Abstract

Responsibility for the religious upbringing of the child is usually seen as a fundamental parental right and a matter for parental discretion. Concern over the rise of religious extremism and the threat that this may pose both for children brought up with extremist values and for the state itself, has put pressure on the limits of this parental freedom. The developing law within England shows a growing use of supposedly neutral values that act as a normative constraint on legitimate expressions of religious belief. The use of secular values in welfare decisions and as a constraint on education is particularly evident and imposes increasingly firm outer boundaries on parental religious choice. While the state may have a legitimate interest in promoting community harmony and in protecting children from harm caused by religious extremism, there are deep concerns as to the origin and use of the secular values chosen by the state to do so. Any imposition of state values must be based on a genuinely collective vision with due respect for competing religious conviction.

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