June 7th, 2023 by James Goudie KC

Section 390(1) of the Education Act 1996 provides that a local authority in England shall constitute a Standing Advisory Council on religious education for the purposes mentioned in Section 391(1). Section 390(2) provides that such a Council shall consist of such groups appointed by the authority as representative members ( representative groups ) as are required by subsection (4). Subsection (4)(a) states that the representative groups so required are, in the case of an area in England, a group of persons to represent such Christian denominations and other religions and denominations of such religions as, in the opinion of the authority, will appropriately reflect the principal religious traditions in the area. In R ( BOWEN ) v KENT COUNTY COUNCIL (2023) EWHC 1261 ( Admin ) Constable J holds that the County Council’s refusal to consider a humanist for membership of its Standing Council was unlawful. It was discriminatory, pursuant to ECHR Article 14, in conjunction with Article 9 and Article 2 of the First Protocol, to exclude someone from membership solely by reference to the fact that their belief, whilst appropriate to be included within the agreed syllabus for religious education, in accordance with Section 80 of the Education Act 2002, was a non-religious, rather than a religious, belief.

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