MORE than 600 people have signed a Scottish Parliament petition calling for a change in the law to make it easier for parents to opt out of religious observance in schools.

The petition, raised by the organisation Secular Scotland and Inverclyde parent Mark Gordon, asks Holyrood to change the law so parents are asked first before their children take part in religious activities in schools.

Scottish novelist Christopher Brookmyre, Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science have backed the petition.

Last year, The Humanist Society Scotland said pupils in both Catholic and non-denominational schools were being indoctrinated with Christian beliefs against Government guidelines.

The society said the legal right of parents to withdraw their children from religious education and religious observance was being widely ignored in state schools.

Since 2005, Scottish schools have been required to make parents aware they can remove their children from religious education and observance.

However, churches have argued it is the responsibility of the headteacher to make parents aware of all aspects of the curriculum and how it may affect individual children.

They believe religious observance courses in all schools are so inclusive that there would be very few occasions when a parent felt they should exercise the right to opt out.

The 2001 census found 28% of Scots said they had no religion. Church attendance on Sundays is in long-term decline.