British Teachers Union Urges Religious Instruction

Britain’s National Union of Teachers at its annual conference suggested the possibility of llowing rabbis and imams to offer religious instruction in public schools if they had children of their faiths in class. The assumption of the proposal is that children currently are being taught religion in segegated schools since England currently includes an all faith school within the state system of education. In many cities there are predominantly Muslim schools within walking distance of Christian ones. As part of the teacher union proposal, all faith schools(there are about 7,000 in the state system) would also be compelled to cease discrimnating in admissions based on faith.

The theory of the teacher group is to take out of the system demand for all faith schols by allowing all children access to religious instruction during the school day. It is hoped such an approach would foster community cohesion by bringing together children of many faiths in the same school. John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders raised the issue, “How would you have any control over what was being taught in our school?” A spokesperson for the Church of England agued: “It is for religions to teach their faiths to people. It is for schools to teach about religion.”

The United States has never gone the route of allowing an “all faith” school to exist within the public school system so this issue is more of an issue in Great Britain which historically has incorporated within the state system individual schools which serve the needs of children from a particular faith. The US Supreme Court would most probably declare such religious instruction within public schools to be unconstitutional.