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BHA: All students should have the opportunity to learn about non-religious beliefs in RE

The news that Humanism will be included in a new RE syllabus in a Lancashire local authority from September has elicited a number of reactions in the media this week.

The Daily Express warns us of ‘lessons in Atheism’ for young children. The Mail quotes a local councillor as feeling that: ‘I don’t think it is right. People are born into faiths and are brought up in that faith and that’s how it should stay.’

A particularly interesting perspective comes from a local Catholic priest Father Michael Lavin. Quoted in the Sun, Father Lavin opined: ‘I think that four years old is too young to be learning about atheism, at that age they hardly know what Christianity is…. It is difficult to get youngsters to understand theology and spiritual concepts. Children tend to struggle when you are making the first Holy Communion.’

Jenny Pennington, Education Campaigns Officer commented: ‘What a lot of these commentators fail to understand is that for many parents, teachers and RE campaigners this news story will appear wholly curious. The study of Humanism has been a feature of school RE for at least four decades and first appeared in a local syllabus in the early 1970s. Today, most of the 152 local syllabuses in this country include the study of Humanist perspectives.’

‘Learning about non-religious answers to questions alongside religious ones contributes to the development of pupils’ own perspectives and educates them about the beliefs of millions of their fellow citizens. It ensures that non-religious students are able to feel fully included in discussions around ethics and morality.

‘We are delighted that Blackburn with Darwen local authority have taken this step to include non-religious perspectives on their RE curriculum. However, we stress the need to ensure that all students, around the country, are also able to learn about the full range of beliefs in society.’


The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state

For further information please contact Jenny Pennington on 020 7462 4993

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