I have chosen for my son not to attend scripture class. Only one or two other children’s parents opted out.
When the scripture teacher arrives the names of my son and two others are read out. They are then paraded out of the class into a corridor. The school is small and there is no other classroom for them to go to.
I feel sad for my son to be so ostentatiously ostracised from the rest. I deeply feel it is a form of discrimination on the grounds of the child parents’ personal views of the world.
Even though the principle of continuing with the scripture education may not on the face of it contravene any anti-discrimination laws, I believe that the procedures surrounding it are discriminatory. A choice of opting out of the scripture class is not a quality choice, not like choosing one elective subject over another. There simply is no choice; religion or nothing, inclusion and feeling equal or exclusion and alienation.
Secondly, I do object to the indoctrination of young minds with religious concepts. It seems not different to me than indoctrinating them with aggressive junk food advertising. If we as a society contemplate banning one type of indoctrination we should consistently apply it through all aspects of life. There is a reason why marketing of all kinds is aimed at young generation. We are not allowing other interest groups into schools, but we make exception for the churches. Why?
Stanwell Park, NSW
23 March 10
I expect like kids all over Australia, recently Year 7 students (1st year of High School in NSW) at Byron Bay High were given a copy of the Bibles New Testament care of the Gideon’s. Apparently this happens every year.
Is that such a bad thing we debated at the dinner table the other night while visiting the family of two new Year 7 students. Do take a look at the words added as introduction and conclusion to the Gideons little red book.
Kids are told on the front inside cover that the Bible ’deals with every experience in the life of man. It gives advice and help, instruction and warning, comfort and hope, correction and direction, predictions and promises.’
The back inside cover is where the Gideons get really scary.
Using a series of the largest text headings in the whole book, the Gideon’s final words inform our kids that ‘God Loves You’ and then that ‘All Are Sinners’ and next provide ‘ Gods Remedy for Sin’ under which is included the quote ‘For the wages of sin is death’. Next heading is ‘All May Be Saved Now’ for ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall
Kids are presented with an offer to make a life saving declaration under the heading ‘ My Decision to Receive Christ as My Saviour’, provided are blank lines inviting kids to sign and date the following declaration;
‘Confessing to God that I am a sinner and believing that the Lord Jesus Christ died for my sins on the cross and was raised for my justification, I do now receive and confess Him as my personal Saviour.’
Who are the Gideons? This little red book states they are an association of Christian business and professional men.
Seems to me these Bible givers are a bunch of misguided religious fear mongering men with money and power, and that new secondary students are one of their prime targets.
My point is that its not just a Bible it’s a Bible with the Gideon’s emphasis that we are all sinners and that the only way out for kids from death is to sign their confession. I expect this Gideons edition is the same as handed to kids all over Australia.
We will be publishing our concerns in the local paper and approaching the school and hope we might grow a local campaign that will then approach the Dept of Education.
Cheers and Thanks.
I called the other day to ask about religion in Uniting Church owned preschools. Unfortunately, in my area the only preschools are church run. My 3-4yr old has been asking to go to church, making craft ‘church hats’, singing hymns and praying before dinner! The joke is I have religious friends, at the same preschool (and who go to church and Sunday school), who can’t get their child to do these things!
Im not having a lot of success with the preschool despite the Children’s Services Regulations stating they must basically respect our religious views, have anti bias policies, and their own policies say they comply with the NSW Department of Community Services “The Practice of Relationships: Essential Provisions for Children’s Services” which states they should “not endorse or embrace a particular set of religious customs and beliefs”.
From my enquiries with DOCS they can only at best lecture the Preschool on:
– being inclusive (but the preschool say they are inclusive already as they encourage us all to come to the preschool and invite us and our kids to church!),
– following their own policies, and make them have more variety in the religions they are presenting to reflect the mix in the class (which they are currently not doing – though the area is highly Christian so there would not be many other religions at the centre).
So I was wondering if you can suggest any preschool age appropriate (4yrs) materials on humanism or atheism etc that we could ask to be included to represent our families personal views on religion to add another perspective? I expect the preschool won’t allow it to actually be used in the classroom but it will give me a lot more weight with DOCS if they refuse to include our religious philosophies.
Also, do you have any views on what to say to a 4yr old about the fact we don’t believe in those things she is doing? So far we just gently say “we don’t believe in that” when she does these things. My husband wants to ignore the issue with her totally as he is worried our emphasis on religion (even our explanation that we don’t believe in it due to a lack of evidence and logical basis) will make it more ingrained in her little head which can’t yet comprehend using reason and science rather than myth.
Any ideas would be appreciated,
Further info for your reference:
The NSW Department of Community Services “The Practice of Relationships: Essential Provisions for Children’s Services” is referred to in the “Centre Policies” as forming the basis for the child development programme at the Centre. This document provides best practice for child care facilities in NSW as states as follows:
“While religious beliefs and traditions may be brought into the service in some form as they are part of the lives of members of the community, a service, unless its community has one religion shared by all, will not endorse or embrace a particular set of religious customs and beliefs. However, the religious customs and beliefs of all members of the community in the children’s service are respected.” [emphasis added]
Regulation 65 of the Children’s Services Regulations 2004 states as follows:
(1) The licensee and authorised supervisor of a children’s service must ensure that interactions with children for whom the service is being provided occur in a way that ensures that the children:
(d) are not required to perform duties that are inappropriate, having regard to each child’s family and cultural values, age and physical and intellectual development.
(2) The licensee and authorised supervisor of a children’s service must ensure that the dignity and rights of each child being provided with the service are maintained at all times and that:
(b) the child is not isolated for any reason other than illness, accident or a pre-arranged appointment with parental consent, and
(d) the values of the child’s family are respected, and
(3) The licensee and authorised supervisor of a children’s service must ensure that all children enrolled in the service:
(a) are treated without bias regardless of ability, gender, religion, culture, family structure or economic status…
Jane Lomax Smith
Minister of Education
GPO Box 778
Principal, C. Primary School
I write as a parent of children who attend CPS and on behalf of the intentions of many teachers and parents with children in the public school sector.
Firstly, I have no issues with culture and/or religious beliefs being explored within the classroom by the school teacher according to the curriculum but I do have concerns with the way in which an external business, such as Scripture Union operates, in particular, the promotion of supernatural events and fanciful myths as factual. I oppose the exclusive access given to a group of well-meaning Christians masquerading as “life educators”. Currently there is an over-representation of Christianity in state schools and I request that the needs of non-religious families be catered for as well.
In November 2008 we received the enclosed form “Information for reception to year 5 parents about a religious seminar ‘The Gift of Jesus’.”
I wish to lodge a complaint about the format and content of the form. In a secular state school, by law, religious education is not compulsory yet the information sheet contains an element of expected attendance. I feel the wording of the form instilled guilt and a sense of harm should the parent wish their child not to attend.
During correspondence with the Minister in my letter dated 2nd September 2007 I made two requests. Firstly, “cease distribution of religious propaganda within the school”. This is now done by request only and I am satisfied with this result. Secondly, “remove opt out form and replace with yes/no permission slip, remove principal’s permission for non attendance”.
My second request is not yet to be attained, nor have I been given a reason for overlooking this request.
The statement “…a student may be exempted from attending the program where a parent/guardian seeks permission in writing from the principal.” is false yet creates a notion of ‘this is a very serious matter requiring approval from the principal.’ I chose to ignore this and there was no follow up.
That one must “opt out” implies one is already “in”, along with everyone else, regardless of one’s wishes. To “opt out” has connotations of being an outsider, out of the group and excluded. I find this implication offensive and unwarranted.
This is not the first time I have encountered this type of recruiting and expect the practice is widespread in state schools as was the case when my children attended H V and S Primary Schools. I conclude that its derivation must come from Scripture Union and not the school itself. I realize this tactic may be necessary to drum up numbers but it’s hardly lawful.
Regulations under the Education Act (Reg. 82, 2) allows for religious seminars to be held with the endorsement of the school governing council. Student participation is voluntary and requires written parent consent to attend. (not decline) Obviously, this is to prevent any accidental religious education which could be seriously offensive to certain other religions and the non-religious. CPS has failed to comply with this regulation.
My request is for the information and consent form to be presented openly and honestly without any notion of enforcement or expected attendance, providing an un-biased choice for parents to decide whether their child should participate in or decline religious education.
I request a genuine consent form in the usual ‘I do/ do not give permission…’ format that accompanies all other excursions or in school performances.
I recommend that a suitable alternative for children who do not attend religious education would be a factual science or humanistic ethics program to run at the same time.
In future, I do not want my children discriminated, singled out, embarrassed and punished by way of being sent to another class with no useful purpose.
5th December, 08
I have just found your website and am hoping that it is still being maintained. I have been researching websites on “Chaplains in Public Schools” and was hoping for your advice and help.
My children’s public primary school in Brisbane is considering appointing a Chaplain. I and my husband are very opposed to this. I was hoping you could provide some tips on how to prevent this disaster before it proceeds any further.
The Principal is currently taking opinions from the parents and has indicated that it is currently a close call, however the Principal does seem determined.
Any help offered would be greatly appreciated.
19th October, 08
I visited your webpage recently and totally agree with banning religion from secular schools.
As I am a student teacher until the end of the year my teaching of reasoning and logic is subverted by the nonsense propounded by the religious zealots.
I am amazed how a whole state (QLD) can let this happen as the only religion they teach is Christianity. I would allow, with even a slight angst, that all religions be taught to children so that they understand them but indoctrination is in my mind total and utter child abuse.
Where can I sign a petition or who do I write to so that my view along with the thousands of others can be heard? Australia needs to change to accommodate the multitude of people learning that religion has no part in our community and joining other schools around the world and banning it from be taught.
Religions have had it too good for so long and its time for their removal as a revered institution. I admire and thank groups like yours voicing the concern of millions as we can only stop this onslaught of dribble by not teaching the children and so cause a generational change.
28th March, 08
So glad I found you.
I just started my son in kindergarten and was pretty shocked to discover that there is no alternative to Scripture. I chose non-scripture for my son so, for 40 mins, while his mates are discovering the ‘joys of catholicism’ or other christian teachings, he has to sit and play with toys, totally unstimulated. In fact, it’s prohibited that timetabled lessons are on during Special Religious Education (SRE) in NSW – not sure about other states.
Just doing a little research on this issue in my home state of NSW since it came to our attention, that there is a growing concern on this issue, with the P&C Federation lobbying in 2005, but with the former Minister Carmel Tebbutt, not wanting to move on the issue http://www.pandc.org.au/docs/2005_anconf_finalised_agenda.doc (page 17). I also read in a Hansard that Ms Lee Rhiannon has spoken to parliament about it. http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/PARLMENT/hansArt.nsf/V3Key/LC20061… I also read that the St James Ethics Centre approached the Premier of New South Wales with a submission proposing the development of an ‘ethics-based’ program to be made available to primary students whose parents might choose that their children not attend scripture which seemed a fantastic idea and brilliant solution. http://www.ethics.org.au/about-ethics/ethics-centre-articles/ethics-subj…
I’ve recently written to the state minister for education (Della Bosca) and also Federally, Julia Gillard about it, so am looking forward to a reply.
I actually would like to see NO scripture in public schools at all, if people want to raise their kids religiously, they should enrol them in a religious specific school or do it on their own time. Public schools should be strictly secular in my view.
One way I am wondering we could get around this, is to have someone from an Atheist Foundation or similar come in and occupy the students for that same time slot, just as the catholic and anglican ministers come in and do. To not allow that would be seen as discriminatory. I would love for my son to be engaged by some children’s science books with some ethics and values also.
I was so proud of my son the other day, his friend proclaimed ‘God made the world’ (after learning this at scripture) when I asked my son who made the world he said ‘No-one, it came from dust!’.
Sorry to go on, but you can see this topic is close to my heart!
Any advice or articles or people I can lobby that you can forward me would be most appreciated!
13th March, 08
I am concerned about the open invite of evangelical groups to address entire assemblies of students and to espouse ludicrous ideas, i.e. “well about the big bang theory, well…that’s just crap, a whole lot of crap.” Other equally ridiculous ideas were flogged as well amidst some religious guitar/singing.
As a teacher in charge of a group taken from a normal English class to spend 35 minutes enduring this rubbish, I’d like to know what’s the best angle of attack in dealing with this threat. It seems the executive of the school have been told to sanction such gatherings, but the teachers I associate with on this occasion despised the whole show. Two of us walked out.
Surely, if these nut cases can have free access then it stands to reason the atheist point of view should have equal time. I’d like to harpoon the access element in some way. Any ideas?
11th March, 08
Hi to all,
Last year, my child brought home a newsletter from a state primary school. It invited all kids from year 4 to year 7 to attend a “Christian Hero Values” programme, and ended with “all students are strongly encouraged to attend” So, I contacted the school. I asked what these “Christian Values” were, and got the answer: ‘loyalty, honesty, courage,’ etc. When I pointed it out that these were universal human values, they asked me if I’d like to speak to the chaplain.
So I did. She sent me the whole programme, which included a script for a male teenager/ Sunday school/ youth group person to leap around saying “Wow! Jesus is my Hero!” I did not find it evangelical, or offensive. In fact I concluded that the 1950’s dialogue was so idiotically scripted that it could not possibly harm anyone.
This year, all kids (Kindy to Year 7) have been invited to a “Narnia” Scripture Union discussion about love and forgiveness, just for Easter. This year, however, the newsletter says: “if you do not wish your child to attend, please contact your class teacher”
I replied to the class teacher that I wish my child to be taught about religion in a comparative context rather than in an exclusive context; which is why she will not be attending, and that I hope the kids that don’t attend are given something fun to do rather than being singled out. Wish me luck – it happens tomorrow!
I’ve been an Atheist since I was eight.
I am getting incensed by this – why do we have this in State schools?
28th February, 08
I was wondering if the information on the website posted in 2001 is still current? My three children attend a state school and I am appalled at the impoverished religious ‘education’ and misleading indoctrination they have imparted to them in the Religious Education lessons. A Chaplain has an office at the school, a Christian lunch time club runs ‘Supa Club’ and today’s newsletter informs me we can go and pray with the Chaplain and staff and other parents before school once a week. I was of the opinion that state schools were secular, but this appears to be false. I am concerned about the amount of time he spends at the school presumably pursuing Christian ideals with young minds.
I would like to pursue this with the school and will certainly be removing my two younger children from the RE classes as they are being taught Christianity as a fact which is like something from the dark ages so far as I am concerned (I sat in on a lesson with my five year old daughter this week).
Any information would be greatly appreciated.
25th February, 08
I am writing regarding Special Religious Education in the public school system. I am the father of two primary school students. My wife and I have been active in trying to find an alternative to SRE for our sons at our local school. In 2005 I proposed a policy to our local P&C for a nonreligious ethics course to be developed for children who opt out of SRE. That policy was adopted and taken to the state level where it was also adopted. It is now a policy of the NSW P&C that an alternative to SRE should be made available. The NSW P&C is petitioning the government regarding this issue.
I have noticed a number of letters on your website from concerned parents in a similar situation. I believe the only way to find a fair and equitable solution is to try to co-ordinate the efforts of concerned parents and citizens from across the state. Last year I had a meeting with a group of concerned parents from another school. As a result of that meeting we decide to form a web based group to discuss and promote the creation of non-religious ethics curriculum that could be offered as an alternative to special religious education.
The process is in its infancy and I am not sure where it will lead us but I hope that it may assist in connecting individuals across the state.
Could you help us to make people aware of the group and its purpose?
2nd Novmeber, 2007
I am writing to the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc as an atheist who has two young daughters who attend the local state primary school. Under NSW government policy the school is not allowed to provide any alternative to Special Religious Education classes (SRE) provided by the Uniting Church and the Baha’i on Friday afternoons. The policy reads:
“Schools are to provide appropriate care and supervision at school for students not attending SRE. This may involve students in other activities such as completing homework, reading and private study. These activities should neither compete with SRE nor be alternative lessons in the subjects within the curriculum or other areas, such as, ethics, values, civics or general religious education. When insufficient teachers or accommodation are available, the school’s policy on minimal supervision will operate.”
I find this policy incredibly offensive. If other parents want their kids to be indoctrinated in religion at school that’s their business but I don’t see why it should prevent my children from continuing to get an education during this time. As a result of this policy my children have chosen to attend the Uniting Church and Baha’i classes because the alternative of just sitting in a classroom doing nothing is so boring and because the Christians give out lollies.
I would like to run classes on Atheism as an alternative and a lot of parents at the school would support this – do you know if there has been any attempt to get Atheism approved as a religion for the purpose of this policy?
10th May. 2007
I notice that much energy is directed at addressing breaches of department guidelines on this issue by your organisation and I applaud you for your efforts.
I have just entered into my fourth formal grievance process with the department on the conduct and implementation of christian seminars at my children’s public primary school. . The details of these instances are too lengthy for depiction here but they date back to 2003 and stem from both the christian options program and the Wirraway Camp. In 2005 my complaints escalated to ministerial level at which point I was assured in writing by the minister that staff at the school would be made aware of the departments requirements. And yet here we are again….
Apart from re-instigating the formal grievance process with the department I have also made a complaint to the Ombudsman’s office about the failure of the department to resolve the issues.
I would be happy to take advice and/or assistance about how to proceed from here if you are in a position to provide it. While it is my son’s (my youngest child) final year of primary school I was dismayed to discover that the endorsement of Christianity is alive and well at the local (public) high school, complete with “trendy” chaplain, promotion of youth group (where participants talk in tongues), and free bible giveaway.
I would be keen to hear about any activity your organisation is involved in to address this issue and to add my concerns to the collective if it would help.
I look forward to your response.
December 18, 2006
We, Parent and Parent, are writing to voice our concerns around the religious instruction program based at xxx Public State Primary School.
On initial enrolment for Student at xxx an enrolment form was completed in December 2005 for the beginning of the 2006 school year, this official school form included a section on religious instruction. This was completed requesting Student’s non-attendance. Shortly after the commencement of students first term in February 2006 a second enrolment form was received to update student information. Again on this form it was requested that Student not attend Religious Instruction. Towards the end of the first term we became aware, through our conversations with Student, the she had indeed attended three to four religious instruction classes. Parent contacted by phone the public office of School. Voicing concern over Student’s attendance of the RI classes Parent was then informed that a school newsletter had been sent home with the students, requesting the parents wanting to exclude their children from RI to write a letter of exclusion and present it to the school office to be included on the student school file (despite having requested twice in writing on the official school forms), This letter was written and presented on the same day.
During the second term of school Student became noticeably upset at the removal of herself from her class mates, in the middle of class time, with her neighbouring prepatory class during RI. She felt segregated, singled out and was becoming increasingly upset. We approached her class teacher with our concerns and we assume with no other option available it was suggested that we provide a colouring book as an alternative to avoid the removal and exclusion of Student from her class. This continued for the duration of the year where Student was removed to the back of the class, seemingly as punishment to a six year old prepatory student for non-attendance of RI.
On the final day of RI for 2006 Tuesday the 12th of December Student returned home at the completion of the school day very visibly and emotionally distressed due to an incident during RI in which she describes in great detail the presentation of coloured candy canes by RI Teacher to all students attending the RI class (of which Student is at the very least on visual attendance) at the exclusion of Student. Student then verbally expressed her distress at not receiving a candy cane upon which time she was informed by RI Teacher that she would gain permission from the attending teacher for her to receive one. On return RI Teacher informed Student the answer was no and “What a shame”. As a result Student not only felt individualised, segregated and single out as she had been the entire school year, but was also questioning what she had done to deserve such blatant exclusion from the majority “What did I do wrong Mummy to not get a Lolly”.
A six year old prepatory student at a public state school, starting school forming bonds, relationships and friendships which will form the basis of her school life should not be dealing with segregation and bias based on religious or non-religious preference.
The website of the Department of education and training fact sheet on Secular Schools reads “The principal of secular education by which the legislation clearly states the government school system is secular and open to the adherents of any philosophy, religion or faith. It specifies the curriculum and teaching in government schools will ‘not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect'”
Principal, as described, our Student has been somewhat upset by the above events and is in need of a definitive and positive response from the people involved so as to minimize any long term negative effects that may occur. Next year there also needs to be put into place a suitable public school based class alternative, without Student feeling ostracised, that Student has an interest in, when religious themes are being taught, which, by the way, are against the intent of the above regulation. (Underlined)
Therefore, the below points need immediate attention:
# A sincere, personal, and sensitive apology delivered at an appropriate time to Student from attending teacher and RI Teacher with a guarantee that the circumstances will not be repeated and that their actions were wrong. To show good faith a lactose free, wheat free lolly could be given to Student.
# That the response of RI Teacher to Student of “What a shame” was totally inadequate and did not take into account the psychological effect of such a dismissive phrase would be on a child in those circumstances.
# That attending teacher and RI Teacher receive official instruction that it is not acceptable to bribe children with sweets as a method of persuasion or to deny any child that which the other children receive, without reason.
# That the school realises it is of a secular nature and children expecting a non religious content must not experience any form of discrimination.
# That separation of a non-religious child during religious education be handled in an insightful manner, with proper alternatives supplied
# That the school engages only qualified religious instructors who are capable of making ethical decisions, acting in proxy of the school, for the children in their care.
# That our initially expressed requirement for Student not to be included in ANY form of religious input be respected. If we change our minds, we will inform the school.
We wish to put these unfortunate events behind us and allow Student to start afresh next year. Your earliest response would be appreciated so that any ideas she has developed and retained about her segregation be dimmed by time.
Parent & Parent
21st June, 06
I thought that I would take the time to mention an ongoing problem with the religious education currently taught at Victorian State Primary Schools.
When our child started school, I was amazed that they taught religious (non denominational) education to our youngest citizens in public schools. Having not being born and educated in Australia, I was unaware of this scenario.
When our child started school, I voiced my objections, only to have it pointed out that EVERY child that was in attendance at the school at that time, attended R.E (Religious Education). That no student was excluded and that for us to exclude our child would leave them open to criticism and ridicule.
I told them that it was not the states responsibility to teach ‘religious ethics’ to my child and threatened legal action if they persisted in this argument ( I was told it was voluntary and was perplexed that they thought I would buckle and change my mind for the fear that our child would be compromised). So, there we were. Out on a limb.
Sure enough, our child did not attend R.E and yes it is true that for approx 6 months or so, they were on their own during these classes. Then a really remarkable thing happened. Our child got a companion during these classes, then another, then another and so on. Until after a period of 4 or 5 years, the school now has two complete classrooms of non-religious folks like us.
What astounds me is this: Not one person was willing to stand up and speak there mind on this issue. They all followed like sheep. The earth did not open up and swallow “us heathens” and non believers, and to be quite honest, I didn’t give a rats bum what people thought of us.
I kept getting “bad letters” from the school every year, urging me to enrol our child in R.E. A quick call to the Victorian education department sorted that out too, as I felt victimised and harassed by the school and again threatened legal action. It was the only way to keep these folks off our back. Who knew that it could be so hard to not follow the norm and stand up for your right to be an agnostic/ atheist ?
23rd February, 06
I am looking for information regarding the teaching of Christianity in Victorian State Primary Schools. I was of the belief that the primary schools were/are non denominational but to my surprise this does not appear to be the case.
I have a young child that has just started school and have found that you are encouraged to let your child attend the ½ hr Christianity indoctrination class. Mind you it is not compulsory but you get looks of bewilderment when you tell them to buggar off!
School is about education and not indoctrination. I have been searching the vic gov edu web site but cannot seem to find a policy in relation to this.
Any help would be appreciated.
22nd February, 06
I am interested in learning of any private schools that do not teach/force one form of religious beliefs, as I do not want my children brainwashed at an early age….
any info would be great.
16th February, 06
To my absolute dismay I found out last night that my 4 year old son who just started school in NSW, is required to to say a prayer each morning.
As an atheist I find this expectation that I accept my child’s indoctrination into the occult offensive.
Do you have any advice for me?
12th February, 06
Dear Atheist Foundation of Australia,
I write to you with regards to religious teachings (scripture) in NSW public schools.
I’m concerned that this practice in our public schools, is promoting a separatist society in NSW, and could be divisive, with its Anglo-Saxon doctrine of faith.
For young children, going to a public school, should be about interacting with the world as it exists, in all it’s diversity, so segregating children schooling through a single faith is wrong and patronising for children, from a non-Christian background.
Secularism is about keeping the state and religion separate, the way it should be – not privileging religion of any faith. Do you support a separatist culture in public schools?
I believe that religious teachings (scripture) should be completely banned from all State/Public schools across NSW – not to advocate against Christianity, but as a matter of principle – and to allow for the proper separation of state and religion.
Young children in NSW public schools should not be exploited by any religious organisation – Hillsong, Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Islamic, Jehovah’s Witness.
A secular New South Wales education system, should aim to impart factual information, to encourage children to think and to examine differing viewpoints.
I believe that Anglican, Baptist or Catholic indoctrination has no part to play, in preparing a child for life, in any public school, across NSW. It’s not part of schooling.
The classroom is not the place, to be preaching to young children about a gospel, which guarantees eternal bliss in a never-ending “heaven” of the imagination.
The classroom is a place for learning, it’s about preparing teenagers for the real world – religious indoctrination has no part to play in this process. It shouldn’t even be optional for students who attend a public school in NSW. It ought to be outlawed.
I would appreciate a detailed reply, from you, addressing the concerns that I’ve raised. What is your assessment of my proposal that religion in NSW public schools should be completely banned, as this indoctrination fosters a separatist society in NSW?
Thanks Atheist Foundation, for your consideration & diligence in this important issue.
26th September 05
Never has the job you guys are doing been more important.
Well done. Great site too.
Thanks for what you are doing.
I’m going into battle with my kids state primary school over religious education [read christian indoctrination].
I want equal time for atheists.Has anyone actually sold an atheist course to any school that you know of?
20th August 05
The Principal xxxxxx State School
I’ve noticed on parade that the children are expected to thank god and bless teachers. I am uncomfortable with this happening in a state school. I would also be uncomfortable with if this is happening against the education act or without parents consent. I was wondering under what provision of the education act this introduction of religion occurs?
August 29th, 2005
Ms. Maureen McNamara
Senior Education Officer
Dear Ms. McNamara,
Two of my daughters attend xxxxxx State School and are required to recite a prayer on parade each week, thanking God and blessing teachers. I objected to the school principal on the basis that it was inappropriate in a state school and asked if it was allowed under the Education Act. He replied indicating he believed it to be a reasonable interpretation of the act. See his reply attached.
I feel the offer from the school for the children to be excluded from part of the parade to be alienating and further evidence of unrecognised discrimination in state schools based on religious belief, or non belief. Examples of this discrimination are:
# alienating exclusion options like the one offered in this case
# parents not being asked neutrally whether they would, or would not, like their children to attend religious instruction
# parents not being offered a neutral balanced ethics course alternative to religious instruction by the curriculum
# parents having to submit a written request for exclusion.
# non religious ethics instructors do not have right of access to schools
# parents agree to religious instruction because of the above, and because they are concerned that their children will feel alienated by ‘non-participation’ or are concerned their children may be misunderstood or discriminated against.
# For example: students who do not attend are called ‘non-participants’
# students who attend receive sweets on special occasions while ‘non participants’ do not.
# ‘Non-participants’ doing school work while ‘participants’ get to sing
# Non-participants’ may be seen to be somehow less ethical or morally sound.
I have personally witnessed my children being taken with the entire school to a special Easter presentation by a strongly Christian visitor who depicted an exclusively Christian version of the festival, as a fact, and required the participation of the children in exclusively Christian learning activities, despite our written request that they not be given religious instruction.
Prayers on parade have already been deemed inappropriate by the Religious Education Advisory committee. The minutes dated April 17th, 1996 indicate that at point 11.3 that prayers are not appropriate on parade. A parent objected to exclusively Christian behaviour on parade and the committee decided that although bible readings are allowed under the act, the legislation concerning selected bible lessons cannot be extend to include prayers and hymns. Whole school prayers were not acceptable as assumptions are being made about the student’s beliefs, although “an adherence to the principles of ‘owning’ and ‘grounding’ could allow the introduction of material from a wider range of religious traditions (and also non religious) when and if the school community is willing and able to do so.”
I would like to object to the prayers on parade at xxxxxxState School on the grounds above, and request the school be asked to implement a more inclusive policy as advised by the committee. I take this to mean that prayers on parade be ceased, and later, if necessary and the school community approves, replaced by readings done by individuals as opposed to all children being coerced, and providing a number of different religions (not just Christian) are included. I would suggest that non-religious views should also be included (e.g. the Humanist view). Students that support school prayers on parade have the option of attending church or indeed a church school (as does my eldest daughter) but students who attend state schools should not be discriminated against based on their belief or non belief.
I believe that a significant proportion of parents decide that having their children undergo religious instruction may be better than no ethics at all, as they are not offered a generic ethics option, and the ‘non-participant’ option, if they are aware of it, is run in such a way that it alienates children. I would therefore like to object to the education act as it relates to religious instruction at state schools on the grounds that it is discriminates against people based on their religious beliefs or non beliefs, and request that these issues be addressed by the Religious Advisory Committee.
11 August 2005
I am not a member of your group right now, but I thought you might be interested in reading the attached letter that I wrote to the teachers of my son’s kindergarten after a committee meeting. I was completely outnumbered by Christians, Christian-wanna-bes and agnostics, who are too scared to speak up for themselves and needed the security of agreeing with the majority.
I am a proud atheist mother of two boys (one with cystic fibrosis), studying a full time triple major university degree and co-running a successful business. We are polite, charitable vegetarians who have great respect and consideration for others, without fearing a god. Obviously I don’t have enough time on my hands to worry about whether my actions will be accepted by a god or not, and I know for a fact that a god doesn’t put food on my table!
I was careful in the letter not to disrespect the beliefs of others…I simply don’t wish to be forced into sharing them. I understand that many in our population NEED religion to get by, and I do respect that it is their choice, but I feel I was disrespected at this meeting, as you will read.
I am glad that you have a magnificent, informative website, and I certainly will consider joining your group in the near future.
11 August 2005
The Teaching Staff
xxxxxx Preschool Association
PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL
I would like to formally document my concern for the practice of incorporating religion into the curriculum at xxxxxx Preschool, as discussed at the committee meeting on 10 August. I hope that the following will be used in consideration of the direction that the concert will take at the end of the year.
Our family celebrates Christmas as a family, with Santa and presents. No reference is made to religion, as with the Easter Bunny. The Birthday Fairy and Tooth Fairy add to the magic of special occasions and are simple pleasures in their childhood. Many families also celebrate Christmas this way.
We must ask ourselves: “What has religion got to do with pre-school?”. Does it enhance socialisation or develop gross and fine motor skills? Does it improve language or encourage creativity? The answer to these questions is quite obviously “No”.
One could argue that the Christian religion enforces high moral standards in children. Both my children do not swear, they use their manners, are considerate of the feelings of others and exceptionally loving of all people and creatures on the planet, yet have never attended a structured Christian gathering nor practiced it in our home. Therefore, the Christian religion is not required to ensure that children behave in a manner that is morally and socially acceptable. We do not fear a God in our household – we simply perform duties and act in a certain manner because it is what is right.
When my first son was a kinder, only two years ago, the end of year concert was based on Australian history and the derivatives of our culture. They sang “We are one, but we are many, and from all the lands on earth we come. We share our dreams and sing in one voice. I am, you are, we are Australian”. Hence my shock at the condoning of a comment that one of the members made at the meeting, that she was glad that she was part of a Caucasian community in xxxxxx. This is not the ‘global’, multicultural attitude that I would expect in modern Australia.
We are not a “Christian society”, an unsupported viewpoint presented at the meeting, we are instead a complex blend of different cultures, religions and values. The 2001 Census found that 32% of the population were not Christians and many of those who stated that they were Christian were most likely not frequent church goers, they simply grew up in religious households. Children would benefit in adulthood from knowledge of the world as a diverse population if they were taught, by their parents, that there is a completely different world beyond the confines of the xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.
Some members stated that they didn’t practice religion in their homes but would not be bothered it their child learnt about it. This begs the question: if the Koran was the religion that was chosen to be presented this year, would they still be interested in having religion taught to their children?
Some argued that the children will ‘miss out’ if there is no or little religious content in the end of year concert. If they are practising religion in the home, then their church and home based celebrations should more than suffice in their spiritual needs. The fact that the majority of the members of the committee are either staunch Christians or have been raised in Christian households produces a level of bias that cannot be reasoned with. I feel that many members who do not practice religion were inclined to simply agree with the majority, which is a common response in group situations where individuals fear having a different opinion. This is naturally counterproductive. Had there been families of mixed race present, I am certain a different attitude would have been displayed.
My personal belief is that religion should be optional. It should be taught at home, in churches and other religious facilities and in specialised religious schools. Religious Education at the primary school is not compulsory, nor is it part of the school curriculum. My seven year old prefers science facts to spiritualism and does not do RE. I do not believe that children should remain ignorant to religion, but I would prefer that they understand the basics of a multitude of perspectives, so they could then make an informed decision, should they wish to pursue a religion. At this early age of development, I do not think such complex teachings are necessary.
The literature provided by the preschool, prior to my son’s enrolment, did not state that the centre was influenced by Christianity. When I completed the enrolment form, I stated that he did not have a religion, and I was not warned that he may be subjected to religious content in the teaching. I will bring this up at the next meeting with a recommendation that people be made aware of the possibility of Christian influence.
I do not want to withdraw xxxxxx from the Preschool so close to the end of the year but I also do not want him subjected to Christian indoctrination. This places me in a difficult situation if the preschool chooses to use a religious theme at the end of this year.
In summary, I feel the committee and teaching staff should take a neutral position and I believe that the end of year concert should be a celebration of our children’s achievements and not a religious event.
9th August 05
I’d be interested to read any information you have about religion in state schools – I’ve already seen the article about chaplaincy in schools in SA. I have had some difficulties with local Christians attempting to persuade children at my son’s state school to attend a group they have at lunch time (Supa club). It was quite a slick campaign. My partner and I complained to the Principal and spoke to our son’s teacher about the incident.
There seems to be a growing Christian presence in state schools too. A minister talks to my son’s school at Easter and Xmas time about Jesus etc. Yet, other belief systems are not mentioned. I don’t mind my children being taught about Christianity in an academic sense ie. this is what Christians believe … But I thought that state schools were secular institutions.
Anyway, if you could direct me to some reading matter on this topic or your thoughts on this matter would be appreciated.
31st July 05
It seems that every time I check out the ‘positions vacant’ pages in the Southern Times Messenger there are always advertisements for school chaplain positions. The current paper in circulation has two positions available, one at Aldinga Primary School and the other at McLaren Vale Primary School where my son attends. These positions are being advertised with monotonous regularity and I am very concerned. I intend to view the job and person specification information from the school reception and I will write a letter to the school and to the newspaper concerned. It seems the majority of people accept these positions without bothering to scrutinise and there also seems to be a feeling that religion is exempt from being questioned in society. If I wanted my children to have access to religious bodies I would have sent them to a private school. These chaplaincy positions are totally unacceptable in secular schools. Are we beating our heads against the wall?
7th July 05
Mr P. Beattie,
Premier of Queensland,
re: School chaplains.
Our predecessors wisely decided that Australia would be a secular democracy because that form of government recognises individuals and not communities. A secular democracy is the only form of government that can ensure freedom of conscience. Communities, [religious, ethnic…] do not recognise individuals. They make rules that ensure the continuance of their community at the expense of individuals. In other words, the notion of individual rights is replaced by that of duties related to community membership. Secular schools are an essential ingredient of a secular democracy. If a school permits members of religious sects to preach in their buildings, that sect gains unwarranted credibility and a foothold to future political power.
Religions can only survive by training the young to disengage the brain’s natural instinct to question and check statements against experience, knowledge and observation.
‘Thinking’ defines Homo sapiens. In a healthy society, children would be considered equal to other citizens, respected, and through education be given the mental tools to think, evaluate, compare, reason and justify their actions. They would learn how to look at the past so as to avoid making similar mistakes in the future. They would be expected to take into account the vast amount of knowledge based on fact that humans have accumulated, before deciding that this is right and that is wrong.
Your Christian chaplains are teaching children not to think – only to believe concepts they haven’t yet the ability to refute. ‘Belief’ is an admission of ignorance. When something is known it is no longer a ‘belief’. Religion is not a means for looking at “life”. That comes under the discipline of ‘philosophy’. Religion is the means by which an elite group gains control of the population. Religion makes supernatural gods more important than our fellow human beings.
Good schools promote commonsense assessment of the facts of nature, of human beings and the codes of conduct appropriate to foster the welfare of society and planet Earth. Good schools never chain children to belief in the supernatural and the reliance on prayer and divine guidance, because humans must rely on their own resources to deal with problems, not on the codes and superstitions of past ages.
Are you happy to tell children that everything on this planet from the smallest particle physicists can imagine, through to the vast complexity of the most developed life forms, was created a few thousand years ago by a supernatural creature who knows what is going on in the hearts and minds of all six thousand million humans on the planet simultaneously, and deliberately arranges ‘events’ so that each individual receives exactly the experiences he/she deserves? [While, simultaneously, he/she/it is keeping the infinite universe on track as well.]
Do you honestly think that a book of myths and laws designed to promote the advancement of a desert tribe a few thousand years ago in the Middle East is the unadulterated ‘word’ of a supernatural being, and absolutely true? If you do, then you agree that the sun goes around a flat earth, which is the centre of the universe.
When religion enters education, rational brain activity ceases. Dogma prevails. Faith is all that’s required. It is so depressing! While the French are introducing philosophy to young students, teaching them to think, reason and understand the world and their place in it, Australians are doing the opposite! They are undermining children’s natural desire to question, as well as their ability to reason and seek validation of ideas.
Perhaps the worst thing is that it is fundamentalist Christians who have been invited to invade young minds in over 200 schools so far.
These chaplains are part of a worldwide movement to subvert secular democracies, as they have already done in the USA. They can’t wait until children become rational young adults and ask questions to which the only answer religion can provide is, “have faith…” they’d have no new members!
Perhaps your early conditioning as a Christian will not permit you to see the impossibility of a supernatural being inhabiting a natural universe? And, having been mentally ‘unmanned’, so to speak as far as religion goes, you’re unable to question the idea of an immortal soul – something that has no physical existence whatsoever, yet which contains the total essence of a person so that when he/she dies that ‘thing’ will go to another place [for which there is no shred of evidence] and “live” – experiencing all the emotions, feelings and sensations of a living human.
The Fundamentalist Christians you are happy to let loose among vulnerable minds have started a Pay TV channel [not yet available in Queensland, thank goodness] containing an extreme level of fire and brimstone evangelical preaching, relying heavily on programming provided free by wealthy American ministries wanting to expand their following around the world. Three times a day, for example, “The 700 club” is broadcast, hosted by Pat Robertson, founder of America’s leading fundamentalist lobby group – the Christian Coalition. Guests on the channel include many rabid homophobes as well as anti Islamic preachers and so on.
Why are you allowing this sect access to our children’s vulnerable minds? And don’t answer “morality”! These are the people who murder abortion doctors; who go to funerals of murdered gays and wave banners reading god hates gays, thus inciting youths to further attacks. These are the people who refuse to allow rape victims to have an abortion and force young men to have their minds destroyed in vain attempts to ‘cure’ them of their natural sexual orientation.
Christianity has no more claim to knowledge [or practice] of good and bad, right and wrong than any cult, creed, or power-hungry gang throughout human history. Modern Christianity has borrowed ethical standards from Humanists. The virtues of kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity, humour, gentleness, equality, listening, egalitarianism, respect for the elderly, love of children, diligent respect for the land, plants and animals, derive from necessity and are as old as humanity!
Does the ‘Christian message’ give a clear call for the equality of the sexes? No discrimination in all aspects of life? For freedom to have an opinion and the freedom to express it? No it does not!
Furthermore, students have to opt out of these classes! This is intolerable. You must be aware that it is impossible for most kids to opt out – they immediately imagine it will reflect badly in their results. In fact, if their teacher is a fundamentalist sympathiser it almost certainly will. Such an action would be seen as ethical in order to promote their religion. Individuals don’t count, only their ‘god’ matters.
You, Mr Beattie, may need the crutch of a mythical superman in the sky, but it is unfair to inflict your weakness on the children in our state.
I request that you either immediately halt this indoctrination, or at least invite rational, secular humanists to give classes that will enable children to form a balanced view on the issue.
Peter R Taylor.
25th May 05
Dear Atheist Foundation,
I am an atheist public school student who goes to a school that has embraced the churches donation of a free chaplain. After having several discussions with the chaplain and coming to the realisation that she is impervious to logic I fretted ceaselessly. My prayers were answered when I stumbled upon your email address (figuratively of course), and decided the best course of action would be to put it to you. What is the most effective way I can protest the scourge of ignorance her and her cronies at our schools Christian Prayer Group have set upon us?
2nd May 05
My school in Queensland has appointed a school chaplain on a permanent basis into the school staff (unpaid). I was wondering on the legality of this because he only represents the christian religion and I feel that this is wrong and he constantly does such annoying stupid fundy things as attack evolution with ridiculous arguments and he is generally very fake and I believe he is here to win over the ‘souls’ of the kids there. Also he leads the school in prayer on formal occasions and it is compulsory to attend. There is also compulsory RE classes (unless your parents expressly ask for the opposite).
1. Yes it is a state school.
2. I was a past student.
3. The occasion i mentioned was for the Anzac Ceremony the chaplain would come up and say “now let us bow our heads in prayer” and he said a commemorative prayer thanking the Anzacs and god. If I can make this very clear, attendance at the ceremony was compulsory the prayer was just a part of the ceremony and if you didn’t bow your head I am sure they would not have forced you to. However, it is disturbing none the least and did occur on other occasions as well. He would also make an address at the fortnightly assembly where he would talk about religiously orientated things (such as youth groups/clubs/concerts, you know general stuff to lure people in) but that is all..
4. I have no knowledge of other school outside my own, but I would assume they would be in a similar situation..
5. Victoria Point State High School.
I do not wish my name mentioned at all..
Upon further research into the Education (general provisions) Act 1989 and SM-03: Chaplaincy Services in Queensland State Schools. It seems it is legal to have religious instruction and chaplains at the state school (within certain guidelines), this is made easier by the fact that he is not paid. However with all that said in my opinion there is no place for religious education in a taxpayer funded public school or a chaplain whose purpose supposedly is to be a support structure such as a counsellor but has had no formal training whatsoever as far as i know, and believes in certain fundamentalist dogma and issues..
I too am also very worried about Australia’s blurring of separation of church and state issues and i/we can only hope this doesn’t lead to a slippery slope into a bible belt US style Australia. Does the AFA have any plans to enter into politics directly and make a direct stab at changing things. With the recent emergence of the Family First religious party in the last election i believe we need a party out there to actually protect the interests of this nation..
It is very pleasing to know however that one can contact your organisation and get help such as this whenever it is necessary and hopefully will be in contact with you again..
It is the ex student from xxxxxx High here again. Just an update on the situation because I saw your piece on the website. I was recently informed that he is distributing Jack Chick style pamphlets to students (particularly worrying is he was distributing a pamphlet on the biblical story of Sodom, i.e. the whole anti-homosexual thing I imagine was implied). On a previous occasion he distributed to someone I know a Exorcist comic. I think this shows his levels of fundamentalism well as he will often get preaching information off of the internet and it will all be laughable fundamentalist arguments such as the atheist test, or this jack chick stuff. Also, I hear he is quite low on funds now and is running a fundraising campaign within the school. He not only witnesses to people on parade, he is commonly invited to many function (i.e. school camps, excursions, etc) and he walks around the school at lunchtime introducing himself and talking to people about god among many other things.
Once again it is very good to know that a difference can indeed be made and it is even more important now that Family First have a seat in the senate. At least Howard has control of the senate absolutely not through intermediates. We must be even more on our guard than usual to retain the distinct Australian lifestyle.
I do know people inside the school which is currently where I am getting my information. But I would like to keep them anonymous to protect them.
http://www.chick.com/ – Jack Chick Publications
http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0273/0273_01.asp – Tract on Sodom
http://www.chick.com/catalog/comics/0104.asp Comic on exorcism
http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/atheist.html – The atheist test
30th November 03
Our children attend the local State primary school in xxxxxx, a suburb just outside xxxxxx. We chose the State system because we prefer that our children have a secular education.
Every Friday morning, the school conducts an assembly, where awards for academic and other achievements are handed out. However, as part of the assembly, the children sing ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. As an atheist, I find this offensive, and I’m sure if any Jews or Muslims attended our school, they would find it offensive too.
Some teachers tried to stop it a few years ago, but there was a storm of protest from some parents, so a poll was conducted and a significant majority voted to continue with the Lord’s Prayer.
Are there provisions in Australia similar to those in America where such a situation would be illegal? Or am I wasting my time? After all, apart from this one blip, we are quite happy with the school generally.
Like all Australian State schools, our children have the option of attending or not attending religious instruction. Naturally, ours do not attend, and they quite enjoy the free access to library and computer resources. (Some of the other children are quite jealous!!)
Have any of you members had a similar problem? If so, what did they do about it?
Thanks for your time.
25th July 03
Every morning I can hear the local state school around the corner over there loudspeaker telling the children to say the lords prayer and the children have to repeat the prayer after the teacher word for word ….
Why is this allowed in our state schools and how can I help to stop it …….
I believe money talks and if there was some way just one person could successfully sue the government for brainwashing them as a school student it may stop the barbaric ritual ….
anyway I just want to help stop them from teaching this nonsense so what can I do to help.