High Court declares the exclusion of humanists from Group A of local authority SACREs is unlawful


The High Court has ruled that humanists are eligible for membership of Group A of Standing Advisory Councils for Religious Education (“SACREs”). SACREs are the bodies through which Local Authorities are advised on the content of the religious education curriculum in their local areas.

In June 2022, Kent County Council refused to consider the Claimant, Mr Stephen Bowen, for membership of Group A because, in its view, the relevant legislation constituting the SACRE (section 390 of the Education Act 1996) only permitted representatives of religious groups to sit in Group A of the SACRE.

Today, the High Court has confirmed that that view was wrong. Under section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998, section 390 of the 1996 Act is to be read and given effect as incorporating the State’s duty of neutrality between religious and non-religious groups. The result is that it was unlawful to refuse to consider Mr Bowen for membership of Group A of the SACRE.

David Wolfe KC and Katy Sheridan acted for the successful Claimant, Mr Stephen Bowen, instructed by Dan Rosenberg at Simpson Millar. Mr Bowen was supported by Humanists UK.

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