As hundreds of evangelical Christians were in Wellington protesting the removal of “Jesus Christ” from the parliamentary prayer, the board of trustees at a small rural school just south of the Bombay Hills were informing parents that religious instruction classes were to be removed. This is especially meaningful to me for a few reasons. Partly, it’s because my Daughters also attend a small rural school that continues religious instruction classes despite nearly half the parents voting against them in a survey and partly because the BOT at the school that removed the RI classes was enlightened enough to recognise that a vote does not decide what is right or fair.
Established in 1867, Ramarama School has probably had religious instruction classes continuously for the last 151 years. They still have a Calf Club Day and Kapa Haka and they still do school fundraising. The difference at Ramarama is that their board recognised that Christian religious privilege is discriminatory and has no place in a school that should be welcoming to families from many faiths and backgrounds. “Tradition” is often used as an excuse for keeping religious instruction classes, but removing an inappropriate and outdated tradition does not mean that other traditions can’t continue to be observed.
Below is the statement that was sent out to parents explaining their decision. I applaud the clarity of thought and well-reasoned argument they provided. We can only hope that more school boards see the strength of the reasoning they gave and follow in their footsteps.
The Ramarama School Religious Instruction Policy provides for the school to be closed for half an hour per week (this occurs on Friday mornings), during which time Bible in Schools provides religious instruction for those students whose parents have given their approval. The Board of Trustees has reviewed this policy and resolved that religious instruction will no longer be provided at Ramarama School from 2019 onwards.
In making this decision, The Board of Trustees had regard to a range of relevant factors, including the values set out in the School Charter and the feedback received from parents and teachers. Although the majority (61%) of respondents to the Bible in Schools survey sent out to parents/caregivers indicated a desire for religious instruction to continue, a significant minority (39%) did not want religious instruction to continue. Stated reasons for discontinuing religious instruction included the increasingly diverse cultural and religious backgrounds of students and the view that instruction in one particular religious faith was discriminatory and led to students of other or no religions feeling excluded. The question was also raised why, apart from simple history or tradition, a secular school such as Ramarama should provide an opportunity for religious instruction, particularly when such opportunities are freely available to suit a variety of faiths through churches and other religious bodies.
The cessation of religious instruction sessions at Ramarama School will mean that the half hour per week previously used for this purpose will now be used for teaching of the school curriculum. This will include further fostering of the values espoused in the School Charter
(Treasure, Explore, Challenge).
Ramarama School Board of Trustees.
Is your children’s primary school still allowing religious groups access to promote their faith? What do you think about it? Comment Below…