Our response to the survey indicating that 70% of young people in the UK do not consider themselves religious

Posted by on 3 March, 2018 | 0 comments

This week saw the publication of figures concerning the religiosity of Europe’s young people. These figures published in a report prepared by Stephen Bullivant for the European Council of [Catholic] Bishops are based on data from the European Social Survey 2014-16 and show that in the UK a majority of the adult population, and 70% of young people (16-29), identify as having no religion. These figures show the privileged place of religion in our system of government to be grossly out of step with the views of the governed.

Currently the UK still has 26 bishops sitting and voting in the House of Lords. This privileged position would be an outrageous entanglement of state and religious institutions even if the vast majority of the population were religious. The arguments for secularism rest on very general principles, reflecting the interests of society as a whole, including believers. However, with the majority of the population reporting no religion (according to theBritish Social Attitudes Survey) and a figure of 70% for young people it has become inescapably clear that this privileged position is not only wrong in principle, but startlingly unrepresentative of the British public.

In Scotland, councils are required to appoint three religious representatives (one Church of Scotland representative, one Catholic Church representative, and one other) to their education committee, with full voting rights. Furthermore, both the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church are represented on the General Teaching Council. These policies are absurd and unrepresentative of the views of the young people that the educational system is there to serve, and lead to them being subjected to religious experiences with which they do not agree and from which they are not even allowed to opt themselves out.

Our young people deserve to be taken seriously. If we want them to vote, and take their full part in civic life, we need to show respect for their opinions. Disentangling religious institutions from the State would be a good start.

John Duncan, Human Rights Adviser

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