Being involved with the Secular Education Network, I hear more than my fair share of stories from parents where the trust that they and the school places in Bible class teachers is simply not warranted. I have friends whose child went home in tears after being told that Santa didn’t exist and another who went home terrified after being told about hell. The people promoting Bible classes swear blind that there are strict guidelines Bible teachers must follow, such as; “Be respectful of other beliefs and don’t talk about sin, heaven or hell” but this seems to be ignored on a regular basis. Regardless of these self-imposed rules, how is promoting one particular religious view in a secular school ever respectful of others’ beliefs? Religious instruction is full of contradictions!
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how often religious instruction goes wrong, as the Ministry of Education do not review it or keep track of complaints made to schools. Below are a collection of comments from people I don’t know and have never met. They were collected over a few days after media reports came out about issues over religious instruction at a school in Wellsford (North Auckland). And also at Khandallah School (Wellington) where they allowed Arise Church members into their school at lunchtime to run a “Bible Club” under their revised clubs policy. It turns out that one of the board of trustees members, Rick Teal, is a member of and was a pastor with Arise Church. According to my investigations, he also has close ties to church management. (stay tuned!) This reminds me of the case of the pastor in Oamaru who gloated about infiltrating his local school. Note that these comments are from the general public and not parents of children at Khandallah School.
It should not be forgotten that Arise Church have a stated agenda to “spread the word” and are one of the most fundamentalist evangelical churches in the country. Arise Church is also a successful financial enterprise that receives in excess of $10million a year in donations. What sort of board of trustee member would consider it ethical to allow adults access to a secular primary school when their intent is to spread their religious views? The video below was put together by an ex Arise Church member to show how they view Bible in Schools. (go full screen to read the comments in the video)
Parents are kept in the dark
It is no exaggeration to say that parents are often kept in the dark and fed bullshit about religious instruction classes. Schools have no legal requirement to tell parents that classes are running, no one is required to review the curriculum and there is no Ministry of Education oversight. Often, the classes are promoted as a “values class”… something that teachers are already required to teach as part of the curriculum.
Our kids were 5 and 6 at the time. They had grown up in a completely atheist whanau. But one day, we here them say “amen” from their rooms when they are having their dinner and go investigate, and they are on their knees in prayer. I said who taught you that? They said the people who came to our school. I asked, what was that? Praying, they said. Who were you praying to? Jesus, the older one said. “That’s God’s son” the younger one piped up. My blood boiled for them to have been taught actual theology like the trinity or the necessity of prayer at a so-called secular institution. – Facebook
When your 6 year old child comes home from school with Christian homework about Jesus instead of maths, reading and writing, and tells you he has to do it or he will get in trouble (After you’ve opted him out twice) then comes to me 3 weeks later after being opted out a 3rd time, sad and saying mummy you’re going to hell for not being married to daddy…. yeah let’s just say the school had to make some changes and my son was not allowed to attend school until after their religious stuff was over each week. They at first claimed it was part of the curriculum, and that he has to participate, but when I threatened to call the education board to check that fact they back tracked and stated the school is officially closed when they run it. It’s no wonder I’m anti Christian teaching in schools.. teach religions of the world! Create open minds! – V.C. Facebook
… had no idea my daughter was attending anything but a religion class for months until she came home with a laminated verse stating to me definitively: “I believe in God, do you?” – C.M. Facebook
Opt-out kids are treated as less important
Because the agenda of a Bible class is to promote one particular religious view, children who are opted out of these classes are often given second-class citizen experiences. Told to sit in the library, provided with a cobbled together values session or in worst case scenarios, given activities that are more like a punishment, such as; sitting alone, picking up rubbish or doing extra school work.
All the other kids got lollies and I didn’t, the person looking after the non RE kids felt so bad she bought us lollies. Don’t bring brain washing into primary schools, they’re too young to know what’s right and wrong. – G.D Facebook
Many years ago when my son was in his first years at school I didn’t want him to have religious (Christian) instruction but my sister who was a teacher said to not take him out because it would make him different. – B.G. Facebook
Only one of the boys parents wrote him a note to get out of it, but he was forced to extra maths so no one else spoke up. – S.D. Facebook
My 5yr old was stuck out in the hallway. They often forgot she was there. Sometimes she sat there for the whole afternoon. – Comment on Stuff by Jaffaffaj (source)
Jews to the left, Christians to the right. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end to this disgrace in State Schools. My son was directly effected by this issue. His school placed him in the library at 9am, whilst the CEC “instructors” gave children who attended sweeties, games to play and indoctrinated their 7 year old minds with their “values”. How this practice can continue in state schools in the 21st century is beyond me. There are perfectly good schools for children to learn Christianity. They’re called Sunday School and you’ll find them at you local church every Sunday. – H.E. Facebook
Bible Teachers often go off the rails
When there is no official overview or review of the church volunteers coming into the classroom, the quality of experience can be very poor. Often it’s just the nice old lady from the church coming into the class to indoctrinate the kids in her religion but sometimes, it can be pretty crazy!
I tried to pull by daughter out of similar classes at my local school. The person teaching them was of extreme religious beliefs who used objectionable terms about members of other faiths. Every couple of weeks I’d find the person involved had told my daughter she had to attend and I’d have to write again to the school asking for her to be excluded. This went on for two terms, in the end I kept my daughter out of school the morning the session was on and would bring her in at lunchtime. This meant she missed other classes but it was only option we had. Comment on Stuff by PistonBlown (source)
I was taught bible studies in primary school. Volunteers (a husband and wife, who were parents of three kids at the school) would come in every Wednesday and teach for an hour. It wasn’t monitored by teachers. I remember trying to ask a question once and they belittled me by implying I was stupid for not accepting that particular story. They mocked other kids as well. It really fostered a dislike for religion in me and to this day I have little respect for Christians. It was mandatory, had it been optional I doubt many kids would have gone.
Kendall16 – Comment on Stuff
I was sent to the headmaster’s office at Havelock North Primary School as punishment for saying I didn’t believe in god during RI – Q.W. Facebook
The Religious classes at my primary school were what pushed me away from religion. The people that taught us were actual nutjobs who should not have been allowed near children. One woman told us how she stole things and was molested by her uncle before Jesus saved her. That’s not shit you tell 10 year old kids. – Reddit (source)
My son got kicked out of religious study for asking for proof on everything – K.M. Facebook
The God group that holds a ‘JAM’ (Jesus And Me) session on lunch breaks tried bribing my daughter (and others) with lollies the first time and cookies another time to attend. – K.W. Facebook
A few years ago, my daughter’s school use to do religious studies. My daughter came home one day and told me that I wasn’t her mother and that God was. When asked who told her that, she said the bible teacher. Let’s say I ended those studies quick smart. – C.G. Facebook
I was naive regarding these lessons in primary schools, until my year two son arrived home with a colouring page with a caption along the top which said Only God Loves You.. I was also told that there would be no prayers, wrong. – Comment on Stuff by K Jones222 (source)
My 7 year old soon came home from school and told me he wanted to die. I asked him why and he told me the teacher, had told the whole class that everything was free. A child asked if Hot Wheels Cars were free and the teacher said yes. I went absolutely mad with his school and removed him from Bible Studies. My suggestion is if you want a religious education, go to a place of worship. – Comment on Stuff by gangstamacgenius (source)
We had the same issue with our son when he was at Sanson school he had religon every thrusday for a hr so we pulled him out for that one lesson ,but the crazy religous nutter starting waiting for him after the glass finished. – H.K. Facebook
This came up at my kids primary school a few years back. My preference was to get rid of it altogether but the fundies threatened to vote out the board and put their own canidates forward in the next upcoming election. When the board put forward an opt-in only option they threatened to stop their voluntary support of the Breakfast Club that got underprivledged kids a decent breakfast. They were not happy not having unfettered access to our children to spread their doctrine. It was never about teaching and the quicker it’s out the better. Comment by Finndego on Reddit (source)
I pulled my son out of religious study after he came home very upset because the “teacher” told them that only those who believe in Jesus would go to heaven. – P.N. Facebook
My son was bullied by the RI instructors because his name is Odin, 2 years of it and the kid never once got picked for any of their”fun” activities or to get a treat from the bribe bag. – F.J. (Facebook)
Schools don’t take responsibility
And what happens when it goes wrong? The schools seem to write it off as a “one-off”… oh it’s extracurricular … what the community wanted… the parents voted. It’s just more of the same bullshit excuses. The Board of Trustees and the school administration are there to protect children within the school. Not close the non-religious school their parents chose for their children to provide access to (quite frankly, predatory) adults who are keen to promote their religious faith. You can’t vote to remove the rights of children to a secular education in a secular school and still think you hold the moral high ground. If parents want religion for their children, then they should go to church.
When i questioned my kids school about what religions their “religious studies” studied… they said “Christianity”. that was it. so i took my kids out of the class. While growing up, i taught them about all religions not just the one as truth that the school wanted to do!. In our multicultural society why do they still insist on pushing christianity down kids throats as the one and only religion??? We were not even asked if we wanted our kids to do bible in schools. We only found out when our kids started saying weird stuff about Jesus. At first there was no alternative class so it was really difficult for us having to pick our kids up each week while the school “closed” for bible lessons. – Comment on Stuff by Jo Scott (source)
My 7 year old daughter was skipping dangerously close to the kerb on her way home from school. I told her to stay on the path. She said, “That’s ok, my bible teacher said God would save me.” Thanks a lot Bibles in Schools. – Comment on Stuff by Ged (source)
My parents didn’t care enough to withdraw me from classes, but the parents that did care enough, their kids were viewed as weird. I remember other kids laughing at them when they left class and were sent to the Library or their parents were there to pick them up for lunch. – Reddit (source)
Every bible study lesson my mother would pick me up from school, we would go sit somewhere nice for an hour eat a pie and talk about a subject of my choice all because school refused to give me an alternative class to do and would make me sit outside the principal’s office for that hour . – Reddit (source)
Unfortunately, only Reddit will let me link directly to the comments I’ve quoted above. However, the quotes came from comments on the following pages and also from comments on the same articles Stuff shared on Facebook.
- Religious instruction finds its way into 600 secular primary schools
- Reading, writing, and God at Wellington’s Khandallah School
- Discussion on Reddit
- Bible lessons provoke one mother’s wrath and she is not alone
- Stoush over Bible lessons in state schools heads to the High Court