Various Faiths in the UK Unite Against New Religious Studies Curricula

Nicky Morgan

Various faith leaders in Britain recently came together to protest against the proposed changes that are likely to be made to the existing religious studies curricula followed in faith schools. The proposal for the revisions were made by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who said Christianity is the only religion that should be taught to students in public schools if Britain wants to combat the growing trend of Muslim schools teaching only Islam to its students. The new curriculum is due to be introduced this academic session, wherein all public schools will have to teach its students about at least two or more religious faiths.

Currently, all state-funded Orthodox Jewish schools in Britain teach its students only Judaism. Jewish leaders in the UK, headed by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, have said that Morgan’s plans will compel Jewish schools to teach its pupils at least one more religion, an idea that they fear most other faith schools will reject.

Since signs of what has been referred to as the Trojan Horse plot were exposed earlier this year, Morgan has tried to adopt various measures to ensure Muslim schools stop teaching only Islam to its students. Her attempts to do so came after the British administration expressed concern over such “brainwashing” eventually leading to students being radicalized and deciding to volunteer for jihadist organizations in the future. Initially, the Department of Education decided to revise the course for the General Certificate for Secondary Education (GCSE) examinations, which stipulated that students be taught not just one “world religion” that automatically reflected the school’s predominant faith but also Christianity.

Home Secretary Theresa May strongly supported the changes as part of her attempt to ensure Britain took the necessary steps to restrict the spread of extremism in religious schools. She felt compelling public schools to teach its students “British values of tolerance” was among several other necessary measures that had to be incorporated.

However, Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles objected to the proposed revisions, saying forcing schools to teach more than one religion to its students violates the constitutional right of religious freedom. He also went on to influence Jewish and Catholic leaders in the Cabinet, who too, are now opposing the proposed changes.

While Mirvis expressed his support for teaching British values to all students, he also said incorporating the proposed changes in the GCSE syllabus, through which students learn about their own religion, is not the way to achieve that goal.

Morgan had intended to announce the revisions beginning October but her announcement was delayed after various religious groups came together to protest against her decision.

“Anglicans, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus – you name it they all hate it!” he was quoted as saying, adding that, “We have managed the near impossible trick of uniting every faith in Britain!” said a source from the Department of Education, while pointing towards the objections Morgan’s proposal has received from various religious leaders.

Pickles was quick to note that Morgan’s proposal being implemented in British schools could also mean that Christian schools have to teach its students Islam.

“It will have a knock on effect on the freedom of Catholic and Jewish schools to restrict their teachings to just their faith and preserve their distinctive ethos,” he said.

British Premier David Cameron has reportedly expressed his support for Morgan’s proposal but he will first hear the communal concerns voiced by Mirvis, when he meets him later this month.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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