This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Compulsory worship is what we are opposed to
The Bishop of Leicester writes that "No-one is forced to worship against their own conscience" ("This is not the time to build a secular state", First Person, February 18).
He appears to overlook the fact that the Church of England lobbied for (and continues to oppose any changes to) the current law requiring acts of collective worship in state schools, the majority of which, in any given school term, should be "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character".
The law gives parents the right to have a child excused from worship, but no such rights are recognised for school pupils, even those above school-leaving age.
Leicester Secular Society has been campaigning against this meaningless concept of "compulsory worship" for decades, but to date the Bishop, and his colleagues in the House of Lords, have strongly opposed allowing children to follow their conscience. I hope the Bishop's words mark a change of policy by the Church of England.At present the requirement for Christian worship is divisive, making it more difficult for schools to promote a cohesive community.
As to "it raises the question, what would a secular culture look like?", I would suggest that he looks at a the secular government of the USA where all forms of religion are much stronger than in the UK.
Secularists can be of all faiths and none, and some work to help preserve local churches. Secularists don't want to demolish places of worship any more than they would want to demolish golf club houses.
Secularists want to protect the freedom to practise religion (or not) and to pray, including in public. What we do object to is prayer being involved with the process of government, which should be completely agnostic with regard to religion.
John Catt, Loughborough