AN atheist group is demanding a place on the town’s religious education board.

The British Humanist Association says the council must include a humanist representative alongside Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus and others who help draw up the RE curriculum for school children.

It said it has the law on its side and says the council would be breaking the Human Rights Act and equality laws if it denies them a place.

Humanists do not believe in God, the afterlife or the supernatural.

The idea of having them on the board has been described as absurd by one leading member of the Roman Catholic community.

Their letter, to the council’s Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education, known as SACRE, reads: “We believe that humanists should be full members of Committee A (the committee representing non-Church of England groups), and have obtained legal advice which confirms it is illegal to refuse humanists such admittance...

“In brief, the Human Rights Act sections 3 and 6 and the Equality Act 2006 section 52, when read together, mean that references in law to ‘religion’ should be read as ‘religions and beliefs’.”

Education campaigner Richy Thompson said: “We want to make sure that religious education curriculums are balanced, and include all religious and non-religious beliefs.

“And we also believe we have the law on our side in arguing for a place.”

Although he did not say they would seek legal action against the council over the move, he said they would “have to consider where to take things.’ Peter Wells, a former headteacher of St Joseph’s Catholic College, said: “The members of SACRE are there to form and shape the parameters of religious education. And by definition it implies a belief in whatever way you put it, a god, or being, or beings plural, and a belief in faith and religion.

“If there was a body which didn’t walk with that comfortably, they wouldn’t be appropriate for SACRE.

“We live in a society which is made up of people from many different faiths, and of no faith at all. I don’t think that’s either right or wrong. It’s just a fact. When it comes to SACRE it’s a different ball game altogether. That’s the crux of it.

“Let me give you a ludicrous example. I enjoy rugby. If I was on the board of management of the local rugby club, would I be obliged to also have an anti-rugby group on the managing board?”

Coun Doreen Dart (Con, Blunsdon), who is expected to chair the committee when it meets on Tuesday, said she could not comment.