Religious teaching row

The Church of England has recently criticised the government over limited resources being devoted to training religious education teachers, branding it as a scandal that is affecting “an essential part” of every child’s studies. The criticism comes as a Ofsted report finds that more than half of all schools have been failing pupils in their religious education, a subject which the watchdog claims is increasingly important “in an ever more globalised and multicultural 21st century” because of the way it promotes respect and empathy. Ofsted added that children are leaving school with a “very limited understanding” of Christianity.

I picked this up from a Local Government Information Unit briefing and it made me think about my religious education at school. To be honest I can’t really recall any of it at all! What I knew about religions on leaving school I had picked up from my C of E church going (St Andrews – Maghull & St Helens – Sefton Village) and things I had read myself. On that basis the criticism above goes back around 40 years and probably more! Evan as an atheist I can see the value of youngsters gaining some insight into major world religions as what you may call ‘useful information for life’.

By now you will have realised that I walked away from religion, many years ago I would add, but I guess that I did so not because of what I did or did not learn about it all at school but because of my own reading and discussion with friends.

The big test for our society is not what religion we follow (or not) but how tolerant we are of those with differing views and beliefs, how we embrace the diversity of differing views and whether as free thinking individuals we close to take up a religion or not. Other than providing useful information about the value systems of various major religions I see no other need for this to be a part of a youngster’s education; it certainly was not a part of mine but maybe religious readers of this posting would say that contributed towards me becoming an atheist. Now there’s a thought……….

Great News – Caste discrimination to be outlawed

I was really pleased to hear this news via the Humanist and Secular Lib Dem Group today.

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I’m delighted to pass on the following news, which we’ve just received from the National Secular Society.

Last night, the House of Lords defied the government and voted for a second time to outlaw caste discrimination.

After two successive defeats in the Lords, the Conservative side of the coalition has finally backed down, and caste discrimination should now be outlawed within months.

HSLD’s position is clear: caste discrimination is simply race discrimination taken to a lower level. It’s appalling that thousands of lower-caste Hindus and Sikhs who are actively discriminated against have no legal protection under the existing law, so this reform cannot come soon enough.

Below is the NSS press release.

Toby Keynes, Chair, Humanist & Secularist Liberal Democrats

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(UK) National Secular Society News Release

23 April 2013

Victory for campaigners as Government outlaws caste discrimination

The National Secular Society has welcomed news that the UK Government has climbed down following its defeat last night in the House of Lords and agreed to make discrimination on grounds of caste unlawful.

Last night (Monday) peers voted to retain their original amendment making caste a protected characteristic (as an aspect of race) under equality law via a new clause in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. The vote was won by 181 votes to 168.

The Government has now conceded on the principle and has tabled an amendment which requires the Secretary of State to bring forward regulations to include Caste as an aspect of Race (under Section 9(5) of the Equality Act 2010) two months after the enactment of the Enterprise Bill.

Last week the Commons voted to reject the amendment by 64 votes. Earlier the peers had voted in favour of the amendment by 103 votes.