Southland Times “Advertorial” for Bible in Schools

We’ve all noticed that the quality  of reporting in the media is in serious decline. It’s our own fault though. We can’t expect quality in reporting if we’re not willing to pay for the news! Two articles recently caught my eye. One was a report in the NZ Herald from experienced politics and current affairs journalist, Rachel Smalley, on Religious Education in schools (Oh my God, give us knowledge) and the other was from Southland Times local reporter, Tim Newman on how Bible in Schools is just so popular they need more volunteers (Demand outstripping supply for bible in schools).

Unfortunately, neither of them seem to have researched anything beyond what was immediately in front of them.

I wasn’t sure how to take Rachel Smalley’s article, as while I agreed with what she was saying about how important it was for children to be educated about religion, it made no comment at all on religious instruction classes, which indoctrinate childrenin religion!

It was a very short article. Perhaps she was committed to the NZ Herald and had to produce something quickly. Perhaps she is going to write more about it later.

I messaged Rachel Smalley on facebook to mention the lack of comment on RI classes and gave this blog a plug too.

Hi Rachel. I found your article on the NZ Herald about improving religious education in NZ schools to be really interesting. I absolutely agree that we need children to learn about religion. However, what I found odd about your article was the total lack of comment on the religious instruction classes that have infiltrated 40% of NZ state primary schools that do not educate but instead indoctrinate children in Christian faith. Until these are removed from state schools, we can’t move forward with actual education. You can find out more here:

Tim Newman’s Southland Times article about how popular bible in schools classes are, is obviously a local news puff-piece. Nevertheless, it does promote bible classes with only a passing mention of the concerns that many people have with it. At first, I thought this was just sloppy reporting but a quick check into Tim Newman exposed a significant personal bias.

Tim was an Intern at the Cornerstone Church from February 2014 to December 2015.  Cornerstone is a self-described “evangelical church” in Christchurch who believe that “The universal sinfulness and guilt of all people since the fall, rendering them subject to God’s wrath and condemnation”.  This idea of teaching children that they are born sinners is one of the main reasons that so many people are against teaching religious faith in schools. Why on earth would any loving parent want to tell their children that they were “born bad”?  They also believe in “The justification of the sinner by the grace of God through faith alone”. In other words, they believe that if you don’t agree with them, you go to hell.  Tim’s name still appears on the church website in connection with an “Explorer Group” that encourages people interested in Christianity to come and find out more.

It turns out that Tim has also written for the Australian Christian News website, “Christian Today“. Tim’s no slouch either. He has a BA in History and Political Science and a Masters in History.  So Tim… how about doing all that education justice? Instead of promoting your personal views, write about how Christians discriminate against primary school children all over the country by pushing their religious faith teaching into schools that are meant to be secular. Explain why non-Christian children are coerced into either accepting faith teaching to fit in or leaving their own classroom so religious groups can preach their faith. Because in our secular society, I see no justification for it.

I wrote this to the editor of the Southland Times…

Tim Newman’s “advertorial” for Bible in Schools (Demand outstripping supply for bible in schools – 13/2/2017) failed to mention the reason that religious instruction classes have been a hot topic in NZ for many years.

Most parents have no idea that the Religious Instruction classes their children take at school are not even part of the school curriculum. They are not approved or even reviewed by the Ministry of Education and because they are designed to spread Christian religious faith, the school has to be “closed” while the classes take place. Their children are not even required to be in school during that time.

Since the Education Act of 1877, New Zealand State Primary Schools have always been secular (non-religious) places that are welcoming of all children regardless of their parents’ religious views.  The Churches Education Commission seeks to change this through a loophole established in the Education Act Amendment of 1964 that allows state primary schools to close for up to 20 hours a year for religious instruction. State schools have always been allowed to teach “about” religion from an academic viewpoint (such as social studies or history classes) but not allowed to instruct “in” religious faith.

Now we have a situation where Christian religious indoctrination is happening in around 40% of NZ schools. Mostly, I believe that this is because parents are under the impression that their children are being taught “about religion” and not being taught faith by people who are seeking to convert them to their church. These classes are manipulative and unnecessary. Our teachers are perfectly capable of teaching children good values without unqualified individuals coming in to also preach their religious faith.

In the course of discovering more about bible in schools, I keep coming across Christian people who use and abuse their positions to infiltrate primary schools for the purpose of spreading their religious faith. I’m really sick of it. It’s ironic that in the act of supposedly promoting morals and values, they have no qualms about ignoring or fudging the facts to further their own goals. It has been referred to as “Lying for Jesus“. The CEC even have an Advertising Standards Authority ruling against them for lying about Ministry of Education approval. What do you think?


1 Comment

  1. Religion has caused wars and much of the worlds conflicts I would like to recommend all religion should be band from all educational institutions

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