Parental rights in religious upbringing and religious education within a liberal perspective
This thesis engages in a critical examination of parents' rights in religious upbringing and religious education within a liberal perspective. One of the central features of a 'liberal perspective' is taken here to be a commitment to the importance of valuing and developing the autonomy of the child. This commitment has important implications for the defensibility of both religious upbringing and religious education, and for the scope of parental rights that can be exercised in relation to them. In the first three chapters it is argued that, given this perspective, parents have a right to give their children a certain kind of religious upbringing; one where their children are brought up to have an initial determinate religious commitment, but one which is both open to, and compatible with, the child's eventual achievement of autonomy. This view is defended against a range of objections and the character of such an upbringing is explored in some detail. In the next four chapters it is argued that, following on from this claim about religious upbringing, a broadly similar claim can be made about religious education and schooling. Parents are seen as having the right to give their children a distinctive kind of liberal education, including a form of religious schooling, which seeks the development of their child's autonomy from a particular starting point. The argument proceeds from an analysis of parents' rights in general concerning education, through a critical exploration of the notion of liberal education, to an outline of the concept of the `liberal religious school' and an analysis of the difficulties to which it gives rise. The thesis concludes with an exploration of further considerations which support the view that a plurality of forms of liberal education, including education in religion, should be acknowledged, in relation to which parental rights can legitimately be claimed and exercised.