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Law Of Religious Freedom

Law of Religious Freedom in United Kingdom in 2016

Almost all schools in Northern Ireland receive state support, with approximately 90 percent of the students attending predominantly Protestant or Catholic schools. Approximately 7 percent of school-age children attend religiously integrated schools with admissions criteria designed to enroll equal numbers of Catholic and Protestant children without the intervention of the state, as well as children from other religious and cultural backgrounds. These integrated schools are not secular, but are “essentially Christian in character and welcome all faiths and none.” RE – a core syllabus designed by the Department of Education, the Church of Ireland, and the Catholic, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches – is compulsory in all government-funded schools, and “the school day shall include collective worship whether in one or more than one assembly.” All schools receiving government funding require RE; however, Catholic-managed schools draw uniquely on the Roman Catholic tradition for their RE while other schools may draw on world religions for their RE.

This issue of Religious Freedom in United Kingdom

An estimated 30 sharia councils operate parallel to the national legal system. They adjudicate religious matters. They do not have the legal status of courts, although they have legal status as mediation and arbitration bodies.

Other Developments in 2016

The law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of “religion or belief” or the “lack of religion or belief.” The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is responsible for enforcing legislation preventing religious discrimination. The EHRC researches and conducts inquiries into religious and other discrimination in England, Scotland, and Wales. Members are appointed by the minister for women and equalities. If the commission finds a violation of the law on discrimination it can issue a notice to the violator and seek a court order to enforce the notice. The EHRC receives public funds, but operates independently of the government. The Northern Ireland equivalent to the EHRC is the Equality Commission.

Some Details

In Northern Ireland the law bans employment discrimination on the grounds of religious belief. In the rest of the UK, the law prohibits any discrimination, including employment discrimination, based on religious belief, unless the employer can show a genuine requirement for a particular religion.

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Citing a limited broadcast spectrum, the law prohibits religious groups from holding national radio licenses, public teletext licenses, more than one television service license, and/or radio and television multiplex licenses. Source: 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, United States Department of State, 2017

Law of Religious Freedom in United Kingdom in 2016

Throughout the country the law requires religious education (RE) and worship for children between the ages of three and 13 in state-run schools, with the content decided at the local level. At age 13, students may choose to stop RE or continue and study two religions rather than one. Nonreligious state schools require the curriculum to reflect “Christian values,” be nondenominational, and refrain from attempts to convert students. The curriculum must also teach the practices of other principal religions in the country. Teachers have the right to decline participation in collective worship, without prejudice, unless they are employed by faith-based schools.

This issue of Religious Freedom in United Kingdom

Nonreligious state schools in England and Wales are required to practice daily collective prayer or worship of “a wholly or mainly…Christian character.” All parents have the legal right to request their children not participate in RE and/or collective prayer or worship. Nonreligious state schools are free to hold religious ceremonies as they choose. The law permits sixth form students (generally 16- to 19-year-olds in the final two years of secondary school) to withdraw from worship without parental permission or action.

Other Developments in 2016

Only denominational (faith-based) schools in Scotland practice daily collective prayer or worship.

Some Details

In Bermuda, the law requires students attending public (state) schools to participate in collective worship, characterized by educational officials reciting the Lord’s Prayer, but prohibits worship “distinctive of any particular religious group.” The law allows parents to withdraw their children from participation and allows homeschooling as an approved educational alternative for religious or other reasons. At the high school level, students are offered a course that explores various religions.

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The government funded 6,848 “faith schools” in England (34.1 percent of all schools) in 2015. Of these, 4,609 (23 percent) were Church of England, 1,985 (9.9 percent) Catholic, 26 Methodist, 145 “other” Christian, 48 Jewish, 18 Muslim, eight Sikh, four Hindu, two Greek Orthodox, one Quaker, one Seventh-day Adventist, and one United Reformed Church. There were 370 denominational schools in Scotland: 366 Catholic, three Episcopalian, and one Jewish, all of which were government-funded. If a school is not oversubscribed, then the school must offer a place to any child, but if the school is oversubscribed it may use faith as a criterion for acceptance. The government determines whether to establish a faith-based school when there is evidence of demand such as petitions from parents, religious groups, teachers, or other entities. Nonstate faith-based schools are eligible to claim “charitable status,” which allows for tax exemptions. Source: 2016 Report on International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, United States Department of State, 2017



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  • Article Name: Law Of Religious Freedom
  • Author: Lilly Daniels
  • Description: Law of Religious Freedom in United Kingdom in 2016 Almost all schools in Northern Ireland receive state support, with [...]

This entry was last updated: October 20, 2020

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