SJB: “End Compulsory Worship In The Schools”

February 2, 2021 | 32 Comments

The Education Committee of Social Justice Bermuda has called “for an end to compulsory worship within the public schools,” saying that “schools should be institutions that are respectful and inclusive of all students, regardless of their religious beliefs or non-belief” and “public monies should not be spent on forcing theology on our children.”

What is Section 28?

A spokesperson said, “The Education Committee of Social Justice Bermuda calls for an end to compulsory worship within the public schools. It is time to repeal Section 28 of the Education Act 1996.

“Section 28 of the Education Act 1996 refers to ‘Collective Worship’. The essence of this Section is to require all public [aided or maintained] schools to start the day with a period of collective worship– this is the legislative basis for the morning school assembly.

“While there is a clause of this Section [28-7] that states that ‘the collective worship shall not be distinctive of any particular religious group’ in practice these assemblies have been dominated by explicitly Christian theology. Beyond this, the period of worship is also explicitly theistic – they exclude any atheistic or humanistic beliefs and make acceptance of a God the expectation.

“Section 28 does provide for a student to be excused from collective worship, provided the parent formally requests it. However, this is only allowed if the student attends worship elsewhere [with the school making allowance for this during the school day]. Furthermore, many students face exclusion, bullying and harassment should they elect for this option.

Why are we opposed to it?

“School assemblies are long standing and often essential components of the school day, and they should be inclusive and seek to foster a sense of community. Assemblies, when well structured, serve an important role in promoting the ethical and social development of students.

“However, acts of worship are neither necessary nor desirable methods of achieving this. Rather, compelling students to engage in collective worship constitutes a breach of students’ freedom of religion and belief. By normalizing theistic beliefs, and Christianity in particular, these acts of collective worship are exclusionary and have led to the isolation, harassment and bullying of those students who are not Christian or theists.

“Additionally, certain interpretations of Christianity are given prominence, leading to non-Christian or non-heterosexual students being particularly 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.

“That the law allows parents to withdraw their children is not enough, especially as it requires their children to attend alternative worship and exposes them to being ‘othered’, with all the consequences of harassment and bullying that such exclusion invariably invokes.

“Nor is it sufficient to simply say that the worship shall not be distinctive of any particular religious group when, in practice, Christianity [and often fundamentalist interpretations of it] are the de facto norm.

“The Education Act, as it stands, is an anachronism – a remnant of the theocratic and authoritarian nightmare of the British Empire at its might. It has no place in the 21st Century, here in Bermuda or anywhere else. School or teacher directed worship is inherently coercive and oppressive.

“SJB also notes that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Children have singled out the British Empire as being unique amongst Western ‘democracies’ in mandating collective worship in public schools. The UNRC has called for this law to be repealed throughout the British Empire, as it is a breach of the Rights of Children. SJB agrees and calls on Bermuda to be progressive in the service of its children, rather than awaiting imperial action.

“To be clear, SJB also now calls for an end to prayers being given over the Public Announcement system. For example, at one BPSS school, there are up to four prayers a day over the PA system, during which students are expected to stand at attention or disciplinary action. All such prayers are overtly Christian focused ‘in Jesus name’ and include the Lord’s Prayer. These practices of forced religious worship are unacceptable in a 21st Century liberal democracy.

How is this a Social Justice Issue?

“Social justice is about justice. This means fighting oppression everywhere and in all its forms. Coercive collective worship in the BPSS is a social injustice disguised as tradition and celebrated as culture. It contributes to injustices against non-Christians, non-theists, and LGBTQ youth. Furthermore, this pattern of coercion contributes to learned behaviors of submission in later life which can help reinforce inequality and injustice.

“Simply put, no student should be coerced into collective worship or face harassment, isolation and bullying as a result of such collective worship. Schools should be safe places for our children and this form of oppression, however cloaked, must be removed.

What about morals and ethics?

“It is not necessary to coerce students into collective worship to teach students lessons about ethics and community. Formal worship is neither necessary nor conducive [when coerced] to spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development and inclusion.

“In place of coercive collective worship, SJB Education Committee calls for Section 28 to be repealed and replaced with guidelines for inclusive community activities such as:

  • 1. “School Assemblies – A gathering of all or part of the school focused solely on communicating information and engage in themes relevant to the school community. While assemblies may feature religious leaders as guests, the school should approach these as opportunities for students to learn about different religions, and as such the school should seek to have such figures only occasionally and ensure that those invited represent different religions and belief systems throughout the year – i.e., Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taosim, Secular Humanism, etc.
  • 2. “Time for Reflection – A school community activity involving engagement with and reflection on an ethical, social, or culturally relevant topic.
  • 3. “Personal Reflection – A silent time-period where individuals may engage in personal worship/belief reflection in response to an ethical, social, or culturally relevant topic in a manner consistent with their own religion/belief.
  • 4. “Extra-curricular Organised Worship – Students may form clubs concerning their religion or belief practices during free time, provided doing so does not breach the rights of others. The school may facilitate these clubs but not lead them.

“Bermuda, it is time for coerced collective worship, under the regulations of Section 28 of The Education Act, 1996, to be removed from the BPSS. SJB does not now, nor will it ever advocate to prevent those who wish to engage in collective worship from doing so.

“SJB advocates for a school environment that is inclusive and promotes a student experience which fosters well-rounded spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development.”

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Comments (32)

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  1. sandgrownan says:

    Well well, what very well written argument. Excellent, overdue but welcome nonetheless.

    Didn’t see that one coming. Well done.

  2. Trouble in the csmp says:

    Now don’t go getting people all restless and worked up! They like their religion in Bermuda. We got lots of churches and kids are our future customers so p*** off!

  3. Jevon Ray says:

    If it ain’t broken, no need to fix.

    • sandgrownan says:

      It’s broken.

      • LOL (original) says:

        That is your perspective.

        • sandgrownan says:

          Or let’s phrase it another way..how about we stop lying to our children huh?

          • Charles says:

            Agreed, 1000 years from now we will look back on our church lovers, as we look on those 1000 years ago. Primitive and basic.

            It’s obviously a load of nonsense, made up to satisfy our fear of death and explanation.

            Just enjoy yourself, make the most of life, stop hanging on to the blatantly untrue.

    • Sheena says:

      Agreed! God does not force Himself on anyone! Don’t want God in schools? Now it’s going to be broken. Look at what happened in the US schools! Hang on because were headed for a very bumpy ride! And I promise not to say, “I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!”

  4. StantheMaintenanceMan says:

    Here we r in a rush to be like America again. Sadly under the guise of Social Justice. Sooo you want to take a little bit of singing and prayer out of schools cause it’s eroding social justice. Am I bugging right out or are all these masks and constant breathing of carbon monoxide gas messing up peoples brains.

    • saud says:

      “…constant breathing of carbon monoxide gas messing up peoples brains.”

      This, and you should seek help.

      It’s carbon Dioxide, by the way.

    • PBanks says:

      It’s not just the US that doesn’t have mandatory prayer in public schools ya know.

      And agree with saud on getting your chemical compounds correct. Carbon monoxide is pretty much fatal.

  5. Red Pill says:

    They are finally making sense.

  6. People who want to take PRAYER out of School. I would say U never went to Church or Sunday or Sabbath School. I can tell U , LOT OF U WENT TO COLLEGE ON A WING & A PRAYER . That God would send or make away for that School fee will come through.

  7. BermyYouth says:

    if any thing, schools need more prayer and time with God,, violence increasing in Bermuda, and only going to get worst.. then when everything goes wrong and downhill, ppl wondering where was God.. they don’t want Him around..

  8. IslandChild says:

    Religion has no place in schools, unless the school is run by a particular church itself.

    It’s something that should be taught at home and, of course, in the church itself.

    Schools are for secular learning.

    A compromise might be to have, instead of a led prayer, a brief ‘moment of quiet reflection’ allowing those who pray to do so, and those who do not to have their own quiet thoughts. That way no child can be singled out for their beliefs, or non-belief, which if it is happening suggests that those doing it need to revisit their own beliefs.

  9. saud says:

    “if any thing, schools need more prayer and time with God,,”

    NO, schools do not need any more of this BS!

    In fact, education is the best cure for religion!

  10. Mary says:

    Now more than ever we need prayers in school. Many of our children are lost with no religious, moral and ethical foundations. In many cases these forums are the only balance that is introduced to these children. Yes there are other religions than Christianity, but surely alternate arrangements can be made for those who wish to pray to their Respective God to do so. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Prayers still have a place in schools for our beautiful Bermuda. The devil is certainly at work and using this opportunity to reveal it’s ugly head.

  11. saud says:

    “reveal it’s ugly head.”

    Yes, that’s exactly what you’ve done. You’ve revealed your devil influenced bigotry.

    Who would have thought that in 2021 we’d still be subject to this archaic BS.
    Religion, the tool of the uneducated.

    • Lol (original) says:

      Perhaps you could answer the math question I asked above then?

      Lol

      • saud says:

        I don’t take orders from bigots like you.

        If you were capable of debating like an adult, you might have had the chance of learning something….instead, you just revealed that you’re an ignorant bigot.
        You’re dismissed.

        • LOL (original) says:

          So your lack of education is showing and the only one with the bigot mind set is you.

          LOL ever hear the saying about opening your mouth and proving you own foolishness’.

          • saud says:

            “ever hear the saying about opening your mouth and proving you own foolishness’.”

            Yes, and thank you for illustrating it for all of us to see.
            You poor little ignorant bigot.

        • LOL (original) says:

          Cause calling people names and yelling at them proves your intelligent and capable of adult debate…..

          LOL you seem to be like you name suggests…

          • saud says:

            “you seem to be like you name suggests…”

            Correct, I’m a Saudi prince…and you’re nothing but a joke. LOL

  12. Lol (original) says:

    Maybe you could explain the mathmatics behind the odds of every cell beating the odds that each cell is what it is in the body to make up the marvel that is life. You and me. Depending on your understanding of chemistry you might find that its a lot hard infact impossible for a bowl of matter soup could become a hourse or a blade of grass. Ill wait for you to work out the odds of that then perhaps when we’re old and grey you mighy have an answer. Till then please indulge us church lovers which I am not how exactly it all happend.

    Lol

  13. Unbelievable says:

    If I had a child in public school in Bermuda and my partner and I raised that child according to a non-Christian religion like Islam or Judaism or even no religion, I wouldn’t want them reciting any Christian prayer. It’s as simple as that. Why do Christians always think they need to force their beliefs on everyone? Mind your business.

    And what happens if my child doesn’t join in the Christian prayer? Do they get in trouble? Is the school going to me and say, “Your child is in detention because he didn’t join in prayer today”.

    If we have to force students to pray then we need to have other religions represented in school. Seems pretty straight forward to me.

    • sandgrownan says:

      To be fair, it’s not just Christians. The religious are incapable of keeping their faith to themselves, they won’t be happy until you believe it too.

      • Unbelievable says:

        I painted with a pretty broad brush with my previous post. Of course, I don’t think every Christian or religious person pushes their beliefs on everyone. Many certainly are respectful and go about their business but I think I was trying to make a point about separation of church and state – or rather, church and school.
        But no Muslim or Jew has ever tried to get me to believe what they believe or push their doctrines onto me. It’s only ever Christians who do that. I’m willing to bet that they wouldn’t be met with such hostility if they just went about their business and treated everyone with dignity and respect.

        • sandgrownan says:

          Not here of course, but if you lived in the Middle East, do you think you’d have to follow Sharia. Religious states are far worse than our local God botherers (who have been told how to behave).

          Make no mistake, if they could, they’d “make” you believe. See SSM debate as a classic example.

          • Unbelievable says:

            This debate is not about Sharia law or what happens in the Middle East. There is zero any of us can do about that situation. But I’ll push back by saying that even Saddam Hussein was a religious tolerant leader in Iraq. His VP was a Christian.

            But I’d rather keep the debate closer to home.

  14. Alvina says:

    Great information. On the off chance that you don’t worship, you’ll never encounter God.

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