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Religious instruction in public schools « Previous | |Next »
May 14, 2011

I have to agree with this position that education in Australia's public schools should remain ''free, compulsory and secular''. That means no religious education in state run public schools.

Unfortunately, the various state governments around Australia impose religious instruction on their public schools, and the religious right are determined to get God into the public schools in order to roll back humanism and secularism as more school children elect not to attend religious scripture classes in public schools.

Currently, religious education (ie., scripture classes) is Christian in orientation, despite Australia being a multicultural society, is more proselytizing than education and reflects the desires of a minority of parents. If the latter want a Christian education for their children, then they should go to a private school or find classes outside school hours (a Sunday school class.)

Religious "education" is a cover for religious instruction that has existed since 1950. The usual situation is that once a week someone comes in from outside the school and teaches the children about Jesus (creationism, fear of devils, hellfire and punishment etc). Those pupils not participating can go and sit by themselves in another room. So why cannot they have an education in ethics?

Australia is not a Christian country. Section 116 of the Australian Constitution states:

Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth

Despite this, we have evangelizing in public schools by Access Ministries, an organization which trains Chaplains for Christian scripture classes in public schools. The CEO of Access Ministries, Evonne Paddison, has publicly advocated using the opportunity given by the Chaplains in Schools program to convert children to Christianity.

The religious classes, which are not education about religions but education into a particular religion that are funded by the state, need to be replaced with education on the major forms of religious thought and expression characteristic of Australian society; on different ethical traditions; and they need to be taught by trained teachers rather than volunteers.

It comes as no surprise that the Churches and religious groups are strongly against any ethics education in moral reasoning for those children who opt out of the religious "education" class. They argument is that it undermine religious education in public schools. If ethics is confined to religion, then ethics would apply only to religious people. But ethics applies as much to the behavior of the atheist as to that of the Christian.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:01 AM | | Comments (7)


One religion in title is one too many Gary!

My question is - could the Atheist Foundation of Australia apply for a contract to supply chaplains for schools?

If not, why not?

The AFA by the way has just announced its conference for Melbourne next year in April.


The pilot ethics course at the ten state schools in NSW, who have volunteered to teach the pilot program developed by the secular St James Ethics Centre, looks a good move in the right direction.

It's going to be a long and bitter fight to teach ethics as opposed to Christian religious instruction in public schools.

What Gary said. The idea that schools should not teach ethics is really weird.

I remember what were then called 'scripture' classes when I was at high school. It's depressing to read they continue to this day. Fortunately virtually all my co-pupils thought they were a boring waste of time, except for the year we had a truly psychotic lady come and give detailed gruesome descriptions of the crucifixion. Even aged 14 we understood she was not a well woman. I recall her telling us earnestly that if god had meant us to smoke he would have given us chimneys in our foreheads, so there was the odd light-hearted moment of relief lovingly forensic accounts of nails going into hands and 39 lashes and whatnot (although from memory she didn't join in the giggling about the chimney).

I would rather see ethics taught in public schools. Far better exercise for young minds than people having conversations with burning bushes, murdering first borns and prostitutes being stoned to death. But I also think the concern about religion in schools is typical of what passes for debate over anything to do with kids.

Peer pressure is still the be all and end all in schools. If some kid has a meeting with a chaplain and emerges speaking in tongues or waffling about crowns of thorns they'd be crucified in the canteen at play lunch.

Far better to ask kids whether Franz should steal the medication for his dying wife or the other one about derailing the train to save the town. At least then they'd have the reasoning skills to support one another and reduce the need for chaplains.

Lyn's comment reminds me of the episode in 'Tom Sawyer' where all the kids get religion after a revivalist preacher comes to town. It didn't take.

Teaching religion is harmless enough for most kids, but it can really damage some who are very impressionable. Feeling guilty because you have bad thoughts can be a very traumatic experience when you're 16; being convinced you're going to burn in hell for eternity can be altogether too much for an insecure psyche to cope with.

It appears that Access Ministries, which provides chaplains to 280 Victorian schools and 96 per cent of special religious education classes, has been using its position to proselytise in schools.

Senator Abetz, who defended the program, on Q+ A, denied this and talked about pastoral care with respect to mental health. Without Jesus the students are lost!

If Access Ministry are not proselytising then they sure are evangelising. I cannot see the ALP bringing an end to the reign of taxpayer-funded evangelical Christian missionaries in government secular schools.

They will defend it, as BIll Shorten did on Q+A.