RELIGIOUS observance in schools is under threat after government ministers agreed to review the practice in the wake of a legal challenge by Humanists.

In Scotland, all young people require parental permission to withdraw from religious observance, unlike England and Wales where older pupils, have the right to opt out.

Originally dating from 1872, the law not been updated since 1980 and the latest guidance from the Scottish Government was issued in 2011.

In September, The Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS) launched legal action after the Scottish Government rejected calls for a change to the current rules which permit only parents to opt out on their children’s behalf.

It followed a ruling by the United Nations Children’s Rights Committee which raised concerns that children in Scotland do not have the right to withdraw from “collective worship without parental permission” and recommended the existing parental right to opt out of religious observance should be extended to young people.

The HSS, a charity for non-religious people in Scotland, said the refusal to update guidance in the wake of the UN review meant ministers had potentially acted unlawfully.

The government will now consider changing the law after campaigners were told their application for a judicial review at the Court of Session had been successful.

But the hearing will now been shelved for three months while the government review gets underway.

Gordon MacRae, chief executive of the HSS, said recently that young people were "trusted to get married, join the army and vote in elections and for the constitutional future of Scotland".

He added: "However, Scottish ministers still do not trust them to make their own decisions about attending religious observance or to give young people the same rights as those living in England and Wales."

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

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Convener of Church and Society Council at the Church of Scotland welcomed the consultation but said it was not a decision that "should be taken by any one section of Scottish society" but a "question for Scotland as a whole".

He added: "It is a question of the sort of society we wish to be.

"Within our increasingly diverse and segmented society the Church feels that retaining a space for young people of all faiths and none to meet, to share and to understand one another's values, world views and beliefs, remains a vital hope for the future. "

In non-denominational schools, assemblies are the most common form of religious observance, but schools are expected to draw a clear distinction between these and others celebrating pupil success

In Catholic schools pupils participate in prayer and reflection in classrooms and assemblies.

At other times chaplains will lead school communities in the celebration of Mass and other forms of liturgical celebration.

A spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said parents were "opting into a school’s ethos" when they chose a Catholic education for their children.

He said: “Catholic schools are sensitive to the right of parents to withdraw their children, as a matter of conscience and not simply as a matter of preference, but would hope that all children benefit from participation.

“Should the Scottish Government extend the clause to pupils it is hoped that, having understood the reasons why their parents chose a Catholic school for them, pupils would still want to participate as enthusiastically as they do now.

“We would also hope pupils would continue to feel that religious observance was relevant as a way of contributing to their personal and spiritual development.”

Addressing the suspension of the judicial review and planned consultation, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We believe religious observance in schools should support the values of a diverse, outward-looking Scotland, which encourages young people to develop their own beliefs and values and understand and respect the beliefs and values of others.

“Listening to the views of young people themselves on all aspects of education is very important, as we have clearly recognised through our approach in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 and the current Education Governance Review.

"We welcome the opportunity to work with key interests to discuss how we ensure this approach is fully reflected through religious observance guidance.”