Labour Party Policy on Religious Instruction in NZ Primary Schools

labour party religious instruction policy
Fortunately, it seems like like Labour's vision of the Kiwi Dream does not include religious indoctrination of children in NZ State Primary Schools.
labour party religious instruction policy
Fortunately, it seems like like Labour’s vision of the Kiwi Dream does not include religious indoctrination of children in NZ State Primary Schools.

The Labour Party have long held the stance that a review of religious instruction is needed. Regardless of what you think of them, you have to respect their open stance on this issue. Chris Hipkins was informed on the issue and was also willing to give a straight answer. Full credit to him.

I asked all the main political parties what their policies were on religious instruction in NZ State Primary Schools. You can find link to the other party policies here. Read on to find out what the Labour Party thinks about this issue. Here’s the questions I asked them…

I would like to know what your party’s policy is regarding religious instruction in state primary schools.

Currently, religious instruction (teaching religious faith) is allowed to be taught in primary schools for up to 20 hours per year under sections 77-80 of the Education Act 1964. During this time, the school is “closed” and children who opt out are required to stop curriculum learning.

Non-Christian families are forced to declare their lack of affiliation with Christian religion and opt-out or go along with their children being taught religious beliefs that they don’t agree with so that their children “fit in”.

This is religious discrimination and needs to be stopped. What will your party do about it?

Date: 19th July 2017
From: Chris Hipkins
To: Dave Smyth

Hi Dave,

Thank you for your email regarding religious instruction in state schools. I’m responding as Labour’s spokesperson for education.

Personally, I have always believed that religious instruction should not take place during regular school hours. As you’ve noted, children from non-Christian families often end up feeling excluded, which is not acceptable.

In the past, Labour has been supportive of a review of the current policy, but unfortunately, the National Government has been opposed to this. A Labour-led government would be open to a review and change of religious instruction in state schools.

Kind Regards,
Chris Hipkins
MP for Rimutaka
Shadow Leader of the House
Labour Party spokesperson for Education

I responded to Chris acknowledging that National have been holding up any review on religious instruction. As National’s Minister for Education, Hekia Parata even suggested parents could take their kids to another school if they didn’t like it!

Then a few days later, I realised that Chris sits on the Education & Science Select Committee that had the opportunity to make recommendations to remove religious instruction this year but did nothing!

Date: 24th July 2017
From: Dave Smyth
To: Chris Hipkins

Hi Chris,

Just a follow up on religious instruction…

You’re a member of the Education and Science Select Committee, so I’d be interested to know why that committee did not make any recommendations regarding religious instruction in state primary schools, (other than special character and integrated schools) despite submissions on this that they could have considered.

This is in stark contrast with a report by the same committee in 2005 to the Ministry of Education making extensive recommendations that would remove religious instruction from the normal school day. These recommendations were completely ignored.

Dave Smyth

Date: 19th July 2017
From: Chris Hipkins
To: Dave Smyth

Hi Dave

It would be to do with the somewhat pedantic rules of the House that restrict the committee’s commentary on a Bill to matters specifically covered in a Bill.


Chris was quite right about this. I contacted the chairman of the Education and Science Select Committee and he clarified that the review of the Education Act did not include the 1964 act, only the 1989 version, that does not address religious instruction in state schools at all. It was an easy out for the person that proposed the bill… Hekia Parata.

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  1. If you oppose religious instruction in schools you are also saying Maori religious culture cannot be taught, you can’t have it both ways under the guise of culture, religion is just a belief system, such as Marxism. Deleting a Christian Parliamentary Prayer & then having the Maori equivalent is a joke. Secular humanism is just another religion or belief system

    • Hi Chris. Thanks for your comment!

      I think you’re confusing instruction with education. Religious Instruction is designed to indoctrinate in religious faith, whereas religious education is learning about religion, not being indoctrinated into it. The same goes for Maori Culture or Marxism. I’m not against teaching *about* them.

      The Parliamentary prayer is a different issue but I agree that it is a prayer whatever language it is. State endorsement or observance of religious faith should be removed.

      Secular Humanism is a belief system or philosophy with some moral perspective but it is nothing to do with religious faith.

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