The British Humanist Association employs the only campaigner working full-time to oppose the state funding of ‘faith’ schools and religious discrimination in admissions, employment and the curriculum. That campaigner is Jay Harman. He leads the BHA’s efforts to end the state funding of ‘faith’ schools, to eradicate the divisive practice of selection by religion, to rid the classroom of creationist teaching in favour of evolution, to repeal the discriminatory and anachronistic requirement for collective worship in schools, to ensure that all children receive the high-quality sex and relationships education they need to stay safe, and to make religious education objective, balanced, and inclusive of non-religious perspectives.
To do this, he needs your support, and we need your help in order to continue to employ him through 2017.
Over a third of all state schools in England and Wales – more than 7,000 schools – are already religious schools, and that figure is rising fast. Only a few weeks ago the Church of England announced that it will seek to open more than 100 new schools in the next four years, while the Catholic Church has followed suit, unveiling plans for the largest increase in the number of its schools in decades. These are state-funded schools designed to exclude the vast majority of families who pay for them, and more and more of them are coming to a town near you.
This is wrong, it is discriminatory, and the state should have no part in funding them.
We believe that our children deserve an education system that’s better than this, that’s inclusive of everyone, regardless of their religious or non-religious worldviews, and that allows children from a range of different religious and non-religious backgrounds to learn with, from, and about one another in open and integrated schools.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in far too many schools where it continues to be assumed that children should be defined and then divided by beliefs they are too young to confidently hold for themselves.
That is why the work of the Faith Schools and Education Campaigner is so important, perhaps now so more than ever.
Key successes this year include:
Defeating the Government in the High Court over its exclusion of Humanism from GCSE Religious Studies, establishing in law the right of the non-religious to have their beliefs equally respected and represented in religious education.
Launching a new whistleblowing and blogging service called Faith Schoolers Anonymous, allowing former pupils of faith schools to report concerns, get advice and support, or share their experiences.
Successfully lobbying the Government to introduce new proposals to crackdown on supplementary religious schools like Muslim madrassas and Jewish yeshivas, many of which encourage children to adopt a fundamentalist, bigoted, isolationist, and deeply damaging view of the world, free from any oversight.
Securing a recommendation from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that compulsory collective worship in schools be abolished in all four countries of the United Kingdom.
Working with former pupils of illegal, unregistered religious schools to reveal the whereabouts of these schools and expose the plight of children still trapped in them, leading to the closure of a number of illegal settings and the introduction of new measures to allow Ofsted and the Department for Education to prosecute the people who run them.
Welcoming the first year in which evolution was taught in English primary schools as part of the primary national curriculum, a development we secured as part our concerted ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign.
Eradicating ‘selection by flower-arranging’ at church from the admissions policies of all state ‘faith’ schools in England through lodging formal objections to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, ending this ludicrous but deeply damaging pract ice from our education system once and for all.
Further successes include:
Responding to all relevant official consultations, including Department for Education consultations on religious out-of-school settings; Department of Education in Northern Ireland consultations on religious education and on integrated schools; the British Institute of Human Rights submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; calls for evidence from the House of Commons Education Select Committee on the purpose and quality of education, the rise of religious multi-academy trusts, and sex and relationships education; the Casey Review into integration and social cohesion in Britain; and an inquiry by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights into the Government’s record on upholding children’s Rights.
Supporting hundreds of parents and carers whose children have been refused admission to their local school because of their beliefs, or whose beliefs have been marginalised.
Generating significant media attention for the BHA’s campaigns work and policy areas, including an exposé of illegal religious schools on BBC Newsnight, stories in every major national newspaper, and coverage on national and local radio stations throughout England and Wales.
Briefing MPs and peers, particularly members of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG), on legislation related to ‘faith’ schools and education in Parliament, and organising debates in the House of Commons and House of Lords on relevant issues.
Ensuring that Humanism is included on local syllabuses and in schools by making sure we have a well-supported humanist representative on as many Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education (SACREs) as possible throughout England and Wales.
Working alongside other organisations like the Accord Coalition, Sex Education Forum and the Religious Education Council , as well as supporters of the Fair Admissions Campaign on issues of shared concern.
With your donations, we’ll be able to employ our 'faith' schools campaigner for another year and continue to fund his efforts to curb the rise of religious influence and privilege in the education system. Any money donated over and above our target will be used exclusively on furthering the BHA’s education campaigns.
If you’re a UK taxpayer, please also indicate that the BHA can claim Gift Aid on your donation so that we can reclaim 25p tax from HMRC for every £1 you donate.
The Churches have never been more open than they are now about their intention to use our schools as a means to evangelise children and boost their rapidly declining numbers. Sadly, this Government is making it easier and easier for them to do that, so we’ll have to work harder than ever to achieve our policy goals and ensure that the progress we have made towards a fair system is not lost. Your contributions are so important. Please donate today so we can continue to employ Jay over the next 12 months. Thank you.