Peer halted in bid to change law on Christian assemblies

A vote to change the law on Christian assemblies was abandoned in the House of Lords earlier this week due to a lack of support for the proposal.

Lord Avebury, a Lib Dem Peer and an honorary associate of the National Secular Society, tabled an amendment to the Education Bill to remove the requirement for Christian worship in schools.

The House of Lords debated his amendment, at the end of which he wanted to push it to a vote, but it lacked support.

Currently schools must have a daily act of collective worship. Collective worship must be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character.”

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Parents can withdraw their children and teachers are also permitted to opt out.

But Lord Avebury wanted to end the requirement for collective worship at all schools apart from faith schools.

The Government minister, Lord Hill of Oareford, defended collective worship in last night’s debate.


He said: “The Government believe that the experience of collective worship makes a contribution to the spiritual and moral development of young people, not just for those who attend religious schools.”

He added: “In the British Household Survey of 2010, more than 70 per cent of people said that their religion was Christian, and we think it right, therefore, that these values should underpin the ethos of our schools.”

Lord Hill said: “It is a matter of historical fact, as argued by the noble Lords, Lord Touhig and Lord Anderson of Swansea, and by my noble friend Lord Cormack, that the Christian traditions of our country have influenced and underpin our systems of law, justice and democracy.”


He commented that successive Governments have considered the current requirements for collective worship “fair and flexible”, and said the current Government “continue to take that view”.

Earlier this year the National Secular Society wrote to Education Secretary, Michael Gove, demanding that the law on Christian assemblies be abolished.

But a spokesman for the Department for Education said the law on Christian assemblies “encourages pupils to reflect on the concept of belief and the role it plays in the traditions and values of this country.”

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