Monkey business in the scripture class – archive, 1974 | Religious studies and theology

Over the last few months, with very little national attention, a controversy has developed over religious education in Birmingham which is provoking local comparisons with Tennessee’s celebrated “monkey trial” in 1925.

At least, that is the perspective in which some humanists and Communists hope it will come to be seen. A new RE syllabus – due to be taught this autumn – which includes self-contained sections on both these secular philosophies is on the point of being thrown back at its astonished planners after four years of work.

The syllabus has fallen foul of the 1944 Education Act which, as read by lawyers, makes it illegal to teach non-religious subjects as part of RE – unless this is done “for the advancement of religious knowledge.”

The five working parties of a total of 40 people who prepared the syllabus fell straight into this trap, apparently by accident. Their agreed document listed communism and humanism as “non religious…

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