- September 2007 : A secular school in Britain
Paul Kelley, head of Monkseaton High School in Tyneside, released details of his attempt to reform religious education at his school. The school has trust status, which gives it greater operational autonomy. However, it is a requirement of the Education Act 1944 that all state school pupils take part in a daily act of worship of a broadly Christian nature – except for a small minority of schools of different faiths – while the Education Reform Act 1988 requires that RE is taught as part of the national curriculum. Kelley hoped to set up the first ’secular school’ in Britain, teaching about religion as well as other world views, but officials at the Department of Education and Skills advised that although this might be popular it would be politically impossible.
- 29 July 2007 : slaughter of a sacred bullock
Shambo, a sacred bullock cared for by a Hindu residential community in Wales, was slaughtered by government vets after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. The monks had fought a strenuous campaign to save the bullock, which received widespread media coverage.
- 23 July 2007 : purity ring at school
Queen’s Bench Division. Regina (Playfoot) (a Child) v Millais School Governing Body. Before Mr Michael Supperstone, QC. Judgment July 16, 2007.
A sixteen year-old girl took a case to the High Court of Justice alleging that her school had violated her rights under Articles Nine (Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion) and Fourteen (Prohibition of Discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into UK Law by the Human Rights Act. It was ruled, however, that her school’s refusal to allow one of its pupils to wear a purity ring, demonstrating her commitment to sexual abstinence prior to marriage, did not infringe her right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. If there were a perceived obligation to act in a specific way, the school was obliged to make due allowance. However, the claimant was under no obligation to wear the ring and, in his Lordship’s judgement, the act of wearing it was not intimately linked to the belief in chastity before marriage.
See ’Purity ring is not intimately linked to religious belief ; Law report’, The Times (23 July, 2007), p. 49.
- 13 June 2007 : Religious discrimination and Harry Potter
A classroom teaching assistant who refused to let a child read a Harry Potter book lost a claim for religious discrimination and constructive dismissal. Sariya Allan, a born-again Christian, claimed that Durand Primary School in Stockwell, South London, had maligned her religion following a parent’s complaint. Following resignation she claimed £50,000 in compensation, which was rejected by Croydon Employment Tribunal.
See ’Teacher loses Harry Potter book claim’, The Times (June 13, 2007), p. 27.
- March 2007 : non-religious services for funerals
The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) reported that more than 30,000 funerals in Britain in 2006 were non-religious. In 1996 this had been ’virtually unheard of’, but one in 20 families now rejects a church service in favour of a celebration of life.
Besides personal belief, part of the appeal may also be the increased cost of conventional funerals. Britons spent £1.3 billion on funerals in 2006, with the average cost having risen by 61 per cent from £2,048 in 2000 to £3,307 in 2006.
See C. McClatchey, ’Rise of the funerals that leave out God. Religion is sidelined in thousands of ’celebration of life’ ceremonies each year’, Sunday Telegraph (March 4, 2007).
- 7 March 2007 : The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
The Equality Act 2006, which received Royal Assent in February 2006, included the power to make Regulations prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services, in education and in the execution of public functions. These were laid in Parliament on 7 March, and came into force on 30 April 2007, at the same time as Part 2 of the Equality Act. (Part 2 provides parallel protection against discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of people’s religion or belief.)