Press Release: Secular Scotland and Inverclyde dad launch ‘Ask Parents First’ campaign for RO in schools.


• Opting out of Religious Observance (RO) in schools isn’t working.
• There is an assumption of faith in Scottish schools with all children included in Christian worship by default.
• Most parents aren’t properly told of their right to opt-out when they register their children. More than one parent in three never finds out at all.
• Many Scots now have no religious affiliation at all, so the presumption that RO reflects shared values is not right, but like Iran, the state still imposes prayer for children.

Changing opt-out to opt-in and keeping RO only for those who want it.

Secular Scotland is co-authoring a petition along with Inverclyde parent, Mark Gordon, to the Scottish Government to amend the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 to make Religious Observance (RO) in schools an ‘opt-in’ activity rather than an ‘opt-out’. The Petition is also backed by the Humanist Society of Scotland.

The petition states that this would remove the divisive and unreasonable presumption of religious affiliation in non-denominational schools which no longer reflects the diversity of belief and non-belief in Scotland.

Mr Gordon says: “The law says that ‘in no circumstances should a child be disadvantaged as a result of withdrawing from religious observance’ and given a ‘suitable worthwhile alternative activity.’ In my experience and that of many other parents – this is most certainly not the case. My daughter is made to sit in the school office with paper and pencils to draw with and is “looked after” by the school secretary since there are usually no teaching staff available. Before Easter, because the head teacher and my child’s class teacher were not present, the stand-in took her to an evangelical church service expressly against my written instructions. After complaining, I received a profuse apology from the head teacher for the “assumption” that this teacher had made.”

Mr Gordon, who is opposed to the UK’s almost unique position of enforced praying in schools, adds: “The current situation provides little basis for parental understanding of the detailed content of Religious Observance (RO) and provides little or no checks and balances upon such content. It would be better to have a system that ensured the integrity of participation in RO. This would be an improvement for children and religion alike.”

Caroline Lynch, chair of Secular Scotland explains: “It is important to stress the difference between RO and Religious and Moral Education (RME), which we support. The present ‘opt-out’ arrangement for RO is not fulfilling its purpose. RO is intended to ‘celebrate the shared values of the school community’. However, as acknowledged in the Religious Observance Review Group report of 2004, ‘in most non-denominational schools, there is a diversity of beliefs and practices’. Thus the current opt-out arrangement, which presumes a substantial uniformity of belief and practice, is no longer appropriate. Moreover, only one parent in five is even made aware during the school registration process of the current opt-out option.”

Mr Gordon is not prepared to lobby the local authority to conduct a ballot of all eligible electors as recommended by the Secretary of State, adding: “It would be prohibitively expensive. Many are unaware of the issues with RO, others apathetic, and with the well-funded and organised religious lobby fighting even the idea of discussion, let alone change, local measures to address RO are impractical and ineffective. The opt-out system also breaches the right to privacy. Opting out from whatever is the traditional belief at a particular school exposes one’s lack of belief, which is a private family matter. For many parents this would be unacceptable and is probably one of the reasons why many parents do not currently opt out.”


Notes to news desks: –
This does not affect Religious Education (RE).
Secular Scotland can provide speakers for TV/Radio interview, quotes and pictures on request.
Secular Scotland is the largest Scots-based Secular organisation and has over 500 members on Facebook.


Articles available: –
Forcing Religious Observance in Schools by Robert Canning: –

A Sex Education Horror Story in Scotland by Emeritus Professor Paul Braterman: –

For further information, please email Caroline Lynch, Chair on

7 thoughts on “Press Release: Secular Scotland and Inverclyde dad launch ‘Ask Parents First’ campaign for RO in schools.”

  1. Hey Gary. I find it utterly pathetic that you feel the need to stalk leaders of the catholic church, feed lies to the newspapers and media and post on this blog,that nobody reads, a lot of rubbish that is clearly your own opinion. Your views are irrelevant to real politician and leaders and your continuous failures do nothing but keep the bored amused! I am hoping that soon you come to terms with the fact that you have no true evidence about any of your ‘anti-Catholicism’ claims and give up as it is now just a bit embarrassing for you. me and my family will continue to pray for you in hope that you finally realise the truth behind the catholic church teachings!Good luck gary, you can find truth eventually i’m sure!

  2. I am becoming rather concerned at the information being given out by this organisation, which gives the impression that all Scottish schools force religious observance on their pupils. Having worked as a Teaching Assistant at various schools and with school-age children myself, I have to say I have never heard of any Scottish school other than an R.C. school doing this – the practice was abandoned by most other schools decades ago.

    As an atheist humanist I’ve always thought the U.S.A. a very backward country in religious terms, with their almost mediaeval bible-thumping moral preaching, but thanks to Secular Scotland, they now think we are the backward ones, forcing our children to pray in schools!

    This just doesn’t happen in the majority of schools, and because there seems to be no attempt at giving correct figures on this subject, I’m very reluctant to sign the petition for something I’d otherwise be right behind.

    Clearer, more specific information please, Secular Scotland.

    1. As I am the originator of the petition I will reply.

      Firstly Secular Scotland is a completely unfunded organisation and therefore does not have the resources to complete an in-depth study.

      That said we have a large number of reported cases of injustices done to parents and children across the country and we will be compiling this for our meeting at the Scottish parliament in September. We are collecting these on a daily basis.

      We also have a large number of opinions posted on the Scottish Parliament website at

      We also have the evidence of surveys which show that 39% of parents are unaware of the right to opt out. The right to opt out is not present in all handbooks as required by law.

      Even with that all said the inherent unfairness of the current situation (ie. the current opt out situation) is plain for all to see.

      Frankly if forced RO happens in ANY school it is one school too many.

  3. Thanks for this useful idea. Over here (Isle of Man)we’ve picked up one or two from watching trends in Scotland or Ireland …… humanist marriages, seeing how you dealt with Section 28.. stuff like that. This looks like something to try, so please keep posting as the campaign progresses.
    Had to laugh at a group calling itself ‘Political Catholicism’ by the way. OK, Pax Christi or the Catholic Worker spring to mind too, but rather suspect ‘PC’ would favour Franco, Mussolini, Galtieri or Pinochet’s variant, given their way. Certainly favour misdirection, emotional claptrap, smoke and mirrors when presented with a reasonable request.

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