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Educating the Secular Education Network

October 6th, 2017 by Matt

The Secular Education Network (SEN) has been in the news of late, complaining about religious education in schools. My view is that whether a religious education programme should exist at a given school is something individual schools should decide for themselves and parents should be free to choose whichever school they want to send their child. However, I won’t argue for that position here. Instead, I wanted to comment on something I noticed about SEN. When SEN began getting media attention, I went to look at SEN’s website to see what the organisation was about. Here is the introductory paragraph:

Religious Instruction has no place in New Zealand public schools.
Religious Instruction means teaching and endorsing a faith in its own right, for example, the practice cropped-SEN-bannerof Church volunteers ”leading children to a faith in Jesus”. There is a significant difference between religious instruction and religious studies. Religious Studies teaches a comparative overview of the major world religions, taken by qualified teachers in a neutral manner. New Zealand does not currently have this program.

Notice what SEN say here; First, they distinguish between religious instruction which involves church volunteers “leading people to faith in Jesus” and Religious studies which involve “a comparative overview of the major world religions, taken by qualified teachers in a neutral manner”. Concerning the latter, they say “New Zealand does not currently have this program.” The insinuation is that religious education in New Zealand consists only of the first type of practice.

To be honest, this is an astounding claim because it’s patently false. Those who know me personally will be aware I am a religious studies teacher at one of New Zealand’s largest public Catholic high-schools, our department teaches Philosophy, Theology, and religious studies at both Cambridge and NCEA level. Note what I just said here, New Zealand’s official qualification, The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA),  has  a Religious Studies Programme

This can, in fact, be found out by visiting the New Zealand Qualifications Authority website which lists subjects which currently exist in New Zealand schools. You’ll see religious studies listed under R. Moreover, one can examine the standards which NZQA lays down for this subject:

Level 1: (year 11)

1. Describe the purpose of a sacred text within a religious tradition.

2.Describe a significant development within a religious tradition.

3.Describe the application of the key ethical principle(s) of a religious tradition to an issue.

4.Describe key beliefs of a religious tradition.

Level 2: (Year 12)

1.Explain a significant theme in a sacred text within a religious tradition.

2.Explain the changes in an expression(s) of a religious tradition

3.Explain how a contemporary social action derives from the ethical principles of a religious tradition

4. Explain the key beliefs within two religious traditions in relation to a significant religious question

Level 3: (Year 13)

1.Analyse the meanings in a sacred text within a religious tradition

2.Analyse a religious tradition(s) in Aotearoa New Zealand

3.Analyse the response of a religious tradition to a contemporary ethical issue.

4.Analyse the key beliefs of a religious tradition and a secular world view in relation to ultimate questions.

Note what these standards require, in level 1 students have to accurately describe significant developments within, doctrines of, how texts function within a religious tradition. In level 2 they have to explain these things. Notice what’s being required here, understanding. Students need to be able to accurately describe and understand religious doctrines, moral reasoning, and history. Finally, in level 3 they have to analyse them. The assessment criteria for NCEA spells this out in more detail often describing involves such things as understanding the origins, the significance, to get merit excellence students often have to do things like evaluate the claims explore their implications and reflect on the significance of these answers. Note also each of these tasks can be done with any religious tradition at all and in several standards, they are required to compare more than one. Level two, for example, requires one to explain the answers of two different religious beliefs and in level 3 they have to compare and analysis secular and religious worldviews.

This is the religious studies standards for NCEA, consequently,  New Zealand does have a programme for this. Moreover, I know that NCEA is used in lots of schools, most Catholic integrated schools in New Zealand I know of follow the NCEA programme as part of their religious education programme. I also know of state schools where it is used. I have taught at secular public schools for example where different religions are used in different standards as part of a course in philosophy. Even in Catholic schools, it’s not unusual for students to study Hinduism, or Islam, or Judaism under some of these standards so that students learn the diversity of religious views and how to compare them asses them and so forth. I was at a PD of Catholic schools a few months ago where several teachers mentioned they use Buddhism as an example in some of the standards. I know that there are PD’s on offer for religious education teachers on comparative religions because this is a growth area.

What’s significant is that nothing I say here is news to anyone remotely familiar with education in New Zealand’s secondary sector. Almost every religious education teacher I know of is aware of this, as will almost any child that attends one of the many integrated public schools that do NCEA religious studies and there is a reasonable number that does.

The reason I raise this issue is that it triggers in me a question. Why does the Secular Education Network not know this? You have to wonder about how much research the Secular Education Network has actually done on religious education in New Zealand when blurb on their website contains a pretty obvious falsehood. A falsehood almost anyone involved in religious education in New Zealand is aware of, and which almost any student in the many of NZ’s integrated Catholic schools knows is incorrect. To not know this they would have to have never looked at or examined most of the religious education that takes place every day in NZ schools. Moreover, this falsehood creates an obvious insinuation about religious education in New Zealand which is inaccurate and false. But of course politically expedient and useful to them.

Of course, none of this addresses the concerns SEN has about what it calls religious instruction when it occurs in the primary schools. But granting this, surely SEN have an obligation to not misrepresent the sector when they voice these concerns and to actually have researched and know what they are talking about rather than pandering to stereotypes.  As I am sure they will agree we can’t have uninformed bigots who don’t know what they are talking about involved in education now, can we?

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18 responses so far ↓

  • With all due respect, it is astounding that an academic like yourself would use a red herring fallacy in a discussion.
    Let me ask you this. Are you okay with the notion of RI classes taught to 5 year olds at our public schools that use bible stories and present them as factual? I am saying factual because we are talking about young children that are asked to trust their teachers’ words. They don’t know that the person coming to speak to them at school isn’t giving them fact based information.
    It is each family’s private matter what, if any, religion they choose to pass on to their child.

    Bible needs to be kept out of public schools. Period.

    The uproar this simple request is causing makes me want to believe there is a sinister motive here. To tell children about god, about jesus, to save them from eternal damnation as it were….

  • Matt, it seems, on the surface, you are the ignorant one.

    Are you not aware of the religious instruction (not education) campaigns operating in primary schools? This is what parents are concerned about.

    As for religious education in secondary schools, I think many if not most parents would support this. Especially if it was extended to include other non-religious beliefs.

    But brainwashing young children – often in violation of the parent’s knowledge – is surely beyond the pale.

    Why avoid the issue?

  • Sorry but your information is wrong. SEN is campaigning against religious instruction in secular state primary schools as allowed under the Education Act 1964 (sections 78-79).

    The statement you quoted refers to those schools only, not religious schools or secondary schools. So the statement has nothing to do with RE in secondary, integrated or special character schools or the NCEA religious studies course.

  • Dominika

    The fact SEN seem pretty clearly to not even familiarised themselves with how religious education occurs in NZ before making public announcments on it I don’t think is a red herring. It actually is quite revealing.

    To your specific comments:

    Let me ask you this. Are you okay with the notion of RI classes taught to 5-year-olds at our public schools that use bible stories and present them as factual? I am saying factual because we are talking about young children that are asked to trust their teachers’ words. They don’t know that the person coming to speak to them at school isn’t giving them fact-based information.

    It is each family’s private matter what, if any, religion they choose to pass on to their child.
    Bible needs to be kept out of public schools. Period.

    This argument strikes me as incoherent, in the first paragraph your objection is that children are being taught something is true which you think isn’t and children trusting their teachers don’t know its false. However if that is the problem then it applies equally well to your second comment. If the same religion is taught to parents at home, children will still be being taught the religion is true, they will presumably trust their parents word as much as they trust their teachers and so the very same situation you object to would exist. Similarly, the same situation would arise in Sunday school as well; kids will trust the Sunday school teachers and not know the religion is false. It would also apply to private and intergrated schools, children at those schools also trust there teachers. So, if the objection is sound, then you should ban teaching religion at home and in Sunday school as well.

    On the other hand, if freedom of religion means parents should be allowed to teach children a particular religion, and the fact children trust their parents or and don’t know that religion is (in your opinion) false doesn’t provide a reason for prohibiting it. Then its hard to see why freedom of religion wouldn’t also extent to parents being allowed to choose their kids being taught that religion at school. The idea that a parent can teach X but can’t get a teacher to do it on there behalf seems to me rather odd.

    As to the claim that religion should be a private matter, I have examined the arguments for that sort of position on religion and public life and think they are wanting. I believe good critiques have been offered of it by people like Nicholas Wolterstorff, Philip Quinn, Christopher Eberle, and others, so I see no reason to take it seriously.

    As to your question, I believe I answered that in the first line of my article. I said that I think as long as parents get to choose whether or not their kids receive the relevant religious education I see no reason why a school can’t choose to run an RI programme or alternatively to attend the school. I don’t see why parents who want a religious education should be forced to pay twice, once in taxes to a public school and a second time out of fees for a private school because their religious faith requires them to teach their religion to their family. That seems to me to be economic discrimination,

    The uproar this simple request is causing makes me want to believe there is a sinister motive here. To tell children about God, about Jesus, to save them from eternal damnation as it were….

    That’s simply an ad hominem, dismissing peoples arguments by attributing sinister or dubious motives to them, ( and one that assumes religious believers think little children suffer eternal damnation, a pretty controversial claim which is inaccurate about a lot of even fundamentalist forms of Christianity.) that kind of response tends to illustrate the point I made in the post.

    Finally let me note that your objection that religious teachings are taught as fact and arent fact based, seems to undercut any suggestion that your stance is based on the state being neutral with regard to religion ( which is what SEN claims) that line of argument asks the state to prohibit it because the religion is false.

  • It’s little disingenuous and misleading to not include the entire section that you quoted from, where it goes on to say:

    “While SEN is supportive of Comprehensive Religious Studies that includes non-religious viewpoints, this subject is more appropriate for high school. It is incidental to our core goal of inclusive primary schooling.”

    The statement by SEN that New Zealand does not currently have a Religious Studies program is implicitly referring to primary schools, where Christian Religious Instruction does occur and which is the main area of concern for SEN.

    You are actually arguing for a position that SEN endorses, which is that Comparative Religious Studies should be taught in high schools.

  • I think I have pointed out to you before Ken that the fact I haven’t written a blog post addressing an issue you raise in the combox doesn’t mean I am avoiding an issue. It just means you have tried to change the subject in the combox.

    As to your comments, I believe I actually answered that question in the first paragraph of my article above. I hinted this was my view on the matter when I write “in my view…”
    Regarding your last comment Let me also point you to the response I made to Dominko. If your objection is that religious
    instruction is brainwashing, ( an inference which actually doesn’t follow and just expresses a pejorative picture of religious people and ideas) then it will be equally brainwashing if religious instruction occurs in church, home, private schools or integrated schools. So guess the question is simply do you think it should be allowed in those contexts? If you do, then you grant that freedom of religion allows parents to enrol their kids in some form of religious instruction and even have a school do it. So it’s hard to see how you can say this reason is sufficiently weighty to ban it in a public school.

    Basically, if your argument was sound it would be an argument against religious schools and instruction in general. If SEN believe this they should come clean, if they don’t they cant rationally and consistently make those kinds of arguments.

  • Dave Sorry but your information is wrong. SEN is campaigning against religious instruction in secular state primary schools as allowed under the Education Act 1964 (sections 78-79).

    Sorry but I think you haven’t read the post carefully, I don’t recall saying that SEN were campaigning in religious studies in secondary schools. In fact, if you read the post I actually finish with the comment Of course, none of this addresses the concerns SEN has about what it calls religious instruction when it occurs in the primary schools.

    What I did suggest was SEN’s claim that NZ has no programme for religious studies and the insinuation that all religious education is “church volunteers” who are unqualified and teach people to come to jesus, is inaccurate. That of course is true.

    The statement you quoted refers to those schools only, not religious schools or secondary schools. So the statement has nothing to do with RE in secondary, integrated or special character schools or the NCEA religious studies course.

    That’s not what it says, the statement comes immediately after the big heading Religious Instruction has no place in New Zealand public schools. that refers to public schools per se ( which as stated would include state integrated schools.)

    Moreover, the reasons given make it impossible to justify a principled limitation to primary schools. It refers to a particular interpretation of separation of church and state. Presumably you don’t think this principle ceases to apply in the secondary sector. It states it objects to children being excluded from classes and segregated (pejorative and highly misleading emotional language to describe a parent or child choosing to not attend) but that consequence would apply in secondary as well. Similarly, it appeals to equality, and there is no sensible reason to think equality didn’t apply in secondary as well. So I see no reason to limit its statement of philosophy to the primary sector.

    Of course the page says their lobbying is directed at the primary sector. But the statement of philosophy about religious education, in general, is unqualified and occurs in a context where it can’t in principle be qualified.

  • Also SEN supporters who object that I portray them as people who trade on nasty sterotypes of religious people. Don’t really help themselves if they suggest people are really dishonest in their intentions and comments and really are people who believe little children are damned to hellfire and want to save them” or describe religious instruction as “brainwashing” or suggest their objection is that religious instruction isn’t fact-based. Or suggest that a child choosing not to attend an RI programme is advocacy of “exclusion and segregation”.

    What your basically doing when you say this is using images of cults and cult leaders portraying all RI teachers at primary level as fitting this description. That pretty clearly substantiates my comments.

  • I’m astounded that you’re trying to defend your blog rather than offering to retract it. It is a blatant misrepresentation of what SEN stand for (until the last paragraph) and calls them on a claim that you’ve taken out of context. In the context of secular state primary schools (which is what the entire page talks about), the claim that “New Zealand does not currently have this [religious studies] program” is obviously true.

    My information is derived from being active within the group for the last 2+ years and as the author of this website: https://religiouseducation.co.nz

    So… if you want a “win”, perhaps they should add in … “…in secular state primary schools”. But it’s hardly worth a whole blog arguing against something that was never intended (as you well know) and then ending with an ad hominem attack. It doesn’t exactly scream “values” does it? Perhaps a quick email suggesting clarification instead?

    I’ve seen this kind of mental acrobatics and wilful ignorance time and time again, when trying to fight against people who try and push their religion into secular schools or try to avoid taking any responsibility for defending the rights of children to be free of religious pressure.

    Personally, no, I don’t think it should be limited to primary schools. I believe freedom of and freedom from religion should extend to all children. I fail to see why a majority of a board of trustees or even a school community should be allowed to promote their religious view (whatever it is) to children in a secular educational environment. I would be equally against regular visits from a political party trying to swing children to their political ideology. It is crass, manipulative, callous and unethical.

    “Choice” is hardly something that can exist as a child being taught religious faith as fact. It is indoctrination. Parents have already made a choice about religion outside the school. You chasing them to re-make the choice inside the school is social and religious pressure. Perhaps you should wait for the opt out kids outside the school as they wait for the bus and ask them again, just to make sure they have another… choice.

    Your recommendations on religious instruction are obviously biased toward your own religious world view. Whereas, I can say (as an atheist) that I would be against teaching children that there is no god.

    You want to teach them to think what you think, I want to teach them how to think for themselves.

  • Matthew. I’m not going to respond to most of what you’ve written. You are clearly biased and have no respect for anyone else’s beliefs but your own.
    I know how RI works in our primary school. A note is sent notifying parents of RI DURING school hours that they can then opt their kid out of. The child then sits aimlessly in a classroom with a handful of others while RI is occurring, putting them at risk of feeling excluded and ostracized by their peers.

  • Matt, you are being incredibly dishonest. Perhaps it is you that should come clean.

    You are upset by SEN becuase it is campaigning against the imposed indoctrination of young children in our secular state schools – often against the knowledge or wishes of their parents. Talking about religious and belief education in secondary schools is simply a red herring.

    Front up. Admit you support this imposition of religious instruction (which many people consider indoctrination and brainwashing) on young children – and that you support the way this is being done which often violates parental knowledge and intentions.

    Support your case with evidence and reasoning instead of putting words and programmes in others’ mouths.

    There is clearly a groundswell of parental concern about the way religious instruction is being introduced into our secular primary schools. The arguments you have used so far will do nothing to support your personal campaign to prevent the withdrawal of religious instruction in these schools.

  • Dominka

    Matthew. I’m not going to respond to most of what you’ve written. You are clearly biased and have no respect for anyone else’s beliefs but your own.

    I respected your opinion enough to not dismiss it by name calling but instead offer a series of arguments as to why I thought it was mistaken. That’s treating you with the respect of assuming you’re a rational person.
    I pointed out there were problems with the coherence of your position and if you followed it through to its logical implications it would entail that parents, Sundays schools, private schools and state integrated schools shouldn’t be prohibited from teaching religion. I also briefly elaborated why I think the “religion is private” stance isnt one that is defensible, pointing you to criticisms of that position in the scholarly literature.

    Refusing to address this and calling me biased or insinuating I lack respect for or am biased others doesn’t really address those points. In fact if anything it suggests your disrespectful and biased because when someone offers reasons for disagreeing you insult them and throw a tantrum.

    I know how RI works in our primary school. A note is sent notifying parents of RI DURING school hours that they can then opt their kid out of. The child then sits aimlessly in a classroom with a handful of others while RI is occurring, putting them at risk of feeling excluded and ostracized by their peers.

    That might be a relevant point if I had made comments about RI works in your primary school. But I didn’t, what I addressed were arguments you made that advocated banning it in every primary school in the country, and pointed out what are the implications of those arguments. So really all your doing here is ignoring the issues and trying to gain outrage by focusing on one case. Unfortunately, good public policy isn’t established that way.

  • Dave

    I’ve seen this kind of mental acrobatics and willful ignorance time and time again when trying to fight against people who try and push their religion into secular schools or try to avoid taking any responsibility for defending the rights of children to be free of religious pressure.

    I hope I don’t have to explain to you that calling people ignorant and using perjorative terms to describe a position, isn’t really a substantive response to my argument.

    Personally, no, I don’t think it should be limited to primary schools. I believe freedom of and freedom from religion should extend to all children. I fail to see why a majority of a board of trustees or even a school community should be allowed to promote their religious view (whatever it is) to children in a secular educational environment. I would be equally against regular visits from a political party trying to swing children to their political ideology. It is crass, manipulative, callous and unethical.

    I agree with you that freedom of religion isn’t limited to the primary sector. What I don’t accept and as far as I can tell you have offered no real argument for, is the thesis that freedom of religion means that people (and school boards) shouldn’t be allowed to promote a religious view, normally, in fact, freedom of religion means the precise opposite of this. Normally it means people and communities are free to set up schools and organisations such as churches mosques, run by boards, which teach their religion without prohibition and people can choose whether their children attend it or not.

    “Choice” is hardly something that can exist as a child being taught religious faith as fact. It is indoctrination.

    I addressed this argument above when I responded to Ken, if the objection is to permitting the indoctrination of children, and indoctrination is defined as teaching children that a particular religion is true. Then that’s an objection to RI wherever it occurs. Indoctrination defined this way doesn’t just occur in primary school RI classes, it occurs when a church or Mosque teaches its religion to a child, or where a child attends a religious private school, or where they attend one of the many integrated schools that exist in New Zealand. The phenomena you define as “indoctrination” is common in all these contexts. So, if the objection is to allowing this then its an argument for banning RI in all these contexts.

    Parents have already made a choice about religion outside the school. You chasing them to re-make the choice inside the school is social and religious pressure. Perhaps you should wait for the opt out kids outside the school as they wait for the bus and ask them again, just to make sure they have another… choice.

    Sorry but this strikes me as nonsense, suppose a group of kids opt out of an option soccer training after school, is this social pressure to take up a sport. Or, to take a different case, suppose a seven day Adventist child opts out of an activity on Friday afternoon because he wants to prepare for the Sabbath and staying in the evening in winter will violate the Sabbath, does it follow the school now is putting “social pressure” on the child to reject seven day Adventist beliefs. I had a friend at primary school who opted out of an optional choir practise during school time because they wanted him to sing John Lenon’s imagine and he was from a Baptist family and didn’t want to sing the words. Was that social pressure and so schools shouldn’t be allowed to run choir as an optional activity.

    In my view the issue is no different here to what happens in a church or mosque or private or integrated school, the board decides whether to teach religions, how, what religion is taught and so forth the parents choose whether their kid attends or not. That’s how it works everywhere else, In no other context would people claim they have a right to demand the board be criminalised for its choice because they disagree with it.

  • Your recommendations on religious instruction are obviously biased toward your own religious world view.

    I don’t know why you said that because I actually said that I think schools should be free to teach religions I disagree with. This is what I said above <> My view is that whether a religious education programme should exist at a given school is something individual schools should decide for themselves and parents should be free to choose whichever school they want to send their child.

    To me whats at issue is whether its compulsory, provided parents can choose a different school or opt their kids out, its compatible with what I say, it’s not me demanding that all religious viewpoints I disagree with be banned from being taught , it’s you.
    But second you say

    I can say (as an atheist) that I would be against teaching children that there is no god.

    I have actually tested this a couple of times with members of NZARH and SEN, here are the situations I put to them: the first (a)is whether they would support sex education which teaches that artificial contraception is a legitimate and responsible practice knowing there were children of Catholic parents at the school. And the second (b) is whether they would support a teacher in a science class telling children of seven-day Adventist parents that the world wasn’t created in six 24 hour days.
    The response I got to the first one from a spokesperson from NZARH was that they supported the sex education being taught and that was compatible with freedom of religion because parents can be notified and they can choose to withdraw their children from those specific lessons if they choose. Note this is exactly here they are doing exactly what SEN claims is unacceptable, allowing the school to teach the doctrine but having parental opt out.

    With regard to the second, the typical response I get, and I got a response from a member of SEN along these lines, is that seven day Adventist religious beliefs are false, and the fact the parent deeply believes them is irrelevant there child should be taught the age of the earth regardless of the parent objecting. In fact, I received baffled responses as to why anyone would suggest that a parent has a right to ask their child not be taught something because it contradicts their religion. I am told that’s naïve and silly, and crazy to think parents should be allowed to prevent a view on religion being taught because they disagreed with, rather such parents should be ignored and the teacher and school, who have the relevant have discretion to teach what they consider to be the facts.
    Now I don’t accept either the Roman Catholic Belief that artificial contraception is wrong nor do I accept the seven day Adventist belief that the world was created in 6 24 hour days a few thousand years ago. I do however value rational consistency, and I am far from convinced that many secularists are terribly consistent here. On the other hand I think the view I expound is consistent. It also as I understand it fairly similar to what already happens in some countries like the Netherlands.

  • Ken, unfortunately, there is nothing in your response to respond to. You ignore pretty much every point I made, malign my character and come up with a totally unsubstantiated claim about my motives and what I do and do not support which does nothing but paint me in a sinister light.

    Basically, textbook cases of the ad hominem fallacy, seeing your a scientist I don’t need to explain to you what is wrong with that.

  • Matt,

    I said that you were being “willfully ignorant”, not that you were ignorant. It means that there are facts that you’re ignoring because they don’t support your stance.

    Freedom of religion is not the right to infringe on another person’s religious freedom. That is the point. Pushing Christianity into a secular school infringes on the rights of non-Christians. It’s a bit of a no-brainer really. If you’re closing a secular school to promote one religion, then it’s obviously going to negatively affect people not of that religion. This is supported by a statement made by the Ministry of Education legal team in 2001 that said that RI had no defence against a claim of direct discrimination under the Human Rights Act. See https://religiouseducation.co.nz/ministry-knew-bible-classes-discriminated-children/

    Yes, RI is indoctrination and that is a parents’ right outside of a secular, taxpayer-funded, state school.

    Trying to compare RI with Soccer doesn’t work. If every soccer class was teaching kids that soccer was the only game worth playing, that soccer is the only true game, that people who play other games are “lost” and that they will go to heaven if they play it, you might have an argument.

    Secular schools are different because they were created specifically to be non-religious (by religious people) and Christian evangelicals have managed to undermine this status because they can’t stand the idea of not being able to scent mark everything they possibly can. I don’t believe anyone has ever demanded a board be criminalised.

    The lack of compulsion is a pathetic argument. It’s as if we should be grateful that the “choice” of religious instruction is being forced on us in a place that is legislated to be non-religious. A place that we specifically chose because it is supposed to be non-religious. If you want to teach religion, do it in a religious school. If you want to learn about god, go to church. If you want to indoctrinate your kids, send them to Sunday school. Those are your choices. Don’t force your choices on the rest of us.

    Your sex education argument doesn’t work either. No one teaches that condoms are the only contraceptive choice you should make. They do work, if you don’t want to use them, then don’t. I don’t believe that sex-ed has any opinion on the morality of contraception like the Catholic church does.

    Neither does the argument about the age of the earth work. You can be certain that fairies made the earth from toothpicks three days ago if you like but that does not mean that your beliefs should automatically gain respect. You could not believe in maths or physics. The difference is that some beliefs are demonstrably ridiculous and should not be tolerated. Should we allow a white supremacist to opt their white kid out of any class with a brown kid in it because they have strongly held beliefs?

    Ken has only stated what the rest of us commenting already think. You place your faith and the promotion of it over and above the right of children to be free of it. You are ok with my daughter missing out on around 160 hours (over 4 whole weeks) of her primary schooling while your lot talk about Jesus. She has no choice in this because the school closes. Her teacher can’t teach her because technically he is not working. She is forced to leave her own class so some arrogant prick can come and do us the “favour” of teaching kids their personal religious views.

    Christians have lost the power that they once had in society and the rest of us are getting bloody sick of them trying to keep it. Stay away from our kids and stay out of our schools.

  • Dave

    Freedom of religion is not the right to infringe on another person’s religious freedom. That is the point. Pushing Christianity into a secular school infringes on the rights of non-Christians. It’s a bit of a no-brainer really.

    The problem is that if the board feely chooses the program, and it’s not part of the compulsory curricula and so people choose whether their kids attend or not, then no one’s “freedom of religion” has been infringed upon.

    On the other hand prohibiting by law other people from freely running or attending a program because its religious would involve that. So again, it is you who is going against freedom of religion, not me.

    The lack of compulsion is a pathetic argument. It’s as if we should be grateful that the “choice” of religious instruction is being forced on us in a place that is legislated to be non-religious. A place that we specifically chose because it is supposed to be non-religious. If you want to teach religion, do it in a religious school. If you want to learn about God, go to church. If you want to indoctrinate your kids, send them to Sunday school. Those are your choices. Don’t force your choices on the rest of us.

    Unfortunately calling something, pathetic doesn’t actually address it, freedom of religion means just that freedom of religion. It allows people to engage in religious instruction and worship provided its free, that is not coerced.

    As to it being forced on you, as noted it isn’t, you can choose to not attend and schools can choose to not run it. What’s happening is your trying to prohibit the choices other people have made that you don’t agree with.

    As for it being in a place legislated to be non-religious that of course is false because the education act allows schools that’s why for example SEN states “The Secular Education Network (SEN) has the primary goal of removing Religious Instruction from New Zealand state primary schools. Ultimately this will involve the repeal of the New Zealand Education Act (1964) Section 78.” The whole point is they want to repeal the law, is because its not legislated to be non-religious.

    If you’re closing a secular school to promote one religion, then it’s obviously going to negatively affect people, not of that religion. … . You are ok with my daughter missing out on around 160 hours (over 4 whole weeks) of her primary schooling while your lot talk about Jesus.

    This is disingenuous, as you know the education act only allows the school, to close for 60 minutes a week and no more than 20 hours a year. That’s hardly massive time away from class, it is only because you choose to add up a small amount of time over multiple years that you get a figure of 160 hours, but of course we could all play that game, if I added up the twenty minutes it took me to drive to school every day over multiple years it would be a big number. It wouldn’t follow the school was miles away and it took an unreasonable amount of time to travel there.

    But, the problem you cite would be pretty easily solved, you could allow the school to be open when its taught so your daughter can get lessons. However, I suspect that SEN and you will object to it occurring in school while its open, which means the issue isn’t really that the schools closed. It’s that someone else is getting religious instruction.

    You place your faith and the promotion of it over and above the right of children to be free of it.

    Above you just mentioned that your daughter isnt compelled to attend these things, so your children are free of it, Try and not use deceptive rhetoric. Your objecting that there is an existing program that other people who disagree with you freely attend.

    This is supported by a statement made by the Ministry of Education legal team in 2001 that said that RI had no defence against a claim of direct discrimination under the Human Rights Act. See https://religiouseducation.co.nz/ministry-knew-bible-classes-discriminated-children/

    Actually if you read that document it doesn’t say that, it suggests its arguable that one law the education act, is inconsistent with another the HRA, the HRA doesn’t repeal over overturn existing legislation. I also suspect the argument is contestable in terms of freedom of religious jurisprudence because it suggests that the fact one group has to opt out and other doesn’t is unlawful discrimination, given the number of cases where freedom of religion jurisprudence allows opt-out situations of precisely this and a similar nature, I doubt it is as clear-cut as you suggest.
    Certainly on many legal tests for religious discrimination that wouldn’t count.

    But as to discrimination, in fact I think a much more plausible argument can be made that having secular state schools with no option for voluntary RI is discriminatory in a much greater way, here is why, if you have RI parents who disagree can opt out. But if you don’t have this option then parents who have a strong religious conviction that RI should be part of there child’s education will have to forgo public education altogether and either go private or integrated. This will mean they have to pay fees, even though they will still be paying for education through there taxes.

    So, mandated secular schools with no option for RI, as a matter of fact, discriminate against these religious people by requiring them to pay twice for education, while parents who want a secular education pay once. Interestingly the document you refer to argues in a different context that if one group has to pay fees for education and another doesn’t that’s discrimination.

    So, in fact, it is you who supports institutionalised economic discrimination against people because they want to enrol there kids in RI, whereas defenders on RI let you opt out.

    Your sex education argument doesn’t work either. No one teaches that condoms are the only contraceptive choice you should make. They do work, if you don’t want to use them, then don’t. I don’t believe that sex-ed has any opinion on the morality of contraception like the Catholic church does.

    You don’t have to say it’s the only choice, simply saying it’s a legitimate choice would contradict the Catholic churches position and hence be claiming the Catholic church is wrong. Moreover, as someone who has received comprehensive sex education at secondary school, it pretty clearly does contradict the teaching of the Catholic church.

    Neither does the argument about the age of the earth work. You can be certain that fairies made the earth from toothpicks three days ago if you like but that does not mean that your beliefs should automatically gain respect. You could not believe in maths or physics. The difference is that some beliefs are demonstrably ridiculous and should not be tolerated. Should we allow a white supremacist to opt their white kid out of any class with a brown kid in it because they have strongly held beliefs?

    I suggest you read SEN’s website here is what it says:

    The purpose of the Secular Education Network is to promote the true separation of church and state; to give all faiths equal treatment by the state. It is to ensure that all children are treated equally. It is to ensure that children are not excluded and segregated from their classmates …

    Your answer is in direct contradiction to this, your suggesting that not all faiths are equal, in fact with seven day Adventists your suggesting their views are ludicrous, and ridiculous and your words “should not be tolerated, and in fact compare them with white supremacists and shouldn’t be respected.

    So you kinda prove my point, the fact is you don’t support the stance of religious neutrality and tolerance you say you do and when it’s a religious belief you think is unscientific ( which many people on SEN actually think that all religious beliefs are unscientific in this way) parent right to freedom of religion can be ignored.

    Christians have lost the power that they once had in society and the rest of us are getting bloody sick of them trying to keep it. Stay away from our kids and stay out of our schools.

    Perhaps a bit of history will help here you state Christians have lost the power that they once had in society and the rest of us are getting bloody sick of them trying to keep it this is actually false, the groups you complain about evangelicals, actually come from the dissenting tradition in England, those groups didn’t have power and were right into the 19th century subject to various civil liberties restrictions. On the other side, many of NZs catholic schools come from a tradition of Irish Catholicism, this has never been in power and in fact were subject to penal laws from the English crown for centuries including restrictions on education. In fact, some suggest the reason schools were demanded to be secular under the education act was because some legislators held the same anti-catholic and Irish prejudice which has been a long part of englands legal history.

    So, to be clear here Dave, I am not being willfully ignorant, you are. Moreover, you’re being disingenuous. You’re not in favour of freedom of religion, you want other peoples free choices outlawed despite the fact your free to not go along. You’re also ok with discrimination, you want people who believe their children get RI as part of there education to be subject to economic discrimination and pay fees for there education, simply to avoid your daughter having 60 minutes a week less free education. You also think that religious minorities like seven day Adventists don’t have equal rights in this area. You conclude by demanding Christians “stay out of our schools” You then pretend everyone else is some kind of bigot.

    Sorry never bought it, I know too much about NZARH and SEN to take that seriously.

  • You’re doing a great job of proving my statement about wilful ignorance!

    Yes, school boards of trustees can freely choose to promote one religion without any requirement to fairly consult the school community or provide unbiased information. They use their privileged position of power to advance their religious bias and close a secular state school during the normal school day. So some great values right there.

    Why do they do this? It’s because they have a captive audience during normal school hours and “no one goes” to Sunday school (that’s a quote from a BOT member). The claim that this somehow doesn’t infringe upon religious freedom because there’s an opt out option is ridiculous. You’d be screaming blue murder if your kids had to leave their own classroom if we had a school board who voted for Islamic faith teaching in place of bible classes.

    No one is suggesting prohibiting religious faith teaching… just not allowing it in the secular schools your Christian predecessors created for that purpose! There are not evangelical atheists going into Sunday School classes insisting on teaching the kids about why god doesn’t exist! I know that equality can feel like oppression when you’re so used to Christian privilege but it just sounds like you’re whining about how you can’t tell the heathens what to do any more.

    What is it about the attempted religious indoctrination of young children in a secular education system you find acceptable? Ironically, the thing that you say you want (religious freedom) does not allow an atheist to come into a primary school under the laws that allow religious instruction and promote atheism… because atheism is not a religion.

    You’re repeating tired old arguments about “choice” (forced choice) that didn’t make any sense or hold any moral high ground the first time you wrote them, so I won’t bother repeating myself.

    I think you should read some history on the creation of the Education Act 1877. It was created to provide “free, compulsory and secular education”. The legislation allowing religious instruction was only created in 1964 after pressure from religious groups. Wow what a win… being able to flog your religion to kiddies. Nice. There’s an obvious contradition between the original Act and the 1964 amendment. That’s probably why the ONLY legislation left in the 1964 Act are those allowances for religious instruction. Everything else has been superseded.

    The statement about my daughter missing out on her education is not “disingenuous”, it’s a fact. You repeat arguments I’ve heard over and over… nothing new to read here. “It’s only 30 minutes a week”… it’s only a little bit of discrimination. Yes adding numbers up gets a bigger number. Your commuting time is not remotely relevant.

    The problem you cite of not being able to force religious indoctrination on all kids would be pretty easily solved if you would just be satisfied with indoctrinating the kids in church. However, I suspect that the church and you will object to it occurring in churches only, which means the issue isn’t really the ability to freely choose religion. It’s that someone else’s kids aren’t getting indoctrinated… See what I did there?

    Yes, that is what the MOE legal report was created for. To identify inconsistencies between two pieces of legislation. Personally, I place everyone’s human rights above the ability for some religious evangelists to plug their deity but hey… you see it differently I guess.

    Considering the bulk of education at religious schools is not religious (I hope), it is reasonable that religious parents pay taxes toward these heavily subsidised schools.

    You need to stop quoting the Catholic church on morals and values. They have utterly lost any credibility for anyone who bothers to learn about the atrocities both historic and recent that they have been active and complicit in.

    Gah… it is tiring correcting your “wilful” misinterpretation of so many things. SEN supports equal treatment of faiths by ensuring secular education. That has nothing to do with what individual members think of any particular religion. Nor does it mean that faith should take precedence over fact.

    Your history is selective. Religion has power as long as people allow it to have power. Don’t you have any idea how many people are pissed off about religious instruction in schools? Go and check the comments on any facebook thread or media report about it. Most parents don’t have any idea what is being taught, that it’s not compulsory or that the school is closed. I know from personally talking to people. You know why? Because you have to keep people ignorant to get away with religious instruction. They keep getting away with it because parents are too scared of the (very real) Christian backlash to complain.

    However, Christianity is declining rapidly in NZ and I suspect that the census next year will see another significant drop in Christian affiliation. Not long from now, you’ll be asking us to protect your religion instead of complaining that we don’t want it.

    There’s morals I have that you don’t. I would stand up for your children and prevent someone going into their classroom to teach that there is no god. That would be immoral, unethical and discriminatory. On the other hand, you are all good with that as long as it’s your beliefs being taught.