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30 years ago

In his regular column, the late Ian MacInnes, rector of Stromness Academy in Orkney, challenges the place of "religious indoctrination" in schools (TESS, March 12, 1976): The instruction of children in religion and the practice of religious observance, backed by the force of law, remains in schools a relic of sacerdotal authoritarianism, to puzzle, bore and bemuse the majority of pupils. I am told, however, that religious instruction no longer takes place in schools. It has been replaced by a new liberal study called religious education which one lecturer has assured me may be taught by an atheist. Just so. The fact remains that the law, as restated in the Education (Scotland) Act 1962, still requires religious observance to be practised and instruction in religion to be given.

The claim that religious education as now taught is a significant departure from the past is rather like claiming that the substitution of a nylon rope for a manilla rope marked a significant change in capital punishment. The law, till it was changed, still required a condemned man to hang and the law, till it is changed, still requires captive children to be instructed in religion and to practise religious observances.

I hope a private member's Bill . . . will amend the law for England so that religious indoctrination disappears and the subject is broadened into a voluntary study of man's religious and non-religious stances for living. I hope that Scotland will then adopt a similar liberal attitude.

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