I don’t know what came over me when I subscribed to the Australian Christian Lobby’s RSS feed. I guess part of me just thought that my blood pressure was too low. But thanks to whatever pearl of wisdom lead me to subscribing to their blog, I now get regular updates like this delivered straight to my RSS reader.
A staggering 50,000 people have called on the NSW Government to protect the place of special religious education (SRE) in schools and reschedule the proposed ethics classes to another time slot.
Christians from all major Christian denominations across NSW have signed a petition organised by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) which was tabled in NSW Parliament yesterday.
ACL’s NSW Director David Hutt said today that the overwhelming support for the Save Our Scripture petition should send a clear message to NSW parliamentarians about the need to safeguard the special place of SRE in NSW schools.
You see, the ACL and other religious organisations are feeling threatened by the NSW governments decision to trial ethics classes in state schools in the same time slot as special religious education (SRE) classes. Under the current arrangement in NSW for one hour every week schools hold these SRE classes with leaders of their religions, with various religions being represented. These classes are optional, but there is no option for parents of no faith so kids who do not attend one of these classes are left to do private study for an hour. What this leads to (and presumably what the religions like about this) is kids attending religious classes because there are no other options, even if they are not especially (or even at all) religious.
This is where ethics classes come in.
Ethics classes provide a secular alternative to SRE classes for those kids who are currently attending a SRE class out of convenience or simply not attending any classes for that hour a week. The problem is, apparently, that ethics classes are ‘competing’ with SRE and children are forced to ‘choose’ between the two.
“The Government should not be discriminating against children of faith who will not be able to attend both SRE and ethics. The classes should be run at separate times.”
I have an even better solution. Let’s not run SRE classes in public schools. Then there will be no problem about conflicting schedules.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with children being taught religion in public schools, but only when it’s done with the same scepticism that is afforded politics and history (after all, it really is history and politics). I do not support kids learning particular religious narratives in public schools. If parents want their children to learn a particular religious narrative then those parents should be taking their kids to church and enrolling them in private religious schools, not expecting public schools to offer it to all schools.
Religious education not being offered in public schools is not an attack on religion. I am not anti-religion. Religions are not being discriminated against by not being allowed into public schools and to claim that they are is cynical and disingenuous. The opposite is true. Allowing religious education in schools the way NSW does discriminates against students who do not belong to a religion. Offering secular ethics classes to children is a step in the right direction, but I still don’t believe SRE or ‘scripture classes’ has any place in public schools anywhere in the country.