A primary school in England, UK has lost a fight with atheist parents who claim that daily prayer rituals are in breach of their children’s human rights.
Lee Harris and his wife Lizanne argued that Burford Primary School is acting “unlawfully” and brought a judicial review against Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust, the trust that overseas the running of schools in the area.
The parents argue that ever since the trust took over the school in 2015, they noticed “harmful aspects of evangelism spreading into assembly” and other areas of their students’ education.
The case is the first of its kind, and they argue that forced prayer goes against their children’s right to receive an education that is “free from religious interference”.
The Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust runs 33 Church of England schools, including Burford Primary. The schools all class themselves as non-religious “community schools”.
The trust states on its website that it “operates within the family of the Diocese of Oxford”.
“We are motivated by our Christian values to serve our local communities, but we do not impose those values”.
A settlement was reached this week between the trust and Mr and Mrs Harris with concessions such as providing “age-appropriate inclusive materials/activities” to the children as an alternative to “collective worship” included in the agreement.
Mr and Mrs Harris said they are “delighted that the school has backed down and agreed to provide our children with an alternative, inclusive assembly of equal educational worth”.
“Ultimately, we took this case to ensure our children receive an inclusive education without the indoctrination of one enforced religion.”
The UK’s Department for Education insists that the settlement does not have any wider implications for other schools.
Chief executive of the trust, Anne Dellar, said that they “took the pragmatic decision to avoid wholly unnecessary court costs” adding that a “short term child-specific arrangement has been agreed” which will cease when they eventually leave the school.
“Burford Primary School is a happy, successful and inclusive school. While recognising every parent’s right to withdraw their child from collective worship, we are saddened that this case has diverted valuable funds and staff time.”