Religious education and collective worship
69. With regard to religious education, the authorities should pay specific attention to the contents of syllabuses in publicly funded schools. Furthermore, a non-discriminatory membership of relevant committees preparing such syllabuses seems vital to adequately present the various theistic, non-theistic and atheistic approaches. The Final Document of the International Consultative Conference on School Education in Relation to Freedom of Religion or Belief, Tolerance and Non-Discrimination deemed that each State should promote and respect educational policies aimed at strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights, ensuring respect for and acceptance of pluralism and diversity in the field of religion or belief as well as the right not to receive religious instruction inconsistent with his or her conviction (E/CN.4/2002/73, appendix, para. 4). Most recently, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR-OSCE) Advisory Council of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief has prepared the “Toledo Guiding Principles on teaching about religions and beliefs in public schools”8 which may provide further useful guidance in this regard.
70. The Special Rapporteur notes with appreciation that parents may request that their children be wholly or partly excused from receiving religious education or attending at religious worship. She particularly welcomes the recent adoption of opt-out possibilities for pupils in the sixth form with regard to legal requirements of taking part in an act of collective worship in maintained schools. The right to freedom of religion or belief also includes the right not to manifest a religious belief. The parents or legal guardians of the child have the right to organize the life within the family in accordance with their religion or belief and children themselves also enjoy in their own right the freedom of religion or belief. In line with article 12, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the children’s views should be given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity.
8 Available online at http://www.osce.org/odihr/item_11_28314.html.