Here are some links you will find useful if you’re searching for information about religious instruction in NZ Primary Schools.
Bible in Schools Lies (start here)
A debunking of the misinformation that people who promote Bible in Schools spread in order to convince parents that it’s all ok. This covers all the main arguments people will use to justify the classes and how you can refute them.
How children and parents are “othered” by Religious Instruction
If you’re finding it hard to explain to anyone what is wrong with religious instruction, it’s really about how children and parents are discriminated against within their own school community. This article should help to explain the impact.
6 Questions to Ask Your School
Sometimes religious instruction is still in a school because the board of trustees haven’t really considered if it is still appropriate.
Bible in Schools excuses debunked
Defenders of religious instruction come out with the same excuses every time. Some of them might seem reasonable but they aren’t once you dig into them. Here is a list of responses.
How to complain to the Board of Trustees at your Primary School
This is a letter that was sent from a group of parents at a school in South Auckland. They did affect some changes at the school, including a shift from Opt-Out to Opt-In. The timing of the classes was also being reviewed. Please go ahead and use this letter as a basis for your own complaints. Don’t forget to include instances of inappropriate behaviour specific to your situation.
Human Rights Commission guide to religion in New Zealand Schools (2009)
A booklet produced by the Human Rights Commission that explains the various aspects of religious instruction in New Zealand primary schools, including what can and can’t be done. Sadly, the Human Rights Commission seems to go out of it’s way to avoid expressing any actual opinions on this topic. Note that this was written by Professor Paul Morris, who opposes the classes (see below).
Religious Instruction and Observance in State Primary Schools
This is a 2006 report from the Education and Science select committee to the Ministry of Education making recommendations for changes to religious instruction. The recommendations were ignored.
Paul Morris Review of two CEC syllabuses
Paul Morris is a Professor at the University of Victoria in the School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies. He lectures on religious studies and in this document, he reviews two of the syllabuses provided by the Churches Education Commission and says that they are unsuitable for non-Christian children.
2007 Advertising Standards Authority ruling against the CEC
The Churches Education Commission were claiming that their syllabus was “approved by the Ministry of Education”. It was not and never has been. They were still making this claim as late as 2012 and some schools are still telling parents this. The MOE does not review or take any responsibility for what the CEC teach in RI classes.
Ministry of Education Legal Team statement that RI classes are a form of direct discrimination
This 2001 document was released under the Official Information Act in 2016. It took 2 years to get it in an un-redacted (not blacked out) format. At the bottom of page 3, the MOE legal team state that RI classes are discriminatory. The Minister for Education at the time was Michael Cullen, who signed it off as requiring no change.
Evangelization of Children
This 64 page document was put together by church representatives around the world. The NZ Elim Church was heavily involved. It describes opportunities to convert children to belief in God and specifically cites the chance to get into NZ primary schools. Elim is a member of the Churches Education Commission who provides most of the religious instruction classes in NZ primary schools.
Here are a some links to resources where you can learn more about religious instruction classes in NZ primary schools.
Secular Education Network
The Secular Education Network is a group whose aim is to remove religious instruction from New Zealand state primary schools. They have an active community on facebook and a website with further information about legal challenges, schools and information for parents, teachers and board members.
Silly Beliefs – Bible in Schools
This is is a very comprehensive review of Bible in Schools with a particular emphasis on the Churches Education Commission and how the morality they teach may not match up with your expectations!
Arise Church Review
A concerned secularists blog about ARISE Church, their disturbing rhetoric, their sinister agenda and their delusional, harmful beliefs. This church is one of the more aggressive evangelical churches. You won’t find much about that on their official website but this blog exposes some of their more “out there” objectives.
Waking Up – A Journey to the Truth
This is a personal blog by devout New Zealand Christian turned Atheist, Jared Brandon. It’s a fascinating insight into what growing up with Christian indoctrination is like and how it can create uncomfortable feelings of disconnection with reality.
An excellent YouTube channel created by someone who grew up being indoctrinated into Christian beliefs but now exposes some of the less savoury aspects of religion.
Human Rights Commission
The Human Rights Commission has heard several cases of discrimination against children over religion in schools. They have written a guide to religion in New Zealand Schools (2009) (pdf download). Note that Question 22 states the Ministry of Education does not endorse the classes.
Ministry of Education
The Ministry of Education does not review or approve of any religious instruction material. However, they were informed in 2001 by their own legal team that the classes were discriminatory and that they should consider reviewing the Education Act to remove contradictions with the Human Rights Act 1993. They have done nothing about it. If this concerns you, please contact them!
LaunchPad (Previously called the Churches Education Commission)
The Churches Education Commission (now rebranded to “Launchpad“) is the main provider of religious instruction courses in New Zealand Primary Schools. They have members of affiliated churches going into hundreds of schools throughout New Zealand every week running their courses. Their courses have been described by Victoria University Professor of Religious Studies, Paul Morris, as “inappropriate and likely objectionable” to secular, non-Christian and non-evangelical parents and students. A 2013 review of their Australian “Religion in Life” programme (sometimes used here) by Professor Marion Maddox of MacQuarie University said that the programme has become “increasingly evangelical”.
New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI)
The New Zealand Educational Institute is the largest education trade union in New Zealand. They offer support for teachers and lobby the government on educational issues. However, they have protected the rights of religious groups to enter secular state primary schools for decades. This conflicts with their own code of ethics but they have done nothing to address religious discrimination against non-Christians. Read more about the NZEI policy on religious instruction.
Teaching Council of Aotearoa
Refused to comment on religious instruction.
NZ School Trustees Association
Refused comment when I asked them in 2017 why religious groups should be given access to children in secular state schools. Has repeatedly supported the inclusion of religious instruction and allowed Launchpad (the main provider of religious instruction material) to present at their 2021 conference.
Office of the Children’s Commissioner
I was told that Religious Instruction was “not a priority”. Considering that the OCC exists specifically to protect the rights of children, this is incredibly disappointing. This comment was during the tenure of previous commissioner, Andrew Becroft who was also the President of the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian group that targets university students. The TSCF catchphrase is: “Reaching students for Christ, changing students for life”.