A year or so after 11-9-2001 (what the Americans call Nine Eleven) I wrote the first version of a paper entitled Open RE and the Fundamentalist Threat which examined the state of Religious Education in schools and the key role I saw it could play with our large British Muslim population likely to become increasingly alienated and discriminated against as a tiny minority turned to jihadi violence. This has been revised and updated and is now on the site as Open Religious Education and its Enemies.
In 2004 under Blair, Charles Clarke became Secretary of State for Education before becoming Home Secretary and he introduced a groundbreaking document “The non-Staturtory National Framework for Religious Education” This explained and promoted as never before the vital role of what I will call Open RE, that is RE which does not pre-judge the truth or falsity of any specific religion or tradition, but aims to help students become knowledgeable, open, critical and sympathetic about the religions, cultures and values of others and thinking and rational about their own beliefs and values.
When in 2005 the Coalition government under Cameron came to power Michael Gove became Secretary of State for Education introducing changes which have reversed the progress which had taken place in the promotion of Open RE and have resulted in the general downgrading of the subject just at a time when it has never been more important that students be offered a safe place in schools to both understand religions and world-views of others and to discuss and explore their own.
On leaving Parliament Charles Clarke has been working with Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University looking at Religion and Society. Together they have launched both a programme academic research and a series of online Westminster Faith Debates. As a result of contact with them I updated and rewrote my paper, which they both read while working on their joint ground-breaking paper A New Settlement: Religion and Belief in Schools which can be read and downloaded on the Westminster Faith Debates website. I do not in any sense claim to have influenced them, but we did independently come to very similar conclusions. To read a summary and review of A New Settlement see Open RE