Religious Education in South Australian State Schools

CORRESPONDENCE 2009

Hon. Dr Jane Lomax-Smith MP
Minister for Education and Children’s Services
GPO Box 778
ADELAIDE SA 5001

13 May 2009
Dear Minister,

I write to you yet again concerning a breach of regulations regarding religious instruction and/or a Chaplain or Headmaster overstepping her/his authority.

The person complaining wishes to remain anonymous in fear of adverse effects to her child who is a student at Urrbrae Agricultural High School. This alone shows the significance of the problem when religion enters and interferes with the public sphere. The below emails can be verified as genuine.

(Email received 30th April 09)
I would like to bring to your attention a very concerning matter that took place at Urrbrae Agricultural High School on Monday the 27th of April 2009.


The year 8 students were called in for a year level assembly. One of the items on the agenda was Anzac Day and the year 8s were told about the significance of this event. The presentation quickly slipped into the fact that when people (including students) need guidance in difficult times they can turn to God to help them with their problems.


The assembly then concluded with students being asked to line up so they could be given a New Testament. There was no choice given to the students of whether they wanted to line up or not. It appears, from students’ reports that those who didn’t wilfully take one were asked to stand aside. From students’ observations everyone came back to class with a copy of the New Testament.

(Email received 13th May 09)
Following my first email concerning students from year eight at Urrbrae HS being given a new testament at assembly, I have endeavoured to find out who handed the new testaments to the students. What transpire is that all the year eight students were accompanied to assembly by their teachers. An outside group first spoke about Anzac day followed by another outside group invited by the school to speak to students about what to do for guidance in difficult times (turn to God was the general message the students remember).The students were then asked to line up so that the group members could hand out a new testament to each child. Those who refused were made to stand aside.

The various students I asked could not remember the name of the group.

A couple of parents with students in year nine this year remember their children coming home with a New Testament handed out at assembly last year.

Minister, the ongoing reported and unreported instances of religious zealotry carried out on State School grounds requires something better than you responding with statements that a certain Chaplain or Headmaster will be chastened. Religious ‘education’ by way of instruction (Indoctrination), the subtle and/or overt presence of Chaplains in State Schools or the incidence of invited proselytizing religious groups is a woeful antiquated remnant of the past.

I particularly bring to your attention the fact that at the reported assembly all students were subjected to god-speak.
The Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc expresses in the strongest terms possible that this manipulation of the minds of children cease forthwith.

I look forward to the results of your investigation on the matter concerning the Bibles give-away and that students were not given the opportunity to opt-out of the ‘sermon’

Yours without prejudice,

David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Aust Inc

Cc Mike Rann
David Pisoni
Mark Parnell
Robert Brokenshire
Various interested parties

Department of Education and Children’s Services
Education Centre
GPO Box 1152
Adelaide SA 5001

Dear Mr Nicholls

I refer to your letter to the Hon Jane Lomax-Smith MP, Minister for Education, dated 13 May 2009, regarding an ANZAC Day Assembly held at Urrbrae Agricultural High School on Monday 27 April 2009. The Minister thanks you for your email and has requested that I reply directly to your letter as this matter falls within my area of responsibility.

At the assembly in question the Vietnam Veterans attended and spoke to the students about the meaning of ANZAC Day for them and the Gideon Society representatives briefly explained their charter and invited students to take a free New Testament at the end of the assembly. The Year 8 coordinator emphasised to the students present at the assembly that they were under no obligation to take a copy.

I am advised that the Gideon Society representatives gave copies to those students who requested them and I am assured that there was no coercion used at any time. The Gideon Society visits Urrbrae Agricultural High School every year and students are, and have always been, free to either take or reject the copies of the New Testament on offer.

However, after reviewing this incident the department has found that the school did not fully adhere to the Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) Administrative Instructions and Guidelines (AIGs) on “Religious activities in Government schools” (Section 3: student matters). The principal at the school has undertaken to ensure that the school’s procedures and any future activities, comply with the AIGs: Religious activities in Government Schools.

In addition, I have asked the Director of Schools and Regional Operations to reissue the circular outlining schools responsibilities in relation to the Administrative Instructions and Guidelines: Religious activities in Government Schools. I attach a copy for your information.

Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention and for your interest in the education of young people in South Australia.

Yours sincerely

Chris Robinson
CHIEF EXECUTIVE
Date: 9 July 09
cc Hon Mike Rann MP, Premier of South Australia

24 July 2009

Chris Robinson
Chief Executive
Education Centre
Dear Mr Robinson,

Thank you for your reply dated 13 May 09 to my letter to the Hon Jane Lomax-Smith dated 9 July 09. I wonder if in future responses you might acknowledge somewhere on your letter that I have written to you as David Nicholls, president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc and not as David Nicholls, private citizen. Thank you in anticipation.

You state there was no coercion, with the students under no obligation to take a copy of the New Testament. I find this a surprisingly naive statement considering that school, peer and authority pressure to take a Bible would have been quite intense. Would you be so kind as to provide me with the actual number of those who did and who did not avail themselves of a Bible? Just a rough estimate will be fine. I am sure that the accounting methods of the Gideon proselytisers would allow for easy access to this information.

As only 9% of people are interested in religion enough to attend a church on a regular basis, that should be reflected by around 9% of students freely accepting the Bible. If the figure is somewhat higher than that, as I suspect, then a reason for this is in need of further investigation by your department. I might point out the 9% of the population figure of regular church goers is mainly comprised of mature adults. The percentage of adolescents is much lower.

I will be somewhat disappointed if your reply contains the Census figure of alleged 68% religious belief in the community. Educated people of intelligence know this figure is seriously flawed. They understand that generally its use is dishonest or mischievous for reasons of convenience.

Offering free Bibles to those of undetermined and no-faith is an act of proselytising Christianity. It is only not proselytising if the audience is known to adhere to a particular religion, which many students clearly do not. The act of handing out Bibles would be seen with more clarity as an infraction of regulations if the book were to be the Qur’an, after all, the students would be “free to either take or reject the copies of the” Qur’an. What if the books were copies of ‘Mein Kampf’? It is therefore against Section 4.1

“…This includes the obligation of all volunteers to operate at all times under the direction of the principal and the obligation of all people on a school site to refrain from proselytising…”

And against the regulations enunciate under the heading, Christian Pastoral Support Worker (CPSW) Section (b) under the sub heading, ‘The role of CPSW explicitly excludes’ (First bullet)

• “proselytising i.e. promoting any particular religious ideology or doctrine”

Handing out Christian Bibles is possibly the most profound proselytising that can be achieved.

Therefore, it is not only Section 3 that has been transgressed; it is also Section 4.1 and subsection (b) as explained. How serious do infractions have to be until the DECS makes a principled stand against this insidious religious infiltration in state secular schools?

Once again, allow me to reiterate strongly the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc opposition to having any kind of sectarian religious influence in state schools. That much of it is of the fundamentalist type is more than disturbing.

Well may you end your letter with the comment of thanking me for my interest in the education of young people in South Australian schools? One can only hope DECS develops that same interest.

Yours without prejudice,

David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
Private Mail Bag 6
MAITLAND SA 5573

 

 

CORRESPONDENCE 2007

Dear Mr Nicholls,
Thank you for your letter dated 27 March 2007 regarding information about a Christian Easter seminar held at Seaford Primary School on 20 March 2007.

Regulations under the Education Act [Regulation 82(2)] allow for religious seminars to be held with the endorsement of the school governing council. Student participation in such seminars is voluntary and requires written parent consent. In this respect the school complied with the Regulations.

As I advised in my letter to you in February 2007, the department’s Administrative Instructions and Guidelines (AIG), under which the Christian Pastoral Support Workers (CPSW) operate in South Australian schools, state that the role of a CPSW explicitly excludes…advertising any particular group/activity, to the exclusion of others (Section 3, Part iv, Division 2, Religious Activities in Government Schools). The action taken by the CPSW at Seaford Primary School did not comply with this guideline.

Under the contract with the Schools Ministry Group the term ‘chaplain’, which was used in the notice to the school community, is not to be used by CPSW in state schools. In this respect the school did not comply. The District Director has met with the school Principal to give her direction regarding the role of the CPSW’s in schools and the management on these matters. The school Principal has advised that appropriate persons are fully informed of the guidelines and how they operate in government schools and will ensure that the practice is not repeated.

In addition, I also asked that this matter be raised at the Schools Ministry Group Program Management Group meeting, which was held on 28 June 2007. The Schools Ministry Group Program Management Group monitors the contractual agreement between the Heads of Churches State Schools Ministry Coordinating Group Incorporated and myself. As an outcome of this meeting, the Schools Ministry Group Regional Manager for the South West region has spoken to the CPSW regarding non-compliance with the AIG’s. The CPSW has given assurances that he will in future comply with the AIG’s and has apologised for the incident.

Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.

Yours sincerely
Jane Lomax-Smith

27 March 2007
Hon. Dr Jane Lomax-Smith MP
Minister for Education and Children’s Services

Dear Minister,
I write to you yet again concerning conduct by a chaplain not in accordance with at least the intent of DECS instructions and guidelines. A member of the AFA has informed me his child attending the Seaford Primary School was given the attached form for the parents to sign. The parents have already signed a document at the beginning of the year to exclude their child from any religious indoctrination. It can only be assumed that all students received the attached literature. This overt pandering to religion in secular education must cease.

The parents have written to the Principal and to the chaplain in question, expressing their disgust at this religious intrusion into their lives and into the mind of their child. Not all parents are in the AFA, nor do many consider, out of respect for the status quo, that their singular dislike of such procedures warrants them taking any further action. The objection to chaplains in state schools and to such behaviour by chaplains is most likely pandemic in the population but largely unreported.

Minister, in your last correspondence to the AFA, 14th February 2007, in answer to a similar complaint from the AFA, 17th December 2006, it is obvious the assurances given, that such blatant and illegitimate propagandist methods brought to the attention of the appropriate parties for its cessation, are of no value.

It is with little optimism in obtaining a positive result I ask that the chaplain at the Seaford Primary School be severely reprimanded or the position terminated.

The Atheist Foundation of Australia retains its valid stance that religious indoctrination is mental child abuse. The Rann government and the DECS are therefore culpable in this regard.

Minister, I urge you to make representation to the government to end chaplaincy programs in state schools.

Yours without prejudice,
David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Aust Inc
Bcc: Various interested parties

14/02/07
Dear Mr Nicholls
Thank you for your letter dated 17 December 2006 regarding the distribution of a Scripture Union booklet to Year 7 students at Hawthorndene Primary School at the end of the 2006 school year.

The Department of Education and Children’s Services Administrative Instructions and Guidelines under which the Christian Pastoral Support Workers (CPSW) operate in South Australian schools state that the role of a CPSW explicitly excludes…advertising any particular group/activity, to the exclusion of others (Section 3, Part iv, Division 2, Religious activities in Government schools). The action taken by the Christian Pastoral Support Worker at Hawthorndene Primary School did not comply with this guideline.

The matter has been discussed with the District Director and school principal. They will ensure that appropriate persons are reminded of the Guidelines and how they operate in government schools and will ensure that the practice is not repeated.
I will also raise this matter at the next meeting of Schools Ministry Group Program Management Group that monitors contractual agreements between the Heads of Christian Churches Schools Ministry Group.

I appreciate you drawing this matter to my attention.

Yours sincerely
Jane Lomax-Smith
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND CHILDREN’S SERVICES
MINISTER FOR TOURISM
MINISTER FOR THE CITY OF ADELAIDE

CORRESPONDENCE 2006
17 December 2006
Hon. Dr Jane Lomax-Smith MP
Minister for Education and Children’s Services

Dear Minister,
I write to you concerning an infraction of regulation protocols by the distribution of chaplaincy literature (Christian Pastoral Support Worker) in a state school.

We have been contacted by the parents of a female child of thirteen years attending the Hawthorndene Primary school. The parents are members of the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc and their names and the name of the child, with contact details, will be supplied on request.

They have stated, as this was the year of the child’s transfer to Blackwood High school, that she and all students were supplied with a ‘school leaving pack’. The showbag-style ‘pack’ contained various helpful items and included the religious propaganda booklet included in this mail. As you will notice, the literature is eye-catching, speaks the language of youth, has photographs of attractive young people and is designed to entrap maturing students. Incorporated also was a list of local churches.

The parents are understandably outraged and upset by this unsolicited attack on the mind of their child especially as the distribution of this booklet was to children of other than the Christian ‘faith’ or, as is their case, to a student of no-faith.

Attached as an addendum are the relevant pages with the clear religious and/or Christian messages.

Minister, the questions in need of answers are:

* Who arranged for the ‘school leaving pack’?
* Who arranged for the offending booklet to accompany each pack?
* Why was not the non-Christian ‘faith’ or no-faith of other parents, respected?
* Will the DECS arrange for a recall of the offending booklets?
* Will the DECS, once again, add to the growing and ineffective list of regulations, to ensure such unethical practices are not repeated?
* Will the party(s) responsible for authorising this violation of regulations apologise to all other ‘faith’ and no-faith parents/guardians whose children unwittingly received the religious propaganda?
* Will the party(s) responsible be reprimanded and will a memorandum be forwarded to all schools and chaplains regarding this matter?
* Will the DECS apologise for allowing a system to operate in the schools it controls, which has the real potential to detrimentally affect unaware children/adolescence who are supposedly under their care?

The Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc continues in its opposition to the chaplaincy programs and finds it an unbelievable stance for the DECS to consider it can control the obvious zealotry of many/most of the chaplains and others involved.

Minister, a comprehensive response at your earliest convenience, with the return of the booklet, would be appreciated.

Yours Sincerely,
David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
CC:
Deb Kay
Vickie Chapman Opposition Education
Premier Mike Rann
Iain Evans Leader of the Liberal Party SA
Australian Democrats
The Greens
Kris Hanna
Various parties interested in the Chaplaincy program

Addendum
Name of offending booklet: ‘Its Your Move’ subtitled; ‘for Anyone Moving on to Secondary School’
Published by: Scripture Union Australia
Locked Bag 2
Cental Coast Business Centre NSW 2252
Page
8 – Under heading – ‘Choices’
8 – Under heading – ‘Clubs’
11 – Under heading – ‘Loneliness’
14 – Religious Education (RE)’
17 – Christian school references – bottom of page
26 – Half page devoted to the Bible
30 – Half page devoted to the Bible – Also refers to God
33 – Blatant add for Scripture Union Camps
33 – 34 – Chaplains Page – Very Gody!
38 – 39 – ***Biblical Psalm
41 – Biblical quote
45 – Encouragement to join Christian groups in lunchtime
46 – Teacher profile mentioning the trendy C2J – Committed to Jesus
48 – Words from Chaplain with no mention of God???

***The Biblical Psalm quoted contains these words from the alleged God: “You are the one who put me together inside my mother’s body.”

The seriousness of the possible implications of this line cannot be underestimated. It could well end up affecting decisions the child may make as an adolescent/adult about how she might manage her own fertility and the wider implication is that the affect on females in future society could be the ensuring of a greater threat to hard won and necessary fertility rights for females.

As an aside, there is not a skerrick of evidence that the Biblical David mentioned in the Psalm, ever existed. This is not teaching children facts – this is religious indoctrination.

Note: Due to unreasonable copyright restrictions described on page 2 of the booklet, no direct quotations are included excepting for the Biblical Psalm passage. The inference in the copyright is that sending the booklet by hard-mail without permission is illegal. Is ‘education’ of children in public schools meant to be secretive?

CORRESPONDENCE 2005

4 December 05
The Hon. Jane Lomax-Smith
Minister for Education and Children’s Services

Dear Minister,
Thank you for your letter dated 3 November 05. Below is a review and comment on statements in correspondence from the AFA and your replies on this matter: The intention is to allow for public viewing on the AFA Web Site. The inclusion of a letter to the AFA from a person in the Chaplaincy program and my reply, as the last item in this missive, is to demonstrate to those not familiar with the evangelical/fundamentalism mentality, the flawed thinking they possess. It also shows with what ease an adult critical thinker can dispel their erroneous concepts. Children have no such skills. The letter is typical of evangelical correspondence received by the Atheist Foundation of Australia. It has been edited for ease of reading with no alteration to its meaning. Original copy is available on request.

AFA: “It is my understanding that Fundamentalist Chaplains (Christian Options) have to accept a very narrow fundamentalist view of the world to be employed.”
DECS: No response.
AFA: “Even if no public monies go to Christian Options, there is no place for their narrow fundamentalist view in the public education system. This is especially so where young children are involved.”
DECS: No response.
AFA: “(4) What is the control mechanism preventing narrow fundamentalist views being instilled in the defenceless minds of children?”
“(5) What are the preventative measures in place to curb school ground recruitment by Chaplains for out-of-school-time activities?”
DECS: “With regard to the protection of children, both within Christian volunteer (chaplaincy) activities and religious seminars, teachers, and ultimately the principal, retain duty of care for students. This includes, for example, ensuring the protection of children in conversations between students and Christian volunteers; religious seminars; any school-based religious clubs and activities; and religious studies.”

As has been demonstrated by the Robert Creek affair and the student’s letter, the system is extremely fallible and liable to misuse. Mr Creek has recently advised of another failure as outlined below:

From the School Newsletter to Parents: ‘Hi There my name is Helen Tyler I coordinate the primary sessions. I was recently sharing with Gill Greenslade what the primary students will be doing this term.

Our theme is Christmas, The birth of Jesus. The children discover how the Christmas tree fits into Christmas. We’ll have a Christmas tree relay, watch a video called “The Three Trees” & even decorate tree shaped biscuits, so if you have signed the consent form for your child to participate we’ll look forward to seeing them on the 30th.Nov.’

There is no mention that this is a Christian Options program and that Helen Tyler represents C/O’s. The intimation is that the Junior State School Coordinator, Gill Greenslade is involved, which is incorrect. Parents are led to believe the State is promoting the program or at the very least, somehow actively supportive. Mr Creek has complained and has been told it was an unfortunate omission.

DECS: “As part of the review into the SMG contract and funding arrangements, I have asked that DECS revise the guidelines to specifically state that Christian volunteers must not proselytise nor recruit, and to ensure the guidelines cover all Christian activities in government schools.”

“I have also met recently with representatives of the South Australian Heads of Christian Churches who have agreed to work collaboratively through the SMG, with departmental officers, to develop and disseminate these new guidelines as soon as possible.”

“…to develop and disseminate these new guidelines as soon as possible.”

Presumedly the new guidelines are not in place as of yet. No guidelines have been disseminated to the AFA as of this date.

AFA: “We wish to know the Government annual financial contribution to the Schools Ministries Group and whether this amount is increasing or decreasing.”

No information regarding the exact amount of Government financial contribution, formula for working it out or whether it is increasing or decreasing has been forthcoming from DECS.

AFA: “We do not accept that new guidelines to eliminate proselytising and recruitment can ever be practical. This is especially the case when an already busy Principal is the final arbiter. The Principal is an unknown in this equation and therefore uniformity of policy can never be guaranteed. Even if the Principal’s integrity is not in question and time is not an issue, the access Chaplains have to children cannot be policed.”

The lack of a way of policing is a matter of record and commonsense.

AFA: “Our inquiries have shown that in South Australia there are 160 evangelical Chaplains either in or waiting to be introduced into State schools.

This is an overrepresentation in anyone’s language. Somehow, the SMG (A multi-mainstream Christian group) has been persuaded to allow one particular narrow viewed fundamentalist sect en masse into State schools. It may be that the mainstream ‘faiths’ do not have people to spare for Chaplaincy. If so, it clearly demonstrates one of the weaknesses of the program.”

Figures supplied by DECS confirm numbers. The overrepresentation by fundamentalism has not been addressed or even commented on.

AFA: “Modern State Schools are comprised of students from many differing faiths and no faith. Why is this not even a consideration?”

Minister, we earnestly ask that the program of religious interference in State schools be removed as soon as is possible. It could be replaced with a systemic teaching of secular ethics combined with Multi-faith presentation.

DECS allows for an opening but it is left to groups with clear Christian purpose to implement. Only those with a Christian fundamentalist bent are in numbers and zealotry enough to be capable of responding to such a program. This needs to be a Government controlled and run initiative. It is an unreasonable stance not to recognise such a situation.

DECS: “If you have evidence that this is not the case, I encourage you to forward this to the Heads of Churches, the SMG and/or to the principals of the schools concerned. Principals are required to monitor the activities of all volunteers in their site.”

“With regards to your claim to have many concrete examples of chaplains exceeding their role and proselytising, I urge you to ensure that any such complaints are directed to the school principal and/or the local district education office for investigation into whether departmental policy has been breached. This is the process to follow regarding any concern about lack of compliance with departmental requirements.”

It is not the duty of the AFA to police Government policy nor is it within our means to do so. The complaints we have been involved with show little production of corrective measures. They do, however, point out a flawed system is in place.

DECS: “In your letter you have quoted an e-mail from a student that highlights the current opt-out nature of Christian and other faith-based programs in schools. The issue of ensuring informed consent from parents for such programs has been raised in recent discussions about the Christian Volunteers Program. This issue will be addressed in the proposed new DECS Administrative Instructions and Guidelines.”

What was the outcome? Is the system to be changed to a genuine opt-in requirement?

AFA: “The inference is the result of letters, E-Mails, phone calls; information from other anxious organisations, talk-back radio and the knowledge available to the AFA concerning the capability and often-stated expansive intentions carried out with proselytising zeal by the evangelical side of Christianity.

Our information comes from others and even if a close examination of Chaplaincy appointees somehow showed that some Chaplains come from a main stream base, our observations suggest that the Pentecostal/Evangelical side of the Christian Churches, is by far the dominant group and they have no hesitation in using the school site for activities to claim ‘conversions to Christ’.

As there has been no definitive repudiation of the inference, even though the AFA has expressed concerns in a number of newspaper letters sections, and to you, Minister it is a sensible stance of the AFA to remain firm with its well-reasoned opinion. This is especially so as your letter failed to clarify the point. Therefore, the inference must stand until negated by actual data from DECS.

It is therefore reasonable to conclude, the figures may or may not exist. This is an untenable situation and the AFA strongly requests it be rectified immediately.”

These matters have not been addressed and are at the hub of our concerns.

AFA: “(2) What is the ‘faith’ affiliation make up of those chaplains? (i.e. Anglican, Catholic, Uniting, Church of Christ, evangelical/fundamentalist, Pentecostal/fundamentalist etc).”
DECS considers this unimportant.

AFA: “(3) Knowing the nature of fundamentalist religion, does the SA Government have any qualms about exposing children’s minds to potential indoctrination situations? Yes or no will suffice.”
DECS: No response.
AFA: “(5) What is the current exact religious denominational breakdown of Children being educated in State Schools? (The figures, presumedly, upon which the Chaplaincy programs are based?)”
DECS: Unknown.
AFA: “The AFA applauds the initiative to transfer, religious involvement by students in State Schools, from an opt-out to a genuine, free from any pressure or parental manipulation opt-in requirement.”

Has this happened yet or is implementation a plan for the future?

AFA: “The accolades would be greater if the SA Government abandoned the whole concept of pandering to all superstition in the form of religious based programs and instead remained focussed on teaching developing minds information with a basis in factual knowledge.”
DECS: No response.

Minister, the AFA finds you have not supplied sufficient reasons to allay our fears on the Chaplaincy program and therefore remain justified in its opposition.

Yours Sincerely,
David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
cc Deb Kay
Mr Robert J Creek
Principal Kevin Fahey MCAS
Schools Ministry Group
Premier Mike Rann
Rob Kerin Leader of the Liberal Party SA
Australian Democrats
The Greens
Various parties interested in the Chaplaincy program
Chaplaincy letter:
Hi David,
Let me introduce myself, my name is XXX I was on the net the other day when I came across the copies of the letters you had sent to the Minister about school chaplains. It’s sad to think you feel this way about such an important part of the school curriculum. Chaplains are not only there to teach the children about what Jesus did for them on the cross but as today 3 out of every 5 marriages end in divorce many children have single parents. Most of these kids want to share about their hurt and problems and the only place they feel able to talk is in a school environment with qualified councillors (Chaplains). Chaplains are there each day to deal with such problems, teachers are flat out teaching the children, so with the pressure on kids today they need to express needs to someone they can trust.

Please look pass the image of the school chaplain you had as a child because the chaplains today are skilled in many different areas to help a child to make the most of their school years. Concerning your atheist ideas please let me explain the theory of evolution of the coca cola can.

BANG,,,,,,, billions of years ago, a big bang produced a large rock. As the rock cooled, sweet brown liquid formed on its surface. As time passed, aluminium formed itself into a can, a lid. Millions of years later, red and white paint fell from the sky, and formed itself into the words, “coca cola….12 fluid ounces.” Of course, my theory is an insult to your intellect, because you know that if the coca cola can is made, there must be a maker. If it is designed, there must be a designer. The alternative, that it happened by chance or accident, is to move into an intellectual free zone.

Did you know that the eye has 40,000,000 nerve endings, the focusing muscles move an estimated 100,000 times a day, and the retina contains 137,000,000 light sensitive cells?

Charles Darwin said, “To suppose that the eye could have been formed by natural selection, seems I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” If a man cannot begin to make a human eye, how could anyone in his right mind think that eyes formed by mere chance? In fact, man cannot make anything from nothing. We don’t know how to do it. We can re-create, reform, develop…. but we cannot create even one grain of sand from nothing. Yet, the eye is only a small part of the most sophisticated part of creation- the human body.

George Gallup, the famous statistician said, “I could prove God statistically; take the human body alone; the chance that all the functions of the individual would just happen, is a statistical monstrosity.”

Albert Einstein said “Everyone who is seriously interested in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, a spirit vastly superior to man, and one in the face of which our modest powers must feel humble.”

Could I convince you that I dropped 50 oranges onto the ground and they by chance fell into ten rows of five oranges? The logical conclusion is that someone with an intelligent mind put them there. The odds that ten oranges would fall by accident into a straight line are mind- boggling, let alone ten rows of five.

The declaration,” There is no God,” is what is known as an absolute statement. For an absolute statement to be true, I must have absolute knowledge. I must know how many hairs are upon every head, every thought of every human heart, every detail of history, ETC.

IS IT POSSIBLE David that in the knowledge you haven’t yet come across, there is ample evidence to prove that God does indeed exist? If you are reasonable, you will have to say,” having the limited knowledge I have at present, I believe that there is no God,” In other words, you don’t know if God exists, so you are not an atheist, you are what is commonly known as an “Agnostic”. You are like a man who looks at a building and doesn’t know if there is a builder.

Did you understand the mechanics of the television before you turned it on? NO , you took a step in faith, turned it on, and after it worked, understanding how it worked wasn’t that important. We accept that there are unseen television waves right in front of our eyes. We can’t see them because they are invisible. For them to manifest, we need a receiver, then we can enjoy the experience of television. God is not flesh and blood. He is an eternal spirit, immortal and in visible. Like the television waves, he cannot be experienced until the receiver is switched on. Here is some thing you will find hard to believe; Jesus said,

“He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (john 14:21).

Jesus Christ says he will manifest himself to anyone who obeys him. Approach the subject the same way you approached your first TV. Just take a small step of faith. if it woks, enjoy it, if it doesn’t, forget it. Thankyou so much for your time David I truly pray that the almighty God will reveal himself to you and that you will give him an opportunity to love you.

Yours in Jesus Christ,
XXX XXXX
br 22 November 05
Hello XXX,
Thank you for your E-Mail. Allow me to be frank. I do not intend to use kid gloves in a response and if you do not wish to read, further than this, then that is fine.

My childhood experiences with religion have no influence over my adult rationality. Far from you being different from the problem that exists with Chaplains in secular schools, you epitomise them.

If State Governments cannot afford to teach children secular ethics then revenue needs adjusting or increasing. The proper teaching of children is the most important part in a democracy for its and their happy and successful survival. Cheap skating by way of Chaplaincy programs will make sure of future divisiveness and ignorance amongst the population.

Yes, Western nations do have divorce as a constant. If children were instructed in social ethics, given comprehensive sex education and were not constantly bombarded with anti-abortion rubbish, the situation would be somewhat ameliorated.

In what areas of expertise are School Chaplains experienced? How long was their education on these topics and who did the teaching? Who or what institution accredits them.

Your story on the evolution of the Coke can was infantile and childish and justifies the fears the AFA has about the Chaplaincy programs. It demonstrates a complete lack of scientific understanding and no knowledge of evolution at all. Evolution works on incremental change and is one of the best and most tested theories that exist. That you would tell children, who have no critical assessment abilities and have trust in authorative figures, about the Coke can scenario is reprehensible.

Shall we now proceed to misquotes and part quotes. I require a proper explanation as to why you use them.

Here is your unsourced part quote meant to imply even Darwin did not accept his own theory:

“To suppose that the eye could have been formed by natural selection, seems i freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”

Here is the sourced, full quote, which gives the opposite meaning:

“To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself originated; but I may remark that, as some of the lowest organisms in which nerves cannot be detected, are capable of perceiving light, it does not seem impossible that certain sensitive elements in their sarcode should become aggregated and developed into nerves, endowed with this special sensibility.

Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 6th Edition (above from Project Gutenberg)

George Gallup is a statistician and not a biologist. However, on statistics, if you or I bought a lottery ticket the chances of winning are in the millions. Nevertheless, some person, maybe the person who picked the first ticket will win.

Here are some more of Einstein’s quotes:
“I believe in a Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and actions of human beings.”
“My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.”

The following excerpt is taken from Albert Einstein: The Human Side, Selected and Edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press, 1979.
“I get hundreds and hundreds of letters but seldom one so interesting as yours. I believe that your opinions about our society are quite reasonable.

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. I have no possibility to bring the money you sent me to the appropriate receiver. I return it therefore in recognition of your good heart and intention. Your letter shows me also that wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”

“I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science.

My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance-but for us, not for God.”

“The religious feeling engendered by experiencing the logical comprehensibility of profound interrelations is of a somewhat different sort from the feeling that one usually calls religious. It is more a feeling of awe at the scheme that is manifested in the material universe. It does not lead us to take the step of fashioning a god-like being in our own image-a personage who makes demands of us and who takes an interest in us as individuals. There is in this neither a will nor a goal, nor a must, but only sheer being. For this reason, people of our type see in morality a purely human matter, albeit the most important in the human sphere.”

There are many quotes showing Einstein did not believe in a god; why did you pick one where the loose language he often used seems to indicate he does?

The orange experiment, once again, shows you have no idea of evolution and you should not be within a football field of pliable young minds.

You do not have absolute knowledge, therefore by your reasoning you are agnostic concerning fairies. I do not accept that fairies or gods have or do exist, as there is no evidence for either. You do not have absolute knowledge so you are an agnostic concerning Zeus and the thousands of other gods that have been purported to exist.

Before telling me about a mythical Jesus Christ, or not telling children with no understanding that it is a scam, first you must supply evidence for its existence. I mean evidence that uses universally accepted reasoning and not just that of feelings culturally indoctrinated.

So far, XXX, you have used very puerile “logic” in putting forward your case. I hope it improves in the future. Our conversation will appear on the AFA Web Site on the Chaplaincy page. It is up to you if you wish your missives to be anonymous.

Kind Regards,
David
David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
No reply eventuated.

Minister and others, after reading the above two letters, it is pertinent to leave you once again with the words of the State School student mentioned in the letter to DECS dated 29th May 05:

“After having several discussions with the chaplain and coming to the realisation that she is impervious to logic I fretted ceaselessly……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?”

Mike Hudson
District Director
5th Floor Noarlunga House
NOARLUNGA CENTRE SA 5168

21 November 05
Dear Sir,
Once again thank you for your reply to the ongoing correspondence concerning grievances re Christian Options/Chaplaincy of Mr Robert Creek and in particular to my letter on 29 September 05.

Your letter has been forwarded to Mr Creek for his perusal and comment. Both Mr Creek and the AFA found parts therein of an unsatisfactory nature but have decided to let the matter rest. The breakdown in the practical application of religious education policy, which should be abandoned in toto, anyway, has been clearly demonstrated. It is to be expected reoccurrence is not an outcome.

Mr Creek has assured the AFA he will monitor proceedings of a religious nature in the future and report any further infringements.

The Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc reiterates its opposition to:
(1) any religious presence/indoctrination in State Schools, and in particular, Christianity based on the divisive and scientifically ignorant ideology of evangelical/fundamentalism.
(2) the existing blatant ethically void ‘opt out’ requirement, which should be immediately replaced with the prerequisite to ‘opt in’ as the lesser of two harms.
(3) educators, from the Ministry down, utilising parental apathy and inadequate across the board delegacy, in allowing religious education having greater proportional representation in State Schools than does the secular society supporting those schools warrant.

The AFA appreciates your time spent on this matter.
Yours Sincerely,
David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
cc Dr Jane Lomax-Smith Minister for Education and Children’s Services
Deb Kay
Mr Robert J Creek
Principal Kevin Fahey MCAS
Schools Ministry Group
Premier Mike Rann Rob Kerin Leader of the Liberal Party SA
Australian Democrats
The Greens
Various parties interested in the Chaplaincy program

MC 05/0884

Dear Mr Nicholls
Thank you for your letter of 12 August 2005 regarding the School Chaplaincy Program. The Premier, the Hon Mike Rann MP has also asked that I respond to you on his behalf.

In your letter you ask five specific questions and raise issues about funding and alleged proselytising in government schools. Each matter you have raised is addressed below.

In relation to your questions about schools with a chaplaincy service, this information is collected by the Schools Ministry Group (SMG). The most recent (2004) SMG Chaplaincy Report states there are 145 government schools with chaplains and 88 schools in the process of appointing a chaplain.

Information relating to the ‘faith affiliation’ make up of chaplains is not collected centrally by the Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) or the SMG. The selection process for chaplains is managed at the local community level. The decision to appoint a chaplain is made at the local school level after consultation between the local Inter Church Council, the school staff and the school community. The selection panel must comprise the local ecumenical Christian group/Inter Church Council (who employ the chaplain) and the school principal or delegate. Determination of whether a chaplain can take an ecumenical approach is assessed through this process.

I wish to advise that DECS does not collect information about the religious denominational breakdown of children who are educated in state schools and schools do not routinely ask questions of this nature.

Government funding to support the chaplaincy program constitutes less than one salary statewide, provided to the 8MG, for administrative support to keep records about compliance with DECS requirements, for example the number and location of chaplains and evidence of police checks being undertaken. It does not fund any direct delivery of chaplaincy services to students.

With regards to your claim to have many concrete examples of chaplains exceeding their role and proselytising, I urge you to ensure that any such complaints are directed to the school principal and/or the local district education office for investigation into whether departmental policy has been breached. This is the process to follow regarding any concern about lack of compliance with departmental requirements.

Thank you for writing to me on this matter.
Yours sincerely
Jane Lomax-Smith
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND CHILDREN’S SERVICES
MINISTER FOR TOURISM
3/11/05

19th October 05
Dear Mr Nicholls
Thank you for your letter of 29 September 2005, in which you pose a number of questions in response to my correspondence of 9 September 2005.

I will seek to clarify for you your concerns / questions.
• The role of the school Chaplain in relation to the “Christian Options” program.
- As a courtesy, the organizer of the program (on behalf of the local clergy group) discusses the program with the school Chaplain. This is in congruence with my Department’s Administrative Instructions & Guidelines(which describe the school Chaplain having a liaison role in such circumstances).
• The term “non-denominational”. – This term indicates that the program does not favour or target or promote any particular Christian religion. (NB. It is labelled as a “Christian Options” program so as to indicate its focus on the Christian religions).
• The phrase, “Mr Creek’s grandson”. – Your point is accepted, and I will ensure I do not refer to Jake other than in the correct legal framework.
However, that issue was not a factor in investigating Mr Creek’s concerns.
• Responsibility shifted to Jake – In no way do I hold Jake responsible for his attendance at the seminar. However, I do believe he is old enough and aware enough of the situation to realise he is not permitted to attend the seminar, and it is important in Jake’s own growth and development that he begins to take some responsibility as appropriate for his age and situation. The school has recognised its responsibility by improving its supervisory processes to reduce the possibility of a similar occurrence. All schools are consistently engaged in improving processes in many areas as issues arise. (The school had genuinely expected that students who did not have permission to attend would not want to I choose to attend).
• The expectation of an apology to Mr Creek by Mr Fahey (principal). – Mr Creek has made the correct conclusion as to why the meeting with the principal was cancelled. i.e. The death of Mr Fahey’s father. (And given that I “ran into” Mr Fahey at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital the day after his father died, I am aware of the deep and distressful impact it had on him!) Mr Fahey is quite prepared to meet with Mr Creek if he still wishes. I would be prepared for my District Coordinator, Mr David Boots, to attend if that was requested.
An apology in the newsletter. – While the newsletter article did not convey a written apology to Mr Creek, I do not believe that is an appropriate medium for that kind of personal response to occur. The school has made it clear to its community that some students had attended the seminar without permission, and that as a result they have improved their processes to prevent a repeat occurrence. That is a very open recognition to the community that their processes had not worked on that occasion, and that they would respond appropriately. I am satisfied with that action.
• What controls operate regarding conduct of pre-school lunchtime and after school activities within schools? How is approval exercised? – This is such a broad question which could include activities from “Out of School Hours Care”, to sports, to instrumental music, to clubs, etc. I can’t give you a blanket answer.
Should you have a specific example, I can respond to that.
Your views re the appropriateness or otherwise of Chaplaincy programs and Religious activities in state schools is recognized and respected.
Hence, I will continue to support the school and its community to manage such activities appropriately within the Guidelines provided to schools.

Once again, thank you for your correspondence.
Yours truly
Mike Hudson
District Director Southern Sea & Vines
Mike Hudson
District Director
5th Floor
Noarlunga House
NOARLUNGA CENTRE SA 5168

29 September 05
Dear Sir,
Thank you for your reply, 9th September 05 resulting from my letter 24th July 05. I appreciate the time involved in procuring answers to my questions and comments concerning statements therein. I fully understand the time needed to ascertain relevant material as, because of your letter, I have also investigated the matter further.

Consequentially I have phoned Mr Robert Creek a number of times to gain a more accurate picture of the incident concerning Jake. I have also sent Mr Creek questions on the matter, by hard mail, to which he has replied in detail.

There is considerable variance between Mr Creek’s account and that expressed in your letter to me. As I proceed in my reply, I will raise any discordance when appropriate.

You state; “….the Christian Options program is not coordinated by the Chaplain and is non-denominational.”

This raises more questions than it answers.

It is difficult to accept that the School Chaplain, Mrs Wendy Huntington, did not assist in any way in procuring the religious based group in question. If this is not the case, then who was responsible for the program coming to the School? Were parents informed of this and with other like-manner Christian Options programs? What is meant by “non-denominational”? This particular offering was heavily accented with the Christian religion. If it was non-denominational, then what other religion(s) did the group advertise?

“The investigation carried out reveals that on the day in question, Mr Creek’s grandson, Jake, was well aware of his guardian’s wish for him not to attend the Christian Options program, but he did so without approval. Jake should have attended either a Technical Studies or a Home Economics class both of which were operating at the same time.”

Mr Hudson, it is disappointing that you used the phrase; “Mr Creek’s grandson”. Jake and the Creek’s are not related but are his full-guardians. As this is a matter of record, it does not create a confidence that a full and proper investigation was mounted.

It is also disappointing that the onus of responsibility in not attending the Christian Options program, apparently has been shifted to Jake. The school is the caregiver and responsibility for student activity remains in its precinct. There may well have been other options for Jake but he was not directed to them and was allowed by a teacher, who knew of Mr Creek’s objections to religious input for Jake, to go on to the Christian Options class. *Even considering the scenario that as a child, Jake may well have thought that singing and clapping was preferential to actual study, this does not remove the school’s overriding responsibility to adhere to the written wishes of parents/guardians. It is my understanding that two other children inappropriately attended the Christian Options class that day. Mr Creek advises that similar circumstances have happened on other occasions but unfortunately, he cannot reinforce with dates and times.

That Mr Fahey has decided to use preventive measures disallowing reoccurrences demonstrates the original system controls were either prone to failure or were non-existent.
“In regard to your request for an apology to Mr Robert Creek, I am assured that Mr Fahey has met with Mr Creek on a number of occasions since the incident to which you refer and offered both a verbal apology and an explanation of his plans to prevent a recurrence.” Mr Creek has assured me, both by phone and in the below text, no verbal and/or written apology or plans to thwart future infringements have been forthcoming from Mr Fahey. The following is an outline of Mr Creek’s many written words on the subject.
‘There were but two brief meetings with Mr Fahey. On the day of the incident, I informed Mr Fahey of the failure of duty of care by ignoring the parent/guardians written request of non-attendance, at 3.20pm. I left Mr Fahey to follow up. The next day I met Mr Fahey again…… . He also informed me about two older students who defied their teachers & went to the Christian Options show. I was also told that next term would have two or more students of different beliefs, which he would have to deal with. As this was a non-appointment meeting, he made it clear that he had only few minutes. I requested that I wanted a full explanation as to who authorised the teacher class change & why Jake was escorted to the Christian Options venue, defying regulations of attendance & non-attendance of students. I also asked for a written personal apology to us including an entry in the school Newsletter informing all parents of the failure of duty of care in upholding the parent/guardian non-attendance choice. I followed this up with a written request next day.

An appointment was made for the following day. Early that day a message from school office cancelled the appointment as Mr, Fahey was called away. His father died days later, & so has all contact from Mr. Fahey.

That Mr. Fahey supposedly offered a verbal apology plus an explanation of his plans DID NOT HAPPEN. He may have planned it happening at the cancelled meeting but it did not.

I will gladly meet with Mr Hudson & Mr. Fahey together with an independent witness present so that a satisfactory written apology can be included in the news letter clearly setting out measures implemented for the prevention of any further breaches.’ You inform me that because of discussions between Mr Fahey and Mr Creek, parents have been reminded via the newsletter that only children with parental permission are able to attend Christian Options programs and this is encouraging. However, I am concerned to hear that this type of permission is sought on an annual basis.

Surely, parents should make an individual decision on each program proposed. One program may be acceptable to parents but others may be inappropriate. I do not believe blanket approval is appropriate on these types of issues. Which authority selects such programs and is it a varied cross-section of parents who are invited to make comment about any such program coming into the school?

As stated in earlier correspondence the AFA is strongly opposed to the Chaplaincy program presently existing in South Australian State Schools. We seek to know also, what controls operate regarding the conduct of pre-school, lunchtime and after school activities within schools. We also seek to know, once again, how approval is exercised in this regard.

Finally, my organisation sees little or no justification for any Religious activity conducted within State Schools. However, if it is to be part of the system, I do believe the views of people opposed to this concept should be honoured and given preferential regard. After all, the days when the Christian Churches represented the great bulk of the Australian Community no longer exist.

Thank you for your reply once again and I await your response in due course.

Yours sincerely
David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc

* Many students would regard ‘singing and clapping’ or story telling, as opposed to academic pursuit, a better way to spend time. The Chaplaincy/Christian Options programs play on human nature in this regard in having a captive and eager audience, in attempts to win converts. The AFA knows this to be true, as do Principals, teachers, governments and more to the point, as do those erroneously promoting religious fantasy as fact.

cc
Dr Jane Lomax-Smith Minister for Education and Children’s Services
Deb Kay
Mr Robert J Creek
Principal Kevin Fahey MCAS
Schools Ministry Group
Premier Mike Rann
Rob Kerin Leader of the Liberal Party SA
Australian Democrats
The Greens
Various parties interested in the Chaplaincy program

MC 05/0884
9th September 05

Dear Mr Nicholls
Thank you for your letter dated 24 July 2005 regarding the chaplaincy program at the Mount Compass Area School and the concerns you have raised on behalf of Mr Robert Creek.

I apologise for the delay in responding to your letter, however, you will appreciate that it was necessary to investigate the matter thoroughly with the school, to gather the relevant information about school processes and unfortunately this takes time.

I must first clarify that the Christian Options program is not coordinated by the Chaplain and it is non-denominational.

The investigation carried out reveals that on the day in question, Mr Creek’s grandson, Jake, was well aware of his guardian’s wish for him not to attend the Christian Options program, but he did so without approval. Jake should have attended either a Technical Studies or a Home Economics class both of which were operating at the same time.

The Principal of Mount Compass Area School, Mr Kevin Fahey, has acted on the outcomes of this occurrence to discuss and establish with both the School Management team and the Governing Council, a strategy for preventing this type of incident from re-occurring.

In regard to your request for an apology to Mr Robert Creek, I am assured that Mr Fahey has met with Mr Creek on a number of occasions since the incident to which you refer and offered both a verbal apology and an explanation of his plans to preventa recurrence.

As a consequence of discussions between Mr Fahey and Mr Creek, parents have been reminded via the newsletter that only children with parent permission are able to attend Christian Options. This permission is sought on an annual basis. In addition all students have been reminded that they must have parent permission to attend Christian Options. As a further measure a role call will be taken as students enter any Christian Options sessions.

Yours Sincerely
Mike Hudson

Ref: 1112/05
Dear David
Thank you for providing a copy of your letter dated 24 July 2005 to Mr Mike Hudson expressing concerns about the Chaplaincy program at Mount Compass Area School. I appreciate you taking the time to write to me.

As this is an important matter, I have taken the liberty of forwarding a copy of your correspondence to the Shadow Minister for Education and Children’s Services, Ms Vickie Chapman MP for her consideration. Ms Chapman will reply directly to you at her earliest convenience.

Once again, thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.

Yours sincerely
Rob Kerin
LIBERAL LEADER
25th August, 2005

12th August 05
The Hon. Jane Lomax-Smith
Minister for Education and Children’s Services

Dear Minister,
Thank you for your letter dated 2nd August 05, re the chaplaincy programs in South Australian State Schools. I note that you greatly question our claims and concerns regarding the inference that there are 160 chaplains from the evangelical section of Christianity either in or waiting for introduction into State Schools.

The inference is the result of letters, E-Mails, phone calls; information from other anxious organisations, talk-back radio and the knowledge available to the AFA concerning the capability and often-stated expansive intentions carried out with proselytising zeal by the evangelical side of Christianity.

Our information comes from others and even if a close examination of Chaplaincy appointees somehow showed that some Chaplains come from a main stream base, our observations suggest that the Pentecostal/Evangelical side of the Christian Churches, is by far the dominant group and they have no hesitation in using the school site for activities to claim ‘conversions to Christ’.

It seems to us that the assurances you have received about the program being genuinely ecumenical from the South Australian Heads of Christian Churches is a bit of ‘window dressing’ designed to hang on to the financial contribution that your Government currently makes to the SMG Group.

As there has been no definitive repudiation of the inference, even though the AFA has expressed concerns in a number of newspaper letters sections, and to you, Minister it is a sensible stance of the AFA to remain firm with its well-reasoned opinion. This is especially so as your letter failed to clarify the point. Therefore, the inference must stand until negated by actual data from DECS.

I have spoken by phone to Scott Hawkings from the Schools Ministry Group. Mr Hawkings conveniently stated I was aggressive, which I was not. Frustrated at people hiding in their minds might be a more adequate explanation. Mr Hawkings was evasive to distraction on some matters, but did clearly state, to the question I posed on the ‘faith’ make-up of the 160 chaplains: ‘There is no information available on those numbers.’ Mr Hawkings further stated; ‘That if the DECS would not part with the figures, then neither would he.’

It is therefore reasonable to conclude, the figures may or may not exist. This is an untenable situation and the AFA strongly requests it be rectified immediately.

Minister, the AFA is in opposition to any mono-religious or particular denominational input in State Schools. The AFA is rightfully adamant that children exposed to religious fundamentalist mind-sets, seen by children as figures of authority (Chaplains), is totally unacceptable. We therefore call upon you, Minister, to supply answers to the following questions:

(1) How many State Schools have some form of representation by a chaplain?
(2) What is the ‘faith’ affiliation make up of those chaplains? (i.e. Anglican, Catholic, Uniting, Church of Christ, evangelical/fundamentalist, Pentecostal/fundamentalist etc)
(3) Knowing the nature of fundamentalist religion, does the SA Government have any qualms about exposing children’s minds to potential indoctrination situations? Yes or no will suffice.
(4) What are the names of the schools with a chaplaincy input?
(5) What is the current exact religious denominational breakdown of Children being educated in State Schools? (The figures, presumedly, upon which the Chaplaincy programs are based?)
Without clear answers to these questions, none of which have purpose other than informing the public, we must assume the SA Government has delegated it responsibility for the welfare of students in its care, over to non-accountable religious bodies and individuals.

Minister, your letter stated; “The annual payment made for this work constitutes less than a salary equivalent,…” The assumption is you mean equivalent to that of a professional counsellor. The AFA recommends the SA Government make up the difference and respond to the needs of students with properly trained counsellors and put an end to this unseemly relationship with the SMG (at the very least on a financial basis).

It also said, and I quote; “Principles are required to monitor the activities of all volunteers in their site. Christian and other volunteers, such as sports coaches are strictly limited in the nature of contact and relationships they have with students.”

This is inconsistent with the following part of an E-Mail we have received from a student. The student is prepared to legitimise the claim if necessary. It hardly examples a “strictly limited”situation or fits the non-proselytising regulation requirement:

“Our chaplain held a stall at a school event about a month ago (during school hours, compulsory attendance to the event). The stall was encouraging students to become missionaries the year after they leave school.”

Minister, even the contrived opt out requirement breaks down as this letter, a copy of which has been sent to you, demonstrates: Second letter down from top of page. http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/subsa.htm.

The AFA applauds the initiative to transfer, religious involvement by students in State Schools, from an opt-out to a genuine, free from any pressure or parental manipulation opt-in requirement.

The accolades would be greater if the SA Government abandoned the whole concept of pandering to all superstition in the form of religious based programs and instead remained focussed on teaching developing minds information with a basis in factual knowledge.

Yours Sincerely,
David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc.
Copies to:
Premier Mike Rann
Rob Kerin Leader of the Liberal Party SA
Australian Democrats
The Greens
Schools Ministry Group
Various parties interested in the Chaplaincy program

MC 05/0884
Mr David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc
Private Mail Bag 6
MAITLAND SA 5573

Dear Mr Nicholls
Thank you for your letter dated 29 May 2005 regarding the Christian Volunteers (Chaplains) Program in government schools. I have been seeking clarification on some of the matters you have raised.

I am concerned about your claim that volunteers working in this program do not represent a genuinely ecumenical Christian voice. In a recent meeting with representatives of the South Australian Heads of Christian Churches, I was assured of the churches’ commitment to ensuring this program is genuinely ecumenical. This requirement is also detailed in documentation, relating to this program.

Principals, or their delegate, actively participate in the selection process for Christian volunteers. Principals and local Christian employing groups are made aware by the Schools Ministry Group (SMG) of the requirement to maintain ecumenicism in the program. If you have evidence that this is not the case, I encourage you to forward this to the Heads of Churches, the SMG and/or to the principals of the schools concerned. Principals are required to monitor the activities of all volunteers in their site. Christian and other volunteers, such as sports coaches are strictly limited in the nature of the contact and relationships they have with students.

The SMG provides a variety of services to DECS including the training of Christian volunteers in Key DECS policies like child protection and duty of care. The annual payment made for this work constitutes less than a salary equivalent, however at this stage funding arrangements are still under review.

Your proposal that schools undertake a program of secular ethics including Multi-faith representation is compatible with the South Australian Curriculum, Standards and Accountability Framework. There is no barrier to schools implementing such a program. Similarly, the decision to have a Christian volunteer at a school is one made locally and requires the agreement of the governing council and the recognition of the ultimate authority and responsibility of the principal.

In your letter you have quoted an e-mail from a student that highlights the current opt-out nature of Christian and other faith-based programs in schools. The issue of ensuring informed consent from parents for such programs has been raised in recent discussions about the Christian Volunteers Program. This issue will be addressed in the proposed new DECS Administrative Instructions and Guidelines.

Please be assured that the new guidelines will address many of the concerns that have been raised. To accompany the new guidelines, a group will be set up by DECS to deal with concerns or complaints such as those raised in your letter.

Yours sincerely
Jane Lomax-Smith
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND CHILDREN’S SERVICES
MINISTER FOR TOURISM
2/8/05

Mike Hudson
District Director
5th Floor
Noarlunga House
NOARLUNGA CENTRE SA 5168

24 July 05

Dear Sir,
Allow me to state firstly that the AFA is in strong opposition to the Chaplaincy program presently existing in South Australian State Schools. We receive an inordinate number of complaints from parents/guardians and students in this regard.

It has come to our attention that the Chaplaincy program at the Mount Compass Area School has been an ongoing cause of concern for at least one of the student’s parents/guardians.

Robert J Creek, a member of the AFA has been in contact with me over some months regarding his charge; Jake, inappropriately requested to attend classes controlled by the Chaplain. A particular incident needs explanation, apology and preventative action.

Jake and other students, in lieu of attending the Chaplain’s class, presented themselves to the Art class. The teacher, for some unknown reason, decided to terminate the session and ushered the children into the class of the Chaplain.

The genre was song and or dance performed by a USA based group, care of the Paradise Assemblies of God Evangelical/Fundamentalist Church. This is a subtle form of religious indoctrination. Apart from the case that children should not be exposed to messages without foundation in evidence, in the form of attractive energetic performers, Jake’s presence in that setting was not acceptable to Mr Creek. There has been no satisfactory answer to the complaints lodged to the headmaster, Mr Fahey.
I therefore ask of you, some very reasonable questions:
(1) Knowing the objections Mr Creek has to the Chaplaincy program regarding Jake, why did the Art teacher take Jake to the Chaplain’s class? Who was responsible for that decision?
(2) Why was there not another non-religious avenue open to Jake?
(3) Why was Mr Creek, not offered an apology with the promise of no reoccurrence, verbally and in writing?
(4) Has there been an initiation of appropriate safeguards to prevent a similar situation from happening? If so, I refer you to question (3).
Exacerbation of existing health problems of Mr Creek is a possible outcome by this apparent unethical conduct and disregard for duty of care by the Mount Compass Area School. The AFA respectfully requests immediate investigation with a follow up explanation on behalf of Mr Creek.

Mr Hudson, fundamentalist religion affects negatively on peoples lives and happiness. It is the cause of considerable consternation on the planet as we are all aware. Democracies are not enhanced by it presence and the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc can see no valid reason in exposing malleable young minds to its feel good messages. We therefore ask you to contact the Minister of Education and Children’s Services, Dr Jane Lomax-Smith to apply pressure to the SA Government to abandon this socially divisive and backward thinking scheme. Thank you.

Yours sincerely,
David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia
cc Mr Robert J Creek
Principal Kevin Fahey MCAS
Schools Ministry Group
Premier Mike Rann
Dr Jane Lomax-Smith Minister for Education and Children’s Services
Rob Kerin Leader of the Liberal Party SA
Australian Democrats
The Greens
Various parties interested in the Chaplaincy program

Dear Mr Nicholls

Thank you for your letter to the Hon Jane Lomax-Smith MP, Minister for Education and Children’s Services received on 1 June 2005.

The matter you have raised in your correspondence is currently receiving attention and a reply will be sent as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely
Senior Administration Officer
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND CHILDREN’S SERVICES
MINISTER FOR TOURISM
1/06/05

29th May 05
Dear Minister,
Thank you for your prompt reply to my letter 16th April 05. Although the information contained therein was helpful, it did not address the specific points raised.

We wish to know the Government annual financial contribution to the Schools Ministries Group and whether this amount is increasing or decreasing.

We wish to know exactly where and on what this money is spent. Your letter was not clear on this matter.

We do not accept that new guidelines to eliminate proselytising and recruitment can ever be practical. This is especially the case when an already busy Principal is the final arbiter. The Principal is an unknown in this equation and therefore uniformity of policy can never be guaranteed. Even if the Principal’s integrity is not in question and time is not an issue, the access Chaplains have to children cannot be policed.

Minister, allow me to cut to the chase. We receive an inordinate number of phone calls and *E-Mails asking for our help regarding the Chaplaincy program. Our inquiries have shown that in South Australia there are 160 evangelical Chaplains either in or waiting to be introduced into State schools.

This is an overrepresentation in anyone’s language. Somehow, the SMG (A multi-mainstream Christian group) has been persuaded to allow one particular narrow viewed fundamentalist sect en masse into State schools. It may be that the mainstream ‘faiths’ do not have people to spare for Chaplaincy. If so, it clearly demonstrates one of the weaknesses of the program.

Modern State Schools are comprised of students from many differing faiths and no faith. Why is this not even a consideration?

We can only conclude that the SMG concept, introduced by the Liberal Government in a different socio/political climate, is a complete failure. Not only a failure but a mental danger to the children involved.

Minister, we earnestly ask that the program of religious interference in State schools be removed as soon as is possible. It could be replaced with a systemic teaching of secular ethics combined with Multi-faith presentation.

Your attention to our concerns is a matter of some urgency.

*This is the latest E-Mail received on 26th May 05 from a student from Glenunga International High School. It is a-typical of complaints. The name, telephone number and E-Mail address have been supplied, with the student involved agreeing for that information to be passed on to you if required. The AFA is not personally connected with the student nor have we heard of him before the 26th May 05.

Dear Atheist Foundation,
Greetings,
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?

By the way when we have religious people visit the school, its opt out…. A member of the administration of the school told me he didn’t like it either, but its legislation or regulation that it has to be opt out (ie. Bring back a form and you don’t have to come)

Yours faithlessly,
Concerned

Yours Sincerely,
David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc.

MC 05/0884
Dear Mr Nicholls
Thank you for your letter dated 16 April 2005 regarding government funding and school-based activities undertaken by the Schools Ministry Group and Christian Options.

I am pleased to respond to the questions raised in your letter, and to do so as part of the Government’s strong commitment to child and student safety and protection and quality public education.

The previous Liberal government, contracted services from the South Australian Heads of Churches State Schools Ministry Coordinating Group Inc: Schools Ministry Group (SMG) in the late nineties.

Under this Government, the contracts and funding arrangements between the Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) and the SMG have been based on services required.

As you may be aware, this contract and their funding arrangements are currently under review. The current services provided by SMG include:
• the provision of staff to coordinate the setting up of new chaplaincies, mentoring, pastoral care and troubleshooting, promotion, reviewing, training and supporting of chaplains
• the administration of the selection process for school chaplains in conjunction with the school community and the local inter-church council (or its equivalent)
• membership where possible of school drug strategy core teams
• participation by negotiation in the Keeping Connected professional development program.

None of the money provided to the SMG is allocated to the conduct of religious seminars such as Christian Options. Education Act Regulations (part 6 paragraphs 78-84) allow schools to conduct a religious seminar one half day per school term. The conduct and content of such seminars are a local school community decision and are not in any way related to the funding arrangement or contract with the SMG.

With regard to the protection of children, both within Christian volunteer (chaplaincy) activities and religious seminars, teachers, and ultimately the principal, retain duty of care for students. This includes, for example, ensuring the protection of children in conversations between students and Christian volunteers; religious seminars; any school-based religious clubs and activities; and religious studies.

As part of the review into the SMG contract and funding arrangements, I have asked that DECS revise the guidelines to specifically state that Christian volunteers must not proselytise nor recruit, and to ensure the guidelines cover all Christian activities in government schools.

I have also met recently with representatives of the South Australian Heads of Christian Churches who have agreed to work collaboratively through the SMG, with departmental officers, to develop and disseminate these new guidelines as soon as possible.

Thank you for writing to me on this matter.

Yours sincerely
Jane Lomax-Smith
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND CHILDREN’S SERVICES
17/5/05

MC 05/0884
Dear Mr Nicholls,
Thank you for your letter to the Hon Jane Lomax-Smith MP, Minister for Education and Children’s Services, received on 20 April 2005.

The matter you have raised in your correspondence is currently receiving attention and a reply will be sent as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely
Senior Administration Officer
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND CHILDREN’S SERVICES
20/4/05

16 April 05
Dear Minister,
As the incoming President of the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc I have been reviewing correspondence between the former President, Keith Cornish and yourself regarding religious education in state schools.

My end appraisal leaves me no factually wiser than the beginning.

Correspondence and phone calls we receive leave little doubt that fundamentalist Christianity has manoeuvred itself into a position of influence over children of impressionable age. Whether this is at the behest of members of the public (Parents) or not is quite beside the point.

Australia works and works well, unlike many countries, because of the ethos of keeping church and state separate.

It is my understanding that Fundamentalist Chaplains (Christian Options) have to accept a very narrow fundamentalist view of the world to be employed.

It is not good enough that public monies are given to the School Ministries Group (Knowing it is then distributed to Christian Options) and be satisfied that the State is not paying Chaplain Wages directly or is not responsible for fundamentalist indoctrination.

Even if no public monies go to Christian Options, there is no place for their narrow fundamentalist view in the public education system. This is especially so where young children are involved.

My questions to you are:
(1) How is the amount of payment to the Schools Ministries Group worked out?
(2) What is that money used for?
(3) What is the overall cost to the public?
(4) What is the control mechanism preventing narrow fundamentalist views being instilled in the defenceless minds of children?
(5) What are the preventative measures in place to curb school ground recruitment by Chaplains for out-of-school-time activities?
The above question are of a reasonable nature and the answers to them should be in the public arena as a given.

The Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc is extremely disturbed by this apparent break down in democratic process.

I hope your return mail clarifies the situation, as it should.

Sincerely,
David Nicholls
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc.
cc Premier Mike Rann

CORRESPONDENCE 2004

25th November 04
Dear Minister,
Thank you for your reply to our letter to the Premier dated 13th May 2004 and we look forward to your reply to our correspondence to you dated 18th Sept 2004 in which we asked twelve questions.

As you have outlined in your letter dated 12/11/04 we realise that religious education is covered by legislation and it is precisely because we consider that this legislation is flawed that we have approached you.

In your reply you have quoted from AIG Section 3 paragraph 130 dealing with ‘belief’. We draw your attention to the fact that ‘belief’ is an admission of ignorance. When something is known it is no longer a ‘belief’. ‘Beliefs’ provided the unsophisticated people of by-gone ages with an explanation for natural phenomena. We are now in the age of scientific knowledge and religious beliefs have no place in a secular education system.

It is not the role of an education system to promote acceptance but to replace ignorance with the best scientific knowledge available. We live on a natural planet in a natural universe and have a vast amount of factual information readily available to us. There is not a skerrick of evidence of anything supernatural.

Belief systems, including religion, are passed on by parental brain-washing, generation after generation and the aim of education should be to encourage children to weigh the evidence in matters that concern the welfare of society. It is not long ago since it was acceptable to burn people at the stake for promoting scientific knowledge.

The time when women were tortured and drowned as witches and when slavery was acceptable is only a couple of centuries in the past. Today there are belief systems that promote terrorists and female genital mutilation.

The education system may consider it beneficial for mature students to learn the factual history of religions.

Everyone is free to believe what they choose but they are not free to impose their beliefs on society if those beliefs run counter to the known facts.

In your letter you say “The intention of these guidelines is clearly to direct our government schools to provide students with an understanding of the many different sets of beliefs that they will encounter in their lives.”

The Education Department is grossly ignoring these guidelines.

As about 70 per cent of the children in the State education system are already familiar with Christian beliefs the emphasis must be focussed on other belief systems. There is no point in having any more than minimal input from the Christian viewpoint. Therefore movements such as Christian Options and the acceptance of chaplains, who must believe in the over forty tenets of the Nicene Creed, should be replaced by those who espouse different religions or no religious systems.

While the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc receives constant requests from students via e-mail, post and phone for information on atheism and its role for the individual and for society, we have only been invited to speak to the students at two Government schools. Invitations for a speaker have been received from several private religious schools, where we were received very cordially.

In our opinion the time has come to replace Religious Instruction with the acceptable codes of conduct (ethics) that society requires to function for the benefit of all citizens and the welfare of planet Earth.

These codes can be passed on to all students by graded lessons.

Yours sincerely,
Keith S Cornish
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc

MC 04/1486 & MC 04/1530 & MC 04/1551
Dear Mr Cornish
Thank you for your letters dated 13 May 2004 which were forwarded to the Premier, Hon Mike Rann MP, the Hon Patrick Conlon MP and the Hon Jay Weatherill MP regarding religious education in schools. As this matter falls within my portfolio, your correspondence has been referred to me for direct reply.

While I understand your views on religious education, legislation regarding the conducting of religious education in state schools is covered in the Education Act (1972) and the Education Regulations (1997). The Department of Education and Children’s Services Administrative Instructions and Guidelines (AIGs) also addresses this topic.

The AIGs, section 3 paragraph 130 state that in the normal day to day school curriculum the: ‘aim of religion studies in government schools is to enable students to have an adequate understanding of the presence and influence of religion in life and society. It is not the purpose of religion studies to bring about commitment to any set of beliefs rather to create a sensitive understanding of the variety of beliefs by which people live whether they be religious, non-religious or hold traditional beliefs. Through religion studies, students should gain a greater respect and empathy with the beliefs of others and their beliefs as well as a clearer understanding of what they themselves believe’. The intention of these guidelines is clearly to direct our government schools to provide students with an understanding of the many different sets of beliefs that they will encounter in their lives, rather than espouse one particular belief system.

With regard to the views you have expressed on the role of chaplains in schools, it is important to understand that this position is not a substitute for the important role of the school counsellor. This Government regards the role of the school counsellor so highly that we have appointed over 50 additional counsellors to our schools since 2002. The decision to appoint a school chaplain is made by the school governing council, after consultation with the whole school community. The role of chaplains in Government schools is monitored through an agreement between the Minister for Education and Children’s Services and the Schools Ministry Group. This agreement is currently under review to ensure the guidelines are appropriate and relevant.

Should you wish to have additional information regarding guidelines about religious education and the pastoral care role of the school chaplain in our government schools, I recommend that you view the Administrative Instructions and Guidelines available through the following web link http://www.decs.sa.gov.au/docs/files/docman/AIG_Section3.doc

Thank you for your interest in this matter.

Yours sincerely
Jane Lomax-Smith
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND CHILDREN’S SERVICES
MINISTER FOR TOURISM
12/11/04
cc Hon Mike Rann MP, Premier
Hon Patrick Conlon MP, Minister for Infrastructure
Hon Jay Weatherill MP, Minister for Families and Communities

18th September, 2004

The Hon. Jane Lomax-Smith
Minister for Education and Children’s Services

Dear Minister,
In response to the increasing concern by parents of children attending our Government Schools we request information on the position of Religious Education.

Part 6 of the Education Act states:-
78 (1) “The Minister shall appoint a Standing Committee” which shall be comprised of certain people.
1. Is this Committee still in charge of Religious Education?
2. If this Standing Committee still exists what is its relation to the School Ministries Group?
3. Does this SMG have control of, or any function in regard to Christian Options?
4. Is the SMG responsible for the appointment of the Chaplains?
5. Is it correct that Chaplains must believe in the Nicene Creed? (We understand that Counsellors are appointed and paid by the Education Department but that Chaplains are paid by the churches in the area concerned.)
6. Does this church-paid system still apply?
7. If not, how much money is paid to each Chaplain (or the School Ministries Group) by the Education Department or the Government? Can you please clarify all financial arrangements in this area.
8. What control does the Department have over Christian Options?
9. Does the Government subsidise Christian Options and if so to what extent?
10. Do all the statements made by Chaplains and Christian Options comply with the curriculum as set forth by the Education Department and also comply with the prohibition of indoctrination?
11. Is the current School Ministries Group system being phased out of the public education system, stagnating or is its role expanding?
12. Considering that the ethos of the separation of church and state is being blatantly abused by the cooperation between the government and the Church Ministries Group, what is the governments official policy regarding the upholding of this separation?
As Christian Options is basically fundamentalist in their beliefs, many parents are well aware of the inherent dangers in religious fundamentalism and are very concerned.

Keith S Cornish
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc

13th May, 2004
The Hon. Mike Rann
Premier

Dear Premier,
For a long period the Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc has been concerned by the opportunity the Department of Education has made available for religious organisations to have contact with the children in our State schools. This has been augmented by complaints we have received from parents who consider this position untenable.

We therefore outline our reasons for proscribing this unworthy procedure.

The basic purpose of the education of children is to impart the ability to understand and apply the rules of numeracy, language and the essential knowledge to cope with adult life in our community. This involves not only our present knowledge but the ability to supply reason and judgement so that each person may reach their full potential in the future.

We live in a natural world in a natural universe where the laws of nature are constant. No one has ever been able to produce any factual, scientific evidence of anything supernatural and therefore we must assume that this concept results from the primitive culture of past ages. According to their mental age, it is mandatory for children to be aware of the culture that produced the concept of fairies, leprechauns, angels, demons, gods, heaven and hell.

Anything that gives substance to these imaginary beings and realms should not be supported by our education system.

We are aware that religion in every culture is passed on generation by generation through parental indoctrination. This is unfortunate and constitutes a mental abuse of the child. Civilisation that results from culture is always in a state of flux and hopefully continues to improve. Any culture that hinders improvement is deleterious and therefore the education system must be ever watchful and aware of any culture that impedes progress.

Education should not pander to the ignorance of the parents but should aim for the mental development of the student.

In this submission we draw attention to what we consider to be a vital flaw in the present education system in this State, viz the granting to religious groups of access to children in our schools. At present this access appears to be restricted to the purveyors of the Christian religion but, under the freedom of discrimination legislation, access must be granted to every religion equally. A particularly insidious aspect of this access is that children are obliged to attend unless the parents deny this exploitation.

It would appear that, where the services of a professional counsellor is deemed necessary, the role is now being off-loaded into chaplains. These chaplains are accredited by a religious body which insists that applicants must believe in the forty-odd clauses of the Nicene Creed. ‘Belief’ is an admission of ignorance. When something is known it is no longer a ‘belief’. Christianity was responsible for the Age of Ignorance.

The regulations of the Department of Education may forbid the indoctrination of the children but that the Department sanctions the access of such indoctrinated people reinforces and upholds the belief in these claimed supernatural doctrines. This should not be. In fact, the Department should be actively engaged in downgrading every avenue that hinders the flow of factual knowledge.

Psychologists such as Albert Ellis Ph.D. specifically draw attention to the malevolent influence of religion on mental health and this is crucial during the formative years.

To fully appreciate the stupidity and evil nature of the three common religions Hebrew, Christian and Muslim one must refer to their base in the writings of the Old Testament.

The notion that earth and water constituted our globe prior to the formation of the solar system and our universe is ludicrous. In the same category science places the Noachian concept of the Flood. There is not a skerrick of evidence to support the tale of the Hebrews being captive and escaping from bondage in Egypt, Canaan and the whole of that area was part of the realm of Egyptian rule during the whole of this period.

Evidence from the Old Testament itself confirms that the majority of it was the work of priests during and subsequent to the captivity of the Hebrews in Babylon in c600 BCE.

In regard to the New Testament the essential doctrines come more from the letters of Paul than from the gospels. The Christian religion is based on the doctrine that the omnipotent Hebrew god Yahweh willed that human atonement would require the death of his son. Not a natural or accidental death but a death that had to be the most brutal, cruel and sadistic possible. The Old Testament highlights the atrocities that this bloodthirsty tyrant was regarded as ordering. While murdering thousands of men, women and infants, only the virgins were spared for the use of the soldiers and priests. What a subject for worship and adoration!

The teaching of hatred and rejection of the family ties is unacceptable, as it is the concept of love by command. The commandment to avoid being involved in judgement is ridiculous today when the ability to assess and judge every situation and point of view is cructial.

Science has revealed the impossibility of humans having a supernatural immortal element that survives the death of the body and goes on to eternal bliss or everlasting torment. That children should be subjected to such doctrines, even by proxy, is an abomination. It should not be!

Perhaps mature students should receive factual information in regard to the history of religion, to the early sacrifice of animals and humans, to the Crusades and the Inquisition, to the impact on the New Word, to the burning of witches and heretics, to the slave trade and the discrimination against women and homosexuals. Today we are witness to the confrontation, conflict, bloodshed, wars and terrorism resulting from religion.

The rights and opportunity to challenge belief is crucial for the improvement of society. A flawed religious viewpoint caused the burning of Bruno and the imprisonment of Galileo. It is possible to delay the flow of knowledge but not suppress it. Someone reveals it.

There are no grounds for truth being considered an entity. There are true statements, false statements and statements that are indeterminate.

Every culture has a system of codes and laws subject to revision and update. We consider it essential that our moral and ethical codes be an important subject for our children and that such codes be recognised as man-made and not supplied by any divinity.

On the basis of this submission we oppose the granting of any access to the students in our State schools by the proponents of religion. Moreover we recommend that children be made aware of the obvious errors and deleterious influence of religion on our world system today.

The fate of civilisation depends on the application of our capacity through reason to identify the problems and to rectify them. Anything that reinforces belief in the supernatural is a significant impediment as manifest in Palestine/Israel today.

Yours sincerely,
Keith S Cornish
President
Atheist Foundation of Australia