Further to the Examiner editorial of March 21 ‘Schools need to teach about every religion’ that alluded to an MHK’s House of Keys question, this did not relate to religious education as such, but to outsiders with a religious belief participating in personal, social, health and economic [PSHE] education.
Furthermore, the MHK’s query logically applies to every situation where any outside body participates in a school’s PSHE programme.
Religious education itself is subject to the Education Act 2001, which provides that it shall be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character.
The Act guarantees the rights of withdrawal both to teachers and to parents on behalf of their children on conscientious grounds.
Clearly, there is a need for this to be widened to grant teachers and parents comparable rights of withdrawal from PHSE education (whose boundaries need to be defined), wherever the issues impact on religious belief.
‘Religion’, a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, is very widely defined and includes philosophical beliefs, so such rights effectively apply to everyone.
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This letter was first published in the Isle of Man Examiner of March 28.