Religious Education, Social Inclusion and Interreligious Literacy in England and Australia


  • Cathy Jane Byrne Southern Cross University



social inclusion, religious education, religious literacy, intercultural competence, secular pluralism, Christian privilege


This article examines the contentious nature of religion in relation to questions of interreligious literacy and education. It connects the concept of cultural tolerance to a particular interpretation of ‘religious literacy’ in the education policy environment, and examines religion-related education governance structures. I draw on examples from state-funded Australian government schools, against a backdrop of ‘social inclusion’ policy. First, two different, ideologically based, styles of ‘inclusion’, and their variant styles of governance, will be de?ned. These two styles can be described as ‘passive’ (economically focused and inherently limited) inclusion, and ‘active’ (socially focused, and critically, consciously broad) inclusion. The article explores the political basis of these two styles of inclusion and how they encourage or discourage minority voices within democratic processes. The article then analyses how these styles of inclusion affect contributions, from minority voices, to policy development and practice in relation to religion in state schools. Inclusive policies in education in the past few decades have targeted socio-economic (often racial and location-based) and ability differentials. A lack of inclusion policies which specifically address cultural (particularly religious) barriers highlights the limitations of an economically focused social inclusion agenda.

Author Biography

Cathy Jane Byrne, Southern Cross University

Cathy Byrne has been researching and writing on religion in schools for eight years. Her book, Religion in Secular Education: What, in Heaven’s Name, Are We Teaching our Children? was published by Brill in 2014. Currently a sociology tutor at Southern Cross University, Cathy examines the human rights and discrimination issues arising from religion education policies, in Australia and other Western democracies.



How to Cite

Byrne, C. J. (2014). Religious Education, Social Inclusion and Interreligious Literacy in England and Australia. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 27(2), 153–177.