Council rejects campaign calls for school ‘collective worship’

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Politicians in the Causeway Coast and Glens council has rejected calls for support for a campaign aimed at allowing schools to decide whether ‘collective worship’ should be mandatory.

Scott Moore, a sixth form student at Strabane Academy campaigning to change the rules on ‘collective worship’ in schools, gave a presentation to councillors in which he explained that collective worship was currently mandatory in schools.

Before the meeting started and Mr Moore gave his presentation, councillors engaged in a short prayer service.

Following the prayer service, Mr Moore called for councillors to support a motion backing hid campaign to allow individual schools to choose whether to hold collective worship, saying: “A school’s Board of Governors has no choice over this. We believe the law should be changed to give them the choice.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Kieran Mulholland was the first to speak following the presentation. He said: “You’ve seen before this council meeting, we are all forced to have a prayer before the meeting. There are people here who would like to see schools forced to take part. Times are changing and we need to have a secular society.”

However, the majority of councillors who responded to the presentation were highly critical of the idea.

TUV Councillor William Blair said: “I think this is a very early stage here of trying to get Christianity in particular out of all schools. Now, we have had it all over the whole world and I would be a reader of history. Chairman Mao, Stalin and Hitler - all of them wanted to do away with God and this is just the foot in the door and putting pressure onto young believers. I have read magazines and all over the world there is a great victimisation for a young person who would have faith in God. I think it is a very bad idea to interfere with a person’s faith.”

Deputy Mayor, UUP Councillor Daryl Wilson said: “When I was your age, I was an atheist, I had no faith. I did find faith, I’m a born again Christian now. When I was in school, there were a few people who were similar to myself and we didn’t really mind the way Christianity was taught and put across. Certainly, as a Christian I am happy that the Christian message is being put across in schools but thank you for coming here and putting your views across.”

DUP Councillor Ian Stevenson said: “In Northern Ireland we still are a nominally Chritsian country by majority. While we might be talking about collective worship at Assembly today, tomorrow we will be told you can’t have scripture unions. The way things go is halfway now and halfway later on. I am very much in favour of keeping collective worship in schools.”

Mr Moore said he would not wish to see prayer banned from schools by saying: “As a secularist I believe in freedom of religion, as well as freedom from religion.”

There was no proposal from any councillor to back Mr Moore’s campaign.