More NSW Religious Privilege

The Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) is taken aback at revelations that, not content with recent moves to remove any reference to ethics classes on school enrolment forms, the NSW State Government is seeking take a similar line with ethics classes for kindergarten students.

Parents are not required to be advised of any option of ethics classes until they’ve refused SRE (or left the question blank) until the point that their children are relegated to the library to watch shows like Peppa The Pig and Mr Bean (quaintly described as “meaningful activities”).

It’s been speculated that the NSW Liberal government has done this in (part) exchange for Fred Nile’s support for their legislative program. While we don’t know that for certain, the alternative – that Mike Baird and his party actively want to undermine secular education and parent choice in this way, without any outside forcing – is more unpleasant to contemplate, in many ways.

Some of the questions and comments from our previous statement on these issues bears repeating:

What sort of “ethics”, religious or otherwise, are being modelled for our children by the following actions, as reported in the media?

  • Despite (or perhaps because of?) the demonstrated popularity of secular ethics classes, the government will start hiding information about their availability, once again privileging religion in a secular society;
  • No real reason has been given as to why these changes are needed. What is the alleged “problem” that these are intended to fix? That secular ethics classes have become too popular?;
  • While all parties to this deny any connection with Fred Nile’s support for legislation, it is difficult to see this as anything but an attempt to curry favour with Mr Nile to prompt his party’s support for the government’s legislative program.

AFA President Michael Boyd said:

Once again, the party of free choice and personal responsibility are denying parents a free choice about ethics classes. This is probably the result of a cheap deal to curry favour with the Nileasaourus, an ancient creature still living in the past.

Alternatively, Mike Baird really does think that religious education should be forced on parents when they clearly don’t want it. Neither explanation reflects well on the government. Ethics classes are much more valuable for students than religious fairy tales. It’s time for the government to come clean on what is behind this nonsense.

The AFA calls on the NSW Government to stop trying to preference already privileged religions by stealth, and to maintain a policy of enabling parents to make a fully informed choice at all times – including about opting-out of SRE, and the availability of secular ethics classes.



Michael Boyd

President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
PO Box 1062
Lane Cove NSW 1595

Phone: (02) 8007 4503
Email: president@atheistfoundation.org.au