Feb 22 - Government Shoots Down New Humanist Group's GCSE Religious Studies Claim
Today marks the launch of Gibraltar’s first Secular Humanist Society (SHSG), which aims to promote secular thinking within the community as well as knowledge of science and evolution. The group is made up of a number of locals with Professor Arif Ahmed of the University of Cambridge acting as the group’s patron.
The SHSG hopes to monitor the Government, to ensure separation of church and state and challenge public statements in favour of restricting freedom of choice or action on theistic grounds. They will also organise local debates and discussions on secular issues, as well as tours and events around Gibraltar. An introductory meeting will be held for members of the public tomorrow morning at 1pm, at 122 Irish Town.
The group claims that their first action as a group has been to challenge the mandatory GCSE subject of Religious Education, within Gibraltar’s Comprehensive Schools. They note that students who wish to opt out of taking the GCSE will now be allowed to take an alternative subject; either ‘General Studies’ or ‘Citizenship’.
Group Secretary Dave Gibbins has thanked Education Minister Gilbert Licudi as well as Senior Education advisor Mr. Darren Grech ‘for their courage and strength of conviction that has allowed this highly progressive step forward’.
In response to the SHSG’s claim, the Government has insisted that there will be no change in the approach to and teaching of Religious Education in Gibraltar’s Comprehensive Schools. Both the Government and the Department of Education have completely disassociated themselves with any comments by the group, regarding the teaching of RE.
A statement released by the Ministry of Education notes that RE will continue to be one of the core subjects taught in Gibraltar. It adds, ‘although Religious Education is a core subject, the practice has been that some students do not take RE in exceptional circumstances on the grounds of conscience or religious beliefs. This practice has existed for many years. Where this has happened, the student was not able to study an alternative GCSE.’
The Government cannot state at this stage, whether it will be feasible or viable in practice to provide such an alternative subject to these students.
In response to the Government's statement, the group has said, 'the SHSG accept the Government's position that no change will be made to the practice of teaching RE, that RE will remain part of the core subjects and they are entirely comfortable with the disassociation of the Government of their 'opinion' on RE in education, however, that an option for those who 'Opt out' of RE has been related to us directly and we are not claiming anything other than precisely that. As a parent, I, David Gibbins have been permitted to make this known and have chosen to let the SHSG know.'