The Church of England is warning that allowing children to be taken out of Religious Education lessons is dangerous. Derek Holloway, a spokesperson for the Church on religious education, says it's a risk because children will not be learning to 'live well together'.
'Sadly, and dangerously the right of withdrawal from RE is now being exploited by a range of "interest groups" often using a dubious interpretation of human rights legislation,' he argues.
Some reports suggest there is a trend of parents removing their children from RE because they don't want them to learn about Islam. Mr Holloway responds in comments in the Mail: 'This is seemingly because they do not want their children exposed to other faiths and world views, in particular Islam. Anecdotally, there have also been some cases in different parts of the country of parents with fundamentalist religious beliefs also taking a similar course.'
In a post on the Church of England's Facebook page, Holloway takes aim at those who confuse Religious Education with collective worship – which parents are allowed to remove their children from. He says allowing a right to withdraw from lessons about religion is a backward step.
'The right of withdrawal from RE now gives comfort to those who are breaking the law and seeking to incite religious hatred,' he says. 'To the detriment of the subject the right of withdrawal also perpetuates the myth that RE is confessional in all schools and aligns RE too closely with collective worship in the minds of the media and the public.'
The idea of withdrawing children has been defended, though, by the National Secular Society. It said on Twitter, 'As long as RE can be taught by schools in a partisan and biased way, parents must have the right to withdraw their children from it.'
Holloway's article had pre-empted that criticism, at least of CofE schools. He argues, 'RE in church schools is non-confessional in nature, and we monitor this carefully.'