LEADERS OF the Church of Scotland have accepted that non-denominational schools should not promote Christianity. Faith should be promoted by families and communities and kept apart from education, will recommend in a report released today (Friday). The report will be submitted to the General Assembly in May .
Religious education should be more vigorous but it should not be about "mission or proselytising".
The Kirk also reasserts its opposition to separate Roman Catholic schools while recognising the legal rights behind denominational schools and parents' right to choose.
Any extension of religious schools to the Muslim community should be opposed as a "backward step for Scottish communities".
Separate schooling, while not blamed for sectarian attitudes, may reinforce prejudices which are passed on by society.
"Integration might help combat these and allow young people to experience a diversity of beliefs and practices and so enable them to grow together in mutual respect and understanding," the education committee' report states.
The Rev John Stevenson, education general secretary, said the key change from the Kirk's last statement in 1972 was the growth of Scotland as a multicultural society with people from many faiths and no faiths. The Church had to recognise reality.
He acknowledged that Catholics saw nurturing Christianity as a duty of both family and school and his report describes their position as "entirely logical and historically justifiable".
Mr Stevenson said: "We want to raise the profile of religious and moral education which looks at all faiths and helps young people think through their own position on a world view. We are living in a society where there is a danger of increasing religious and racial intolerance and we want to bring young people together to overcome that."
The Church, however, says integration should be brought about by promoting respect and co-operation and the question of denominational schools is not the most important issue facing the nation.
Many non-Catholics now send their children to Catholic schools, including many Muslim parents, while Catholic parents often send their children to non-denominational schools. Outside the central belt this seems to make no difference, the Kirk says.
A further change is the introduction of well-developed RE curriculum, although the Church "regrets" that the Catholic Education Commission opted for separate guidelines.
Jack Nellaney, president of the Catholic Headteachers' Association Scotland, replied that arguments about sectarianism showed little understanding of the nature of Catholic schools which promoted tolerance and respect for others in a multicultural society.
"We have gone beyond the defensive mentality of 1918 (the Act that established separate schools) and we are looking at a celebration of success in a wide number of areas. Catholic education adds much value to society and helps promote an integrated and tolerant society," Mr Nellaney said.
The Catholic heads' conference next month in Crieff, meanwhile, will underline the contribution of Catholic schools to citizenship.
Leader, page 16