Every time the media report on complaints about religious instruction in our primary schools, there are always some people who take to social media to defend what they see as their right to further their religious views via Bible in Schools classes. The same tired old excuses get rolled out again and again. I’ve gotten so sick of repeatedly rejecting the same lame arguments, that I have made this handy reference for anyone who needs a response to what some people see as a good point. Did I miss any?
1. “We need to teach Christian values”
We can teach values without any religion and also make it inclusive and welcoming to children from all religious backgrounds. Also, human values are not “Christian values”, they are commonly held human values that Christians try to uphold… just like other people do.
2. “The majority of people wanted it”
A majority vote does not decide what is right or wrong, it decides what is popular. Voting to ignore the rights of children to a secular education in a secular school is repugnant.
3. “Our laws are based on the Bible!”
Our legal system isn’t based on the bible. It’s based on ancient Greek and Roman laws. Remember it was the Romans who first adopted and promoted Christianity… hence the source of our legal system. Our secular courts are based on the English secular court system created by William the Conqueror nearly 1000 years ago. Yes, you can swear on the Bible if you want to. No you don’t have to.
4. “Look at how bad the world is – we need more God”
The moral fibre of NZ is not going to fall apart if Christian teaching is removed from schools. In fact, if you need religion in order to be a good person, I’d suggest you have bigger problems.
5. “It’s just a few people causing trouble”
It is not a small minority of people who are against religious instruction. Media polls repeatedly show that most people disagree with religious instruction classes in secular schools.
6. “If you celebrate Christmas and Easter, you’re a hypocrite”
Celebrating Xmas and Easter (originally pagan festivals) does not make non-Christians hypocrites. Most people take time off for these holidays without any religious observance at all. Are Christians hypocrites for taking Saturdays off and not worshipping the Roman god Saturn?
7. “There are worse things”
There are worse things to worry about than religious instruction but we are smart people who are able to handle more than one problem at a time. Perhaps we can create classes that teach children kindness, tenacity, work-ethics, empathy and other skills to handle everything that life is going to throw at them without segregating them by religion?
8. “You can just go to another school”
Wow. What an incredibly rude, uncaring and dismissive thing to say! Just about every parent who has complained about religious instruction has heard this one. Parents can’t just take their children to another school if they don’t like it. For some, that might mean longer travel times, taking their children away from established friendships and everything that is familiar or even selling their home in order to get into the right school zone. Don’t tell me you care about my children while suggesting I take them elsewhere.
9. “Take away God and then see what happens!”
Your threats of the dire consequences of going against the true word of your god only expose the real nature of Bible classes and is a good example of just one reason why they shouldn’t be allowed into primary schools.
10. “They don’t talk about sin or hell”
No, the Bible teachers aren’t meant to teach about hell or sin, although some do. Considering Christianity is based on Jesus “dying for our sins”, isn’t it dishonest to teach children about an all-loving god but neglect to tell them what you believe the consequences of not loving him are?
11. “It’s a choice children should have”
No, children should not have the choice of whether or not to attend Bible classes in a non-religious school. I am not going to allow someone who is trying to convert my kids to their religion an opportunity to get into their heads. They can study the facts and decide for themselves what they want to believe when they are old enough. This is the same reason my 8-year-old doesn’t have a favourite beer yet. If you want your kids to learn about your religion, go to church! Don’t expect your church to come into our schools.
12. “If you don’t like it, you can opt out”.
We already did! Do you see us in your church or your Christian school? No, we chose a non-religious state school and found that there is no escape from religious evangelism. Not only do I have evangelicals coming uninvited to my home but I also have them entering my kid’s primary school as well. Just leave the kids alone. We will come to you if we want to.
13. “New Zealand is a Christian Country!”
NZ is not a Christian country. Our government, legal and our education systems are secular. We have no official religion and less than 50% of us are Christian, with far less than that actually attending church.
14. “It didn’t do me any harm”
Another super-caring response totally lacking in empathy. So what? Children should be able to attend a school that doesn’t promote religion of any kind and yet they are still being preyed upon by evangelists in their non-religious school. Some people are harmed by it.
15. “God is in the National Anthem!”
The national anthem having the word “God” in it does not mean we are a Christian nation either. It comes from a time when most people were Christian. Now they aren’t. It should also be noted that the Education Act 1877 created our state schools to be secular at a time when over 95% of NZer’s were Christians.
16. “They’re not evangelising”
Oh yes, they are. Despite hiding their real motivation, the Churches Education Commission, who are responsible for most of the Bible in Schools classes in NZ primary schools have said some things that reveal they have an agenda to further their religious faith.
17. “Kids should learn about religion”
Religious Instruction (faith teaching) classes are not the same as Religious Education (academic study of religions). Bible in Schools is primarily designed to encourage children to learn and believe in Christian religious faith. If you want your children to actually learn about different religions, they aren’t going to do it in these classes! There is an NCEA Religious Studies course but there are some excellent secular books available for children about where religion came from, such as The Book of Gods.
18. “It’s only 30 minutes a week”
When Bible classes are allowed into the school, all children are normally required to lose learning time during the school day which is supposed to be for secular education, whether they choose to participate in it or not. This can add up more than 4 full school days a year or around 4.5 weeks before they reach high school. Regardless, is a little bit of religious discrimination ok?
19. “You’re stopping our freedom of speech and censoring us!”
Freedom of speech does not mean you have the right to say anything you want to, anywhere you want to, at any time. Our state primary schools were created under the Education Act of 1877 to be “free, compulsory and secular”, to ensure that they were welcoming to children of all religious backgrounds and so children could get an education without being the target of competing religious groups. Promoting one religious faith by closing the school during the normal school day is manipulative and not in the spirit of inclusiveness or diversity we should be valuing. You may speak freely in your own space… your church or your home.
20. “They aren’t forced to go!”
This is another version of the “you can opt out” excuse, except this one also comes with the implication that your complaints are also silly and melodramatic! We know that far more parents are against religious instruction than are willing to front up and put their name in a complaint to the school, such is the level of coercion and intimidation that a lot of parents who complain face. So parents actually do feel forced into it and schools do sometimes push parents into allowing their children to attend by phoning them to ask why they aren’t in the class, putting children in without permission or various other forms of pressure. One school even threatened to publish a list of parents who complain.