Well no, unfortunately not. Owing to Britain’s long heritage of religious privilege there are still many instances of the state treating the non-religious less favourably. Here are the ten worst violations of religious equality in the United Kingdom today:
(1) Admission to taxpayer-funded schools: Even though the non-religious pay the same taxes as the religious they have worse access to taxpayer-funded schools. This is actually deliberate and legal. The government put special exemptions into the 2010 Equality Act enabling “faith” schools to treat pupils unequally according to their parents’ religion. About a quarter of state schools are “faith” schools, and often a non-religious family can only send their children to one if it is undersubscribed, even if they live next door.
The government’s excuse is that such schools do well and are popular. Well yes, schools that get to pick their pupils can indeed do well (as private schools show). Study after studyhas found that “faith” schools use their power of selection to pick middle-class pupils with strong parental support. Parents want such a peer group for their children, so these schools tend to be oversubscribed, and that gives the school more choice in selection, and hence the feedback produces popular schools with good exam results. Being oversubscribed also means that such schools can both expel problem children and not have to take children expelled from other schools. When corrected for the differences in pupil intake, “faith” schools do not do any better.
The non-religious family doesn’t get to play this game since non-”faith” schools don’t get to pick pupils. This is a racket that only the religious can take advantage of. It even extends to provision of school transport. Even worse, religious discrimination is now spreading to non-”faith” schools!
Being “popular” (with those who can gain entry) is hardly a justification. If we had state schools only for kids of higher-rate taxpayers, or only for kids of university-educated parents, you can be sure they’d be popular among those families who qualified, and you can bet they’d produce above-average exam performance. But those are banned for good reasons of social cohesiveness. Why do the religious alone get such privileges? And why on earth does anyone think that handing over state schools to be run by Islamic groups is a good idea?
The majority of the public oppose any state school being a “faith” school, and yet the government is so in thrall to the religious lobby that it is increasing the proportion of “faith” schools! This is not a small issue, it concerns the spending of tens of billions of pounds of taxpayer’s money. The new Archbishop has already stated that the Church of England should “grasp the opportunity” to proselytize presented by so many school children being handed over to the control of the church.