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Religious Education and Freedom of Religion and Belief

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Edited By Stephen Parker, Rob Freathy and Leslie J. Francis

What opportunities and challenges are presented to religious education across the globe by the basic human right of freedom of religion and belief? To what extent does religious education facilitate or inhibit ‘freedom of religion’ in schools? What contribution can religious education make to freedom in the modern world? This volume provides answers to these and related questions by drawing together a selection of the papers delivered at the seventeenth session of the International Seminar on Religious Education and Values held in Ottawa in 2010. These reflections from international scholars, drawing upon historical, theoretical and empirical perspectives, provide insights into the development of religious education in a range of national contexts, from Europe to Canada and South Africa, as well as illuminating possible future directions for the subject.

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PART I Historical Perspectives

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Rob Freathy and Stephen Parker 1 Freedom from Religious Beliefs: Humanists and Religious Education in England in the 1960s and 1970s Abstract On the basis of an analysis of a wide range of previously neglected or unuti- lized primary documentary sources, this chapter argues that the significant transitions which took place in Religious Education theory and policy in England in the late 1960s and early 1970s were, at least in part, cata- lyzed by a concerted and organized campaign by the British Humanist Association with the intention of either abolishing Religious Education, establishing a secular alternative (such as moral education) or secularizing the subject’s aims and broadening its content to include world religions and secular worldviews. Notable Humanists, such as Harold Blackham, and many liberal Christians and Religious Education academics and pro- fessionals, sought together to develop educationally valid and multi-faith forms of ‘open’ Religious Education and moral education which would be suitable for all pupils and teachers regardless of their religious or secu- lar backgrounds. These arguments are exemplified through a case study of the Birmingham Agreed Syllabus of Religious Instruction published in 1975. This was inf luenced by the then Chairman of the British Humanist Association, Harry Stopes-Roe, and generated much controversy, primarily for its inclusion of secular ‘stances for living’, of which Communism was the most contentious. The contribution of Humanists to the secularization, or at least extensive liberalization, of the aims of Religious Education has been severely underplayed in the existing historiography. 8 Rob Freathy and...

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