Beachlands School Reviews Religious Instruction Policy

beachlands school religious instruction

beachlands school religious instructionAs schools throughout the country review their religious instruction programmes, I hope that the level of understanding of what the programmes involve is improved with the years of media coverage about the “bible in schools” issue and that the information that they provide to parents is unbiased, clear and informative. It is disappointing when I see policies like that of Beachlands School being shamelessly promoted to parents without any unbiased information at all. Here is the information they offered. My response to them is below.

Beachlands School Religious Instruction Policy

We provide the opportunity for religious education for children whose parents approve of it. Parental approval is given or withheld at enrolment.

The board approves that Religious Education may be held at the school for half an hour per week as allowed under the provisions of the Education Act, Clause 77,78.

Religious instruction develops children’s spiritual dimension by encouraging an understanding and appreciation of religious beliefs and values through a non-denominational programme of instruction. This programme is available for parents’ perusal.

The following rules apply to our religious instruction programme:

  • All students in designated classes have the opportunity to receive Religious Education (given the availability of resources and the approval of parents).
  • No student is excluded because their parent is unwilling or unable to pay any costs associated with the programme.
  • Students not taking part are supervised independently of the religious instruction programme by teaching staff.
  • Classes participating in this programme are deemed to be closed during the period of instruction, as required by the Act.
  • All Religious Education teachers follow the programme of instruction as made available to the board and parents before the start of the year’s programme.
  • All teaching avoids putting pressure on the children to adhere to particular religious beliefs or views.
  • Members of the school teaching staff may conduct religious instruction.

My Response

In your newsletter of 25th Feb 2019, you set out your religious instruction policy.

However, you repeatedly referred to it as religious education, which is something entirely different. Religious Instruction is the teaching of religious faith, NOT education about religion. That is the purpose of the clauses that you quoted from the Education Act 1964. Otherwise, the classes would have to be a truly secular religious education class and these religious instruction “faith-teaching” classes could not legally be held within a secular state school.

Not only did you use the wrong term but you suggest that;

“Religious instruction develops children’s spiritual dimension by encouraging an understanding and appreciation of religious beliefs and values through a non-denominational programme of instruction.”

This is incredibly misleading. The classes are entirely Christian-based, designed to encourage Christian faith and do not teach about any religious view other than Christianity.

A few points to note…

  • Requiring families to opt out their children and forcing their children to stop curriculum learning to enable you to promote one religion is inherently discriminatory.
  • Promotion of one religion in a secular school is a direct reflection of Board of Trustees bias against people of different beliefs.
  • Voting within the Board of Trustees or even holding a community vote does not justify the classes. It shows what is popular with the people who voted. It is an imposition of the religious values the majority on a minority. An odd way to promote “values”.

If you are truly concerned with promoting good values at your school, I would encourage you to be inclusive rather than divisive. I would encourage you to not support the segregation of children by the religious views of their parents.

As recent events have shown, what we need is more understanding of different cultures and religions, not partition of children by colour, culture or faith.


  1. I think you are using your own bias against christianity to try to destroy something which has
    underpinned our society for as long as education has been held in New Zealand. It is the foundation of our justice system,
    and indeed our very culture. I note you are not attacking Maori spiritual beliefs, even though their beliefs are pushed heavily in schools, and they have Karakia’s in school.

    You haven’t tried to get rid of Maori spiritual beliefs, So this is a clear case of religious prejudice.
    You are actually mounting a destructive campaign against Christians, under the guise of promoting fair society.

    So why are you so against the Christian fundamentals of our Nation? People from other nations have come here because they love the kind of
    nation that we are. This is a direct result of Christianity,which has been here since the foundation of our society over 200 years ago, whether you agree with it, accept it or not.

    You are trying to destroy a good thing, and that is something for which you will be eternally sorry for, especially when you later realise the impact of what you have done, when schools can no longer control the children, and have massive social and violence problems. (This is already happening as less parents bring up their children with sound values as a result of not being taught them in their own homes). Children are growing up without understanding about God, their loving Father in Heaven who loves them unconditionally, and who sent his son to die, so they can be forgiven of their sins, and be set free of their burdens, to experience peace, love, joy, goodness, kindness, patience, gentleness, and faithfulness and self control. I can testify that these qualities are the results of Chrisitian faith , and that none of these qualities are bad for children.

    I note that schools are legally permitted to offer these classes, but you are twisting the words to suit your cause, and get your own way.
    Schools usually give parents the ability to decide for their children whether they attend, so this is fair and democratic.
    You are going beyond that and trying to control the whole country with your own ideas.
    This is not fair or democratic.

    But guess what, God still loves you, and Jesus died for you too, and one day, when you wake up and feel sorry for all of this, and ask to be forgiven,
    he will forgive you for this terrible thing you are doing. That’s how amazing God is. His forgiveness has turned my life around.
    And he will turn yours around too, so that you can lose your bitter, destructive nature, and are able to open your heart and mind to the love that is there for you.

    May God bless you richly,
    Jane McDonald

    • Hi Jane,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      While schools in NZ were started by churches, when the government established the Education Act of 1877, it was to create an education system that was “free, secular and compulsory”. So secular education IS the basis of our society. And this was at a time in history when around 95% of our population considered themselves to be Christian. Likewise, I have no idea why you claim Christianity is the basis of our judicial system? While it has had influence, our laws are based on English law, which descends from pre-Christian Roman and ancient Greek law. Our court system is based on the secular court system created by William the Conqueror after the invasion of Britain in 1066.

      The difference between bible classes and teaching about Maori myths and legends is that they are taught as “myths and legends”. You will never hear anything indicating the same in a religious instruction class. The implication is always that everything the kids are taught is true and no one says it’s just an opinion. A fair education system would be one where children learn about all major religious views and not just indoctrinated into Christian faith. You are guilty of discriminating against all non-Christians under the guise of teaching values. You can read about Karakia here. They don’t need to be Christian or refer to any gods or spirits at all.

      I have nothing against the teaching of Christianity as part of history or social studies, just not teaching Christian faith as fact.

      Whether or not Christian faith is a “good thing” is up to the individual, not a board of trustees or vote by parents to decide on behalf of the entire school. Threats of eternal damnation and social decline don’t really impress me. If you check the facts, you will find that as Christianity has declined in New Zealand, so has the murder rate. While there is a correlation, I think that declining religious affiliation is unlikely to be directly responsible for this any more than it is responsible for the decline in video stores. This is why we need classes that teach children HOW to think and not WHAT to think… because reason and critical thinking wins out over unsubstantiated beliefs every time.

      You are welcome to your own opinion but you are not welcome to your own facts. Most children receive no religious instruction and yet society has not tipped into the abyss. In fact, there is no apparent distinction between the behaviour of children in state schools with religious instruction and those without. Values can be taught without any reference to gods of any kind. I personally would prefer not to base my kids’ moral upbringing on a human sacrifice to a god by himself for himself, to appease himself. It just seems silly. Certainly, it is silly to say this god has unconditional love right after warning me about being “eternally sorry” in your previous paragraph.

      I’m not sure how you think I am twisting words to suit my cause. Secular state schools are required to close to allow religious instruction. It’s a legal loophole introduced in 1964 after pressure from the Anglican church. I would say that is much more like twisting words to suit your cause. Our society gives parents the ability to decide for their children if they want to attend… church. It’s free and there are lots of half-empty ones around. So plenty of room. Wanting your religious faith taught in a non-religious school is arrogant. Having a democratic vote to ignore the rights of other families to send their children to a school without religions, is arrogant, not “fair”.

      I’m happy that you are happy with your life and your beliefs. I have no particular interest in changing them. I just wish you would leave other people’s kids alone and let other people decide for themselves what to believe, the same way I do.

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