NZ Schools face new push from the Secular Education Network to remove all Religious Education from participating schools
Last month, the Secular Education Network (SEN) launched an appeal to the Human Rights Review Tribunal to review the legislation governing religious education in New Zealand schools. The SEN claim that "hundreds and hundreds" of schools currently have curriculum supporting unhealthy religious education. SEN spokesperson Tanya Jacob described that what is actually happening in schools is “Christian indoctrination.” Responding to these sensational claims, the Churches Education Commission (CEC), New Zealand’s largest provider of Religious Education was swift to describe the allegations as false.
Please sign this petition now to show your support for continued freedom of religious education in selected NZ schools.
SEN volunteers have commenced handing out fliers outside Schools who are electing to participate in religious education. "We are reaching out to parents to let them know what the religious instruction in their school is really all about. Generally the parents aren't told what's going on in their religious instruction classes - and often the schools don't know either…There are cases where parents would be shocked. They'd be disgusted," stated SEN’s Ms Jacob.
Members of the SEN have also expressed their anger over the use of Christian prayers, bibles and songs in the classroom.
Whilst the SEN stated that they simply are calling for a review of religious education in NZ schools, this is clearly smoke and mirrors. It is evident that the SEN wants the end of religious education in NZ schools by using scaremongering tactics to try to gain support for their cause. One of the latest claims also made by SEN spokesperson Tanya Jacob was that "some of the content can be disturbingly similar to grooming.” The implication here is that educators were in some way trying to manipulate young children’s minds towards a particular ideology which they are likening to being a ‘sexual predator.’
Responding to these allegations, Tracy Kirkley from the CEC stated that what the SEN are suggesting is not at all consistent with how religious education is actually delivered in schools. The CEC operates under the guidelines set out by the Human Rights Commission in relation to what is appropriate content for religious instruction. Ms Kirkley further highlighted that an overview of the curriculum and its lesson plans are provided to schools every year and parents can freely access this information.
Under the Education Act, teaching in NZ primary schools must be entirely secular. However religious education is permitted for up to one hour a week. It is important to note that Schools choose to participate in the religious education component, a decision often made by school boards in conjunction with parents and teachers. All parents also have the choice as to whether their children attend classes or not. It is made clear that these classes are not compulsory. Secular parents for example, who want to emphasise ‘no religion’ to their children can freely opt out of these classes. Despite all this, the SEN continues to protest against the existence of these classes at all, wanting to remove freedom of religion for those families who wish to engage in the program.
This is not the first time that the SEN has expressed their dissatisfaction with religion in schools. Only last year, David Hines from the SEN appealed to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights for a review of Religious Education in NZ schools, claiming that Bibles should not be used in schools and that the classes have a negative impact on non-Christian students.
Across, NZ about 40 % of primary schools engage in some form of religious education. The CEC has approximately 2,500 volunteers across the country in 600 schools by invitation to teach values from a curriculum called “Life Choices.” Children learn values that support the New Zealand School Curriculum, combined with stories and values from the Bible. Principles include: Treat others as you would like to be treated, show respect, be a good friend, having self-discipline and perseverance, being brave and doing the right thing. The CEC programs are popular and they currently have a waiting list of schools nationally who are wanting to participate in the Christian Religious Education programme in their schools.
It is true that as New Zealand continues to grow in its diversity and multiculturalism as a nation the demand for Christian religious education may reduce. Despite this, Christian values in education are currently still very important for many thousands of families across the country. Demand for religious education classes still continues to grow and as such there should continue to be an opportunity for children to undertake such instruction in schools.
Please sign this petition to support the continued right to Religious Education in selected NZ schools. Religious freedom is the core value at stake here. The SEN continue to attack these important freedoms for Christian families in NZ. By signing here you show your support for the continued freedom of schools and communities to choose to participate in religious education programs.
This petition along with your signature will be sent to the new Minister for Education highlighting this issue as an important concern for families in NZ as he/she commences his new role.
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To the Minister of Education: