Richard Fretwell

Thesis title: Religious Freedom in a Post-Christian Age: A critical analysis of liberalism, secularism and human rights through the lens of religious freedom in education in England

Start year: 2020


Supervisor(s): Professor Bev Clack, Professor Peter Edge, Professor Lucy Vickers

Research topic

My research is concerned with the effectiveness of the current legal framework in England and Wales for the protection of the right to freedom of religion within the field of education. Whilst my research will address the dominant societal themes related to religious freedom, such as mutual respect, equality, human dignity, and the balancing of fundamental human rights in a liberal polity, there will be a specific focus on how these themes interact within primary and secondary education, and what this means for religious freedom in education. Essential to my analysis of the legal protection afforded to religious belief and manifestation in education will be an examination of different conceptions of “religion” from a philosophical/worldview perspective, and an appraisal of how, and to what extent these different understandings of religion are incorporated into the legal classification of “religious” action, and thus protected under applicable human rights legislation.

Important corollaries to the core thread of my research will be the place and role of religion and the state as they relate to education in Western society, and the legitimate domain of influence of each of these spheres in the liberal tradition. My research will investigate different conceptions of liberalism, and the weighting they give to the importance of secularism and religion within the liberal polity, and will involve an analysis of the fundamental tenets of the worldviews grounding the particular emphases and weightings of what are considered the core values of liberalism. These core ideological values of liberalism will then be evaluated as to their compatibility with common religious beliefs and their expression, as well as current imperatives in primary and secondary education to teach “British Values”. From this analysis legislative solutions will be sought that seek to respect to as full a degree as possible the fundamental human rights of both religious and secular English citizens as they progress through the English school system.


Human Rights, Freedom of religion, Freedom of conscience, Education, Equality, Discrimination, Religion, Ethics

General research interests

Politics, Human rights, Ethics, Humanism, Christianity, Progressivism, Libertarianism, Socialism

Academic school / department

School of Law and Social Sciences

Teaching experience

  • Teacher of Modern Foreign Languages – French and Spanish (to A – Level)
  • Teacher of Computing
  • Teacher of English as a foreign language. 2 Years spent in Europe (1 in Bordeaux - France, 1 in Burgos - Spain)

Further details

Academic and professional training

  • University of Leicester – MA Human Rights and Global Ethics
  • University of the West of England – BA International Business and French

Scholarship and prizes

  • Best Business Student - University of the West of England - 2002