Abolish religious assemblies now

7th May 2004 at 01:00
If an adult in this country were to be forced by law to pray, sing hymns and listen to sermons it would be regarded as a gross violation of human rights. Yet this is precisely what happens to schoolchildren.

Despite the fact that a survey of almost 30,000 children by a Christian think-tank (published as The Fourth R for the Third Millennium) showed that nearly 60 per cent of them defined themselves as atheist or agnostic, their conscience is completely disregarded and they are obliged to worship - unless they can persuade their parents to opt them out.

The suggestion by chief inspector David Bell that collective worship should be reduced in frequency does not go far enough. It should be abolished.

There are plenty of churches for children who wish to observe religion but there is no escape for those who do not.

Assembly is an important and potentially constructive part of the school day. It should be shorn of its religious elements so that all pupils of all religions - and those of none - can benefit from it without the need for divisive exemptions.

Keith Porteous Wood

Executive director

National Secular Society

25 Red Lion Square

London WC1

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