Humanist Society Scotland Challenges Parental Opt-Out for Religious Observance in Schools; wants Children to Decide

Country: United Kingdom

Date of incident: September 12, 2016

Category: Social Hostility / Intolerance

Attack against: Faith

Area of case: Anti-Religion or humanism groups / Private



The Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) is seeking judicial review after the Scottish Government rejected calls for a change to the current rules which permit only parents to opt out on their children’s behalf.

The HSS has said the refusal to update guidance following a recent recommendaiton by the United Nations Children’s Rights Committee that the parental right to opt out of religious observance should be extended to young people, meant ministers had potentially acted unlawfully.


The Scottish Government believes its position is in accord with the European Convention of Human Rights: that learning and teaching must take place in a way that respects both religious and non-religious beliefs.


In Scotland, parental permission is required for children to opt out of

religious observance. Students aged 16 to 18 have the right to opt out without parental permission in England and Wales. 
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Religious and moral education enables children and young people to explore, debate and more importantly understand the world’s major religions – as well as approaches to living independent of belief. Religious observance is a whole school activity which should be sensitive to traditions and origins, and should seek to reflect these but it must equally be sensitive to individual beliefs, whether these come from a faith or non-faith perspective. We encourage schools to discuss options with both parents and their children, particularly in the senior years.”
Sources: Herald Scotland and The Courier