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date: 05 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on children’s rights to religious freedom raised against state policies in state schools. It analyzes the distinction usually drawn between religious education (RE) courses and others. Most legal systems will allow non-denominational RE courses in state schools provided they are accompanied with rights to opt out. By contrast, purely “secular” courses will usually be mandatory. This chapter will argue that, assuming that rights to opt out legitimately accompany RE courses, they should also attach to secular courses on ethics and morality. On the contrary, religious and moral implications of scientific theories, such as evolutionary theories, should not give rise to exemption rights. In a second part, the chapter considers religious symbol cases, arguing that whether symbols are state endorsed or worn by pupils, courts should resist the temptation to ascribe unilateral meanings to symbols, but carry out instead a contextual assessment of their impact.

Keywords: religious freedom, state schools, religious education courses, rights to opt out, evolutionary theories, ethics courses, religious symbols, exemption rights, contextual assessment

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