Lunchtime preaching despite parent’s wishes

religious education in primary schools

Schools often seem to give bible teachers far too much freedom within the school. This story is one example where the parent made it absolutely clear that they did not want their child to have any contact with the religious faith teaching going on but they were let down badly.

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As a parent there are many things that you worry about. From the ridiculous, “I hope that they don’t get eaten by a shark while paddling in the sea”, to the more rational, “I hope they don’t get bullied at school”. That is our job as a normal parent and we try to ignore the more far-fetched fears and put in sensible safeguards to reduce the more reasonable and rational risks. We expect society, especially the schools where our children spend so much of their time, to come to the party and help us. It takes a village to bring up a healthy and well balanced child after all.

When my eldest child started the local school I was under the impression that the education system in New Zealand was entirely secular. I was unaware that the school allowed volunteers from Christian sects to come into the school and preach to impressionable children. When I raised this I was assured that this was only for the year 3 children and older and we could always opt the children out. I made my position clear that I disagreed with this wholeheartedly and left it at that. It was more important to get my 5 year olds settled and I had 2 years before I had to worry.

I should point out that I come from a city known for its religious divide and have experienced first-hand the damage that can be done to society when the “intractable truth” of different religious sects are permitted to be foisted unchallenged onto children through the schools system. I should also balance this by mentioning I’m well-read in many religions and believe religious education is essential for children but religious instruction is another matter and can be entirely dangerous. If parents wish to bring their children up in religion then they can send the kids to a private religious school or attend religious instruction at the place of worship it shouldn’t be brought into a secular environment.

Back to my child’s experience at school though, I soon realised that the guarantees I had been given were nothing more than platitudes and the ‘volunteers’ were nothing more than recruiting agents, looking for easily influenced children to be turned into good ‘Christian soldiers’ as the song proclaims.

Over the Christmas period my child came home with overtly religious ‘work’ proclaiming the Christian truth as fact. When I asked where she got them I was told it was the teacher and she also got chocolate. I presumed that it part of a wider program and put my fears aside. As Easter approached the Christian propaganda ramped up again as did talk of getting chocolate from teachers. The alarm bells started to scream louder than the Adhan in Cairo.

So I decided to have a more in depth chat with her about it. I asked where she got this work from and she said that she had been going to the extra class at lunchtime with her friend. I was informed that ‘teachers’ were going into the playground and offering lolly’s to children if they came to the hall for RI. She then told me that she had only gone as her peers had told her she ‘had to pray with them before she could play with them’.

As you can imagine I was furious, my daughter was being bribed and bullied for the purpose of indoctrinating her to a Christian cult and the school were turning a blind eye at best and condoning at worst. On top of this I had been told she wouldn’t be able to attend as she was under year 3 and the school and class teacher were very well aware of my thought on the matter.

I challenged this with the principal and some good did come out of this. Fortunately the school principal was a strong character and took the complaints from myself and other parents on board and stopped the bribes, threats, evangelising in the playground, and ‘volunteers’ ignoring the age limits and opt outs. The school does still pander to this religious group but it is now opt in and kept out of the playground. I do however worry for the pupils that attend schools without such a strong principal or commitment to secular learning. The work that the Secular Education Network does to address this and  is invaluable and we will hopefully see fully secular public schools in NZ soon as a result.

It is unfortunate that this happens in this increasingly secular day and age but I think that Luke 12:51 and Matthew 10:34 are pertinent here when considering how Christianity is being spread and we should bear that in mind when approaching school boards and management with concerns for our children.

M.H. – Wellington

I discovered by chance last week, during a conversation with my 8-year-old daughter, that my children’s state school here in Wellington allowed the CEC to run their Champions programme during lunchtimes for one term of last year (2016). This was done without informing parents and as such was neither opt-in nor opt-out. None of my friends in our parent community had any idea this was taking place. As a result, my daughter went along to a few of their sessions, where she says they played games and talked about the Bible, Jesus and heaven. The sessions were supervised by my daughter’s teacher, who is an evangelical Christian. I felt absolutely appalled when I found about this indoctrination by stealth, when I’d naively assumed my daughter was safe from this at school. She had mentioned a fun lunchtime programme at the time but she didn’t mention that God was involved!! The Board has since informed me that they had no knowledge of the CEC being in our school at the time.

N.C. – Wellington

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