(CMR) A group in Bermuda has called for religion to be removed from general assemblies in schools, stating that it breaches students' rights and causes exclusion and bullying.
Social Justice Bermuda (SJB) said religion was a coercive form of oppression and called for an end to prayers being given over Public Announcement systems in schools.
In a post on its Facebook page, Social Justice Bermuda said it was time to repeal the Education Act, which requires all public schools to start the day with a period of collective worship.
SJB said although the Act allows students to be excused from collective worship when their parents make a formal request, permission was only granted if students attend worship elsewhere.
The group said students who choose not to participate in worship activities usually face exclusion, bullying, and harassment often led by teachers and principals.
While assemblies promoted ethical and social development, the group said religion was not necessary to do this. SJB said school assemblies should be inclusive and foster a sense of community.
“Compelling students to engage in collective worship constitutes a breach of students’ freedom of religion and belief,” the post read.
The group added that with Christianity the acceptable religion in schools, non-Christian or non-heterosexual students were vulnerable to bullying.
“Schools should be institutions that are respectful and inclusive of all students, regardless of their religious beliefs or non-belief. Public monies should not be spent on forcing theology on our children. If parents wish their children to engage in regular religious practice, the place for that is in their home and in their places of worship, not the BPSS (Bermuda Public School System),” the post continued.
SJB said the UN Committee on the Rights of the Children has called for religion to be removed from schools.
“Schools should be safe places for our children, and this form of oppression, however, cloaked, must be removed,” the group stated.