and hostility in the staff room or from “faith” leaders. Every school should have properly trained staff. MANY DO NOT HAVE.
8. Fulfill the law and make certain there is provision for RS exam courses at GCSE, and A level in all FE colleges. Currently there is almost no provision.
9. Until RE becomes part of the National Curriculum backing for the SACRE’s should be improved in all LEAs.
JJB firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel 01963 34537
Submitted to and discussed with David Laws MP before the Lib Dem debate on the secondary curriculum in 2009.