Tina sent me her story about how surprised she was to find out that there was religious instruction in the school that her children will attend when they are old enough. I felt exactly the same when my daughter started at school and it highlights how little awareness there is about religious pressure in state schools. Unfortunately, there are some evangelists who are pushing religion into pre-schools and there is no legislation to prevent it. Tina didn’t just get upset and do nothing. She contacted the Human Right Commission and made a formal complaint. If this is an issue that you think is important, you should do the same!
I am actually quite new to the RI issue. My children are 1.5 and 3 respectively so they don’t go to school yet. I just happened to have a look at the web page of or local school and there it was ‘Religious Instruction delivered by the Hope Community Church every Wednesday 12-12.30.’ I have to admit I was shocked, evangelicalism preached during school hours!
I know the area we live in is surprisingly “churchy”, but that they were given free access to school children was news to me. I would identify as an agnostic and firmly believe in everyone’s right to believe in whatever they like as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. However, advertising to peoples children without their parents approval is a different kettle of fish entirely. To be honest I’m surprised that more people don’t object because it seems so plainly wrong to me.
I contacted the school with a ‘please explain’ and the acting principal got in touch with me and gave me a link to the program (teaching ‘values’, referencing the bible) and explained what the options were; that we can opt out and the children continue with their studies or an art project. She was quite good about it and said that although she would like to teach about different religions, the board makes the call so she said I could contact them.
I contacted MoE at the same time and asked if they could provide me with details about which of our local state schools were affiliated with churches, so I could avoid them. They didn’t have that information, and since I believe religious instruction has no place in the education system and that this practice is deeply unethical, I got angry and decided to complain, a lot.
I very quickly got on to SEN, which I was both thrilled and relieved to find, it helps knowing that I’m not alone and the information has been really useful. To my mind, complaining to the local school is actually not the highest priority because that might improve my personal situation but it wont do much for others and it will not change the system. I have to say that I have so far been a bit shocked by the Ministry of Educations complete lack of interest about what is essentially a children’s welfare issue.
The important thing to remember about letter writing is that although it is easy to get disheartened by stonewall responses, you have to keep in mind that it is a facade which they have to maintain for legal reasons. The more people who make formal complaints the better, because you are creating awareness about the issue and public servants are obliged to respond and eventually report on the matter, not to forget, it also important for statistical reasons. I am therefore planning on being a very squeaky wheel. I have nothing to lose but time and reason is on my side.
I remember my primary school using the school loudspeaker system for Christian prayers. No opt out offered, and yes we had non-Christian students in the school. I blocked my ears as even as a youngster I objected to being told what to think. Others probably absorbed the thinking and a few prejudices without conscious thought. – J.S. – Facebook
When my son was at school his religious study’s teacher told their class they had to go home at pray every night. I removed him from the class. – M.B. (Facebook)
I remember she came home from school one day and said that God made her. I said no, mummy made you in my tummy. She got really really upset as her teacher told the class that God made her and made them the children that they are. – L.R. – Facebook
“One xxxxxxxxx pissed off mother right here.
So my 6 year old son’s school does “bible in schools”, which many state schools do in NZ. Because there is a separation of church and state, when the church comes in to the school to do this, the whole school basically has to shut down and cannot legally be teaching the curriculum at the same time.
So the kids who have been opted out all go and play or read for an hour and the kids who are opted in go to a class to learn all about our zombie lord.
I obviously opted my son out. Or so I thought.
Today he came home with this. I asked him if it was him who coloured it and he said yes. I then asked why and he said he went to bible time today. I then asked him if he knew who this man was and he replied “the teacher told me it was the man who made us”.
I am so so so pissed right now. The school will be receiving a nice little visit from me tomorrow.”
S.H. – Facebook
Having spent many years living in the UK and coming to understand religion in their school system, I was horrified to discover that the opportunity to have ‘religious education’ in my child’s school in NZ turned out to be group of Christians who mostly taught them how to pray and talk about Jesus – and it was opt-out, not opt-in. There was no other opportunity to learn about other religions from a social and cultural perspective. It is the role of parents to find religious instruction elsewhere than in state schools.
A.L. – Facebook
If you have a story to tell, please get in touch. It doesn’t have to be long!