Dear Mr Gove,
The vocal responses to Gary Lineker’s ‘eating grass’ comments on Al Jazeera only go to show how important religious literacy is in our society. It should not be too much to hope that all professional people in the modern world are sufficiently religiously literate to recognise a Muslim prostrating in prayer. Religiously inspired actions by sports men and women are not uncommon. Examples include Mo Farah placing his head to the ground thanking Allah for his Olympic success and more commonly footballers who cross themselves as they run onto the pitch. In addition, general issues arise concerning religion and sport; eg for Jewish sports men and women if games are scheduled for a Sabbath. Such matters should be familiar to all sports and other commentators in our multi-religious global community.
The education system in England and Wales has long recognised the need for such religious literacy through the support and provision of Religious Education in our schools, which has become a popular subject with many young people today. How sad and regressive, then, to observe your government’s systematic dismembering of Religious Education in the curriculum, and its undermining of support for it locally and nationally! If we are to be a nation respectful of the faiths of all our people, from premiership footballers to the ordinary folk we work and live with, let alone understand something of the influence of religions in world affairs, we need to be aware of and understand the diversity of beliefs and practices in the world today. Good RE helps to provide the religious literacy essential to the wellbeing of our society.
The RE Council is determined to safeguard the place of Religious Education. We represent all major faith communities and the RE profession, and we invite you to talk to us about the future of this subject which looks increasingly bleak. Do not go down in history as the Secretary of State for Education who ate grass as far as RE was concerned!
John Keast OBE
Chair of the RE Council