Call for legal protections for teachers against ‘blasphemy’ welcomed by Humanists UK 

Following the incidents at Batley Grammar School, in Wakefield, and in Birmingham, Humanists UK has been a vocal advocate for enhanced protections against accusations of ‘blasphemy’ in schools.

The Government-backed independent review into political violence and disruption has been published today and recommends teachers to be given legal protections against allegations of ‘blasphemy’. 

Humanists UK called for precisely such protections to be put in place in the wake of the Wakefield blasphemy incident in 2023, in which failings by school leaders, local councillors, and the police inflamed community tensions and endangered local residents following a trivial incident involving a religious book at school.

Humanists UK has been leading calls for greater support for teaching staff and a more robust defence of freedom of religion or belief, freedom of thought, and freedom of expression in response to a number of recent school controversies, including the events in Wakefield and the suspension of a teacher in Batley after showing an image of Muhammad in a Religious Studies lesson about blasphemy.

The teacher was later forced to go into hiding after receiving death threats from protestors. This and the following events in Wakefield led Humanists UK to call on the UK Government to provide guidance on upholding free expression and tolerance in schools, as well as instructions for the police and local councils on how to deal with these situations. Humanists UK’s call for guidance was already accepted by the Home Office.

Humanists UK also called for the Government to ‘Empower state schools to stand up to religious bullying in the community and stop religious leaders from interfering in school curriculum, student life, or discipline.’ That call is now being taken up. Today’s Walney Review recommends: 

‘The Government should issue statutory guidance on managing blasphemy-related incidents in schools. This should include commitments to upholding teachers’ freedom of expression and not automatically suspending teachers involved in such incidents or revealing their identity. While schools are required to engage with parents, on developing Relationships and Sex Education for example, the guidance should set out that schools are not required to engage with local community groups or religious institutions in managing blasphemy-related incidents or other tensions (Recommendation 25).’

The report follows on from Dame Sara Khan’s review into social cohesion, which called for protest buffer zones to be implemented around schools and strengthened protections for teachers. Humanists UK submitted evidence to the Review and welcomed her recommendations.

Commenting on the report Humanists UK’s Education Campaigns Manager, Lewis Young said:

‘Schools should be a place of learning, and we have long campaigned for measures to make sure that children and staff can go about their day free from intimidation. We strongly welcome these recommendations for legal protections for teachers and call on the Government to act quickly to put them in place.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at [email protected] or phone 0203 675 0959.

Read more about our work on our campaign to provide support to teachers, schools and pupils.

Read more about the Batley case.

Read our response to the Khan Review

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 120,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

Source link

Add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Keep Up to Date with the Most Important News

By pressing the Subscribe button, you confirm that you have read and are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use