My Scottish friends; please write to your MSPs in support of opt-in petition; draft letter here

As many of you know, the Scottish Secular Society has petitioned the Scottish Parliament for a change in practice from opt-out to opt-in for religious observance. The petition has attracted wide attention, including support from the Herald, and now seems to me to have a greater chance of success than would have seemed possible even a year ago. In any case, it is doing a great job in opening up debate on the entire embarrassing question of church-state relationships, which politicians wold much rather ignore, and it is important that it receive as much visible support as possible.
You can find your MSP using http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/msps.aspx
below is a suggested draft letter, rehearsing the main arguments. Tweak as appropriate.
Time is running out; the 2nd hearing in committee is November 12.
And please consider passing this on to your friends. Our basic problem is that the religious establishment are a clearly defined constituency. The reply must be, to show that we’re a constituency too.

Dear XXX,

I write as your constituent to ask your support for Petition 1487, Religious Observance in Schools, which seeks to replace the present “opt-out” system for Religious Observance (RO) with “opt-in”.  The petition and responses are at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/gettinginvolved/petitions/religiousobservance, and the Petitions Committee will be holding its second hearing on November 12. We believe that the proposed change will end serious problems with the present system, lead to improvements in communication between home and school about the nature of RO, and help RO fulfil its aim of celebrating shared values.

The present system presumes agreement with the school’s practice of RO. Not all school handbooks even fulfil the legal requirement to state that opt-out from RO is available. Children who opt out are not properly catered for, and are made to feel exceptional, while there are examples of schools putting pressure on parents to reverse their decision, or even on occasion denying that the right to opt out exists in their school. The proposed change to opt-in would prevent such wrongs.

At present, while RO is intended to be a celebration of universal community values, it is often in practice dominated by one particular worldview, generally, in so-called non-denominational schools, Protestantism. This at a time when the number of Scots having no religious affiliation exceeds a third, and is greater than that of the Church of Scotland, the most numerous denomination.

The practice of RO varies enormously from school to school, and recent events at Kirktonholme Primary, where to parents’ dismay, creationist and anti-scientific books were distributed during RO, show how far it is at times from achieving its ideals. Such abuses would be most unlikely under the improved school-home communication that would result from opt-in.

Finally, we believe that the proposed change will reinvigorate RO by leading to general discussion of its nature and purpose, discussion that in our present diverse society is essential for its long-term survival.

Respectfully,

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on November 2, 2013, in Education, Politics, School prayer, Scotland and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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