Should we take God out of school assemblies?

6 November 2019

Tim Dieppe comments on Humanists UK’s campaign to take God out of schools.

Humanists UK are campaigning to take God out of school assemblies. The latest initiative is a resource hub “Assemblies for All” which showcases over 200 assemblies which avoid reference to God. They want to change the law which currently requires state community schools to have Christian assemblies. But if we take God out of the equation, what will replace Christianity as the source of our moral values in society?

What does the law say?

The law as it stands requires state community schools to have daily collective worship which is “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”. Only 51% of school assemblies need to be identifiably Christian. The other assemblies can reflect other faiths or ‘interests’ over the course of a year. Parents can withdraw their children, and teachers can withdraw themselves. Schools can also apply to opt-out of this requirement. Since 2004, Ofsted has stopped inspecting collective worship after 76% of schools were found to be non-compliant.

This legal requirement is a reminder of how explicitly Christian our nation once was, and how lawmakers were keen to ensure that children acquired some understanding of Christianity, Christian values, and experience of Christian worship. As the influence of Christianity has declined, calls have increased to change the law, which is seen as outdated. Nevertheless, there are good reasons to keep the law as it is.

Why should we keep Christian assemblies?

One reason is that Christian assemblies recognise the Christian heritage of the country. Our nation has been explicitly Christian – as the assembly laws show, and Christianity has inspired our moral framework, legal tradition, and much of our culture. It is helpful for schools to formally recognise this. In fact, it was Christians who set up the first schools and Christianity that inspired the vision of providing education for every child. It is odd to now want to remove this element of Christianity from schools.

Christianity has also provided a basis for social cohesion in our society; a sense of our identity as a Christian nation which attempts to abide by Christian values. It is a mark of our contemporary cultural chaos that we are seeking to abandon this basis of our social cohesion and that we haven’t found anything to replace it with. We now lack shared values as a society. Where will we get our values from now?

Christianity provides a moral framework for society

Christian values are in fact fundamental to the flourishing of a free society. Christianity teaches, for example, that human life is sacred, because every person is in the image of God. This means that we should treat everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of their race, gender, politics, religion, wealth, poverty, health or sickness. All people should have equal rights and be treated equally before the law. If we abandon the idea that human life is sacred, where do we get the moral values to treat everyone with respect and dignity from? And if we don’t treat all people with respect or dignity, what kind of society will we become?

The effect of removing God from school assemblies is to remove the basis for morality from schools. There is no basis for objective morality apart from God. In fact, one of the key arguments for the existence of God is the moral argument. The point is that there are some recognisable moral absolutes such as not to rape or torture children. But if they are objective transcendent moral laws, they require a transcendent moral law giver. Therefore, there is a God.

Without God there is no objective morality

Conversely, if schools teach, or even imply that there is no God, pupils will soon conclude that there is no objective morality. This was my own experience of schooling. The implication of what I was taught was that science could explain everything, and that we are mere collections of atoms and molecules. I concluded that free will is an illusion, and that there is therefore no morality and no purpose for life. This was the logical conclusion of what I was taught. Is that what we want our children to think? What kind of society will we build if children are taught or led to conclude that there is no objective morality and no purpose for life?

The new religion of LGBT

Humanists UK have produced a resource hub of non-religious assemblies. Some of these are helpful and good materials. For example, the resource hub points to some Unicef assembly materials which include suggested assemblies for Holocaust Memorial Day, or Martin Luther King Day. Others are more dubious. Will it help primary school pupils to have a ‘Transgender Day of Visibility’ assembly? This means exposing four-year-olds to the concept of changing gender. There is also a primary school assembly for Coming Out Day. Humanists UK also campaign for compulsory Relationships and Sex Education at primary school level. It seems that they want to replace Christianity with the new religion of LGBT.

What will replace Christianity?

I enjoyed debating these issues on LBC Radio and BBC Radio Kent this week. The key question I raised is what will we replace Christianity with as a source of our moral values for society? This question receives no answer. Yet, many are rushing to jettison Christianity regardless.

Christians need to be bold and unashamed to proclaim that Christianity forms the only strong and secure basis for our moral values, and to call people and society back to recognising the God of the Bible as the source of justice, righteousness and freedom. We thank God for the lawmakers who required schools to have an act of Christian worship. We pray that people would recognise their need of God to provide purpose and meaning for life.

 

Join us at our Bringing Hope event on 23 November to find out how we can bring hope to our children, schools and families. Book your ticket today.
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