All, except those who are opposed to all religion, will agree that every child has a right to a religious education, and that every parent can justly demand that his child shall be taught the doctrines of his particular faith.
It seems, therefore, on the face of it, to be natural that religion should have its place among the subjects taught in schools. Surely religion is, to say the least of it, as important as history, geography and arithmetic.
At school, children should learn not only certain subjects of knowledge, but also right behaviour, discipline and good conduct. That is, education must be not only intellectual, but moral; for a good character is more important than even learning.
The great practical object of religion is moral conduct and character. Therefore religion must form the most important part of a moral education.
Further, where secular education is completely separated from religious education, children grow up in ignorance of their religion, and often learn to despise it. A purely secular education has a tendency to undermine religion.
At the same time, the giving of religious instruction in schools is attended by grave difficulties and draw backs. Where the people are all of one religion, the matter is simple; but where, as in India, there are many religions in one place, it becomes very complicated. The boys in a school may be Hindus (of various castes), Muhammadans, Sikhs and Christians. Obviously no
one kind of religious instruction will suit all these; each child must be instructed in his own religion, and the school must provide teachers of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and the sikh religion. Only a large school could attempt this.
And even where this could be done, difficulties may arise from the rivalries and jealousies of these different religions, and children, instead of being united in one body, may be split up into warring religious factions.
After all, religion is best taught in the home. It is primarily the duty of parents, not of school-masters. In the schools, the inculcation of moral principles which are common to all religions is the best form of religious instruction.