Creating a fairer Britain
Acts of worship and other religious observance organised by you are not covered by the provisions prohibiting religious discrimination whether or not it is part of the curriculum.
This means that you (even if you are not a school with a religious character) can carry out collective worship of a broadly Christian nature (as maintained schools in England and Wales are required to under other legislation) without this being unlawful under the Equality Act.
The Equality Act does not require you to provide opportunities for separate worship for the different religions and beliefs represented among your pupils.
You are free to organise or to participate in ceremonies and festivals celebrating any faith, such as Christmas, Diwali, Chanukah or Eid, without being subject to claims of religious discrimination against children of other religions or of none.
In England and Wales parents can remove their children from collective worship and sixth form pupils can choose to withdraw themselves, while in Scotland pupils aged 12 and over can chose to withdraw themselves.
As a school designated with a religious character you are exempt from the requirement not to discriminate on grounds of religion or belief in relation to admissions and in the provision of education and in access to any benefit, facility or service. This means that as a school with a religious character you do not have to make special provision for pupils of a different faith or incorporate aspects of their faith into your curriculum.
However you must not discriminate on any other of the prohibited grounds. Nor can you discriminate on religious grounds by excluding a pupil or subjecting them to any other detriment.
If you convey your beliefs in a way that involves haranguing or berating a particular pupil or group of pupils then this would be unacceptable in any circumstances and would constitute unlawful discrimination.
More guidance on this issue can be found on the Department for Education's website.
A teacher at a Church of England school tells pupils that homosexuality is ‘wrong’ and that gay and lesbian people will ‘burn in hell’ unless they are ‘cured of the disease’. A gay pupil in the class is deeply offended and intimidated by this hostile and degrading language. This may be unlawful direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
A Jewish school which provides spiritual instruction or pastoral care from a rabbi is not discriminating unlawfully by not making equivalent provision for pupils from other religious faiths.
A Roman Catholic school which organises a visit for pupils to Lourdes is not discriminating unlawfully by not arranging a trip to Mecca for two Muslim pupils at the school.
A school with a religious character would be acting unlawfully if it sought to penalise or exclude a pupil because he or she had renounced the faith of the school or joined a different religion or denomination.