Education news

Non-Christian couple take legal action over daughter's (5) compulsory religious education

A non-Christian couple are taking legal action over their five-year-old daughter receiving religious teaching at her school in Northern Ireland.

High Court proceedings have been brought against the Department of Education and the Education Authority, claiming that it breaches their human rights.

A judge confirmed that the challenge will be heard early next year.

The case centres on legislation which makes Religious Education (RE) and acts of collective worship compulsory in Northern Ireland schools.

Parents are unable to withdraw their child on the grounds of conscience.

Applications for a judicial review are being taken on behalf of the girl and her father, who have both been granted anonymity.

Lawyers for the family are contesting arrangements which involve religious instruction at the school they chose for the child.

According to their case it unlawfully offends the parents' non-Christian outlook.

At a preliminary hearing, Mrs Justice Keegan declined to rule that the girl lacks legal standing to bring a case.

She identified issues around parental preference for a child who has not yet reached the age of maturity, but is the person affected and holds her own autonomous rights.

"At this stage I'm going to have to reserved on this until I hear and analyse the facts of the case in the round," the judge said.

"At the minute I'm going to continue to allow both the father and child (represented by counsel) to make submissions before me."

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