Religious Infiltration in Australian Schools

Protest ACCESS Ministries in Melbourne
11 September 2014 | Level 5, 695 Burke Road, HAWTHORN EAST VIC

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Open Letter to ACCESS Ministries

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Please take the time to donate and sign petitions against religious incursions into Australian Schools.

  • End the National School Chaplaincy Program – See & Sign Petition
  • Help raise the alarm and stop taxes from being spent to bully vulnerable teens – See & Sign Petition
  • Stop the changes to the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Programme – See & Sign Petition
  • Introduce legislation to terminate Special Religious Instruction and preserve the secular character of public education – See & Sign Petition

Introduction

Right now in Australia we have two major incursions into secular education in our public school system.  Faith based religious instruction (SRI/SRE) and the National School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP).

The National Secular Society in the UK have reported that many view their organisation as an atheist group who opposes religion.  This is not the case.  Secularism was born of Christianity to insure freedom of religion.

“Liberal democracy’s commitment to secularism is the result of Christians themselves recognizing that post-Reformation Christianity itself had become so fragmented that Christians could no longer appeal to scripture and tradition in public discourse … “What drove the secularization of political discourse forward was the increasing need to cope with religious plurality discursively on a daily basis under circumstances where improved transportation and communication were changing the political and economic landscape”” Wolterstorff & Stout

History of Secular Education in Australia

Australia’s first public schools were established in 1848.  At the Sydney Secularism Conference in February 2014, speakers Professor Marion Maddox and Dr Cathy Byrne reminded the audience that Australian leaders at that time, set up an education system that was ‘free, compulsory and secular’.  We’d like our education system to be restored to those principles.

“If it were possible for secularism to have a patron saint in Australia, George Higinbotham would have the first claim on the title.” Meredith Doig

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Birth of the National School Chaplaincy Program

The National School Chaplaincy Program was launched in September 2006 by the Howard Government.  In June 2006 The Age reported that “a full-time chaplain would cost schools about $70,000 a year to provide.”   John Howard told the ABC that “students need the guidance of chaplains, rather than just counsellors.”

“… since the commencement of the NSCP in 2007, previous federal governments have already outsourced the provision of school chaplaincy to organisations whose extreme evangelical worldviews do not reflect those of even the majority of Australian Christians, let alone the 40% or so of our citizenry who are either non-religious, or adherents of other faiths. Subsequently, students are increasingly at risk of being exposed to an uncompromising, fundamentalist ideology …” “http://secoa.org/national-school-chaplaincy-program-media-release/” target=”_blank”> Jaye Christie & Rod Bower – Article no longer available
In November 2013 The Courier Mail reported that “Queensland school chaplains’ job description includes converting students to Christianity, but education department says they can’t.”

Kevin Rudd followed Howard by enthusiastically continuing to fund the National School Chaplaincy stating that the first 3 years of the program had provided funding to 2,700 schools in Australia. When in office, Julia Gillard expanded the NSCP to include an additional 1,000 schools and extended the terms of the program to include secular welfare counsellors.

In June 2012 the federal government funded at least 160 providers of school chaplaincy and welfare counsellors in schools around Australia.  Here are 6 of the major providers of School Chaplaincy in Australia:

The High Court Challenge

In August 2011, Ron Williams challenged the constitutional legitimacy of the National School Chaplaincy Program in the high court of Australia.  On the 20th June 2012 a decision of six to one in favour was handed down by the full bench.  The Government had violated the Australian Constitution.

“The High Court decision that government funding of chaplaincy in Queensland schools is invalid is only “a technicality” and will not mean the end of the program.”  Jim Wallace, head of the Australian Christian Lobby

The Federal Government at the time were only too keen to find a legislative ‘cure‘ to the High Court decision, which was found only 5 days after the high court decision was handed down.  The National School Chaplaincy Program would remain.  The Federal Government were determined to undermine the legal battle fought to regain secular schooling.

“This Bill, in a bald-faced manner, rejects the fundamental propositions put by the High Court in the Williams case. The Commonwealth is clearly asking for another clobbering by the Court.” Senator George Brandis

In August 2013 Ron Williams launched his second case against the National School Chaplaincy Program.  All six states support the high court decision against school chaplaincy and disagree with the federal government measures to continue the program.  This second high court challenge was heard in Canberra in May 2014.

Please consider making a donation to support Ron Williams in his high court challenge against the constitutional validity of the National School Chaplaincy Program.  High Court Challenge II

Secular Welfare Funding Removed – Chaplains ONLY 

The recent federal government budget, May 2014, has brought more bad news for secular schooling in Australia announcing that secular welfare counsellors will no longer be funded by the National School Chaplaincy Program, that the Howard government plans were originally to provide Chaplains to schools – not secular welfare workers.

“Education Minister Christopher Pyne revealed Tuesday that a total of $243.8 million will be made available over four years for around 2900 schools to engage a chaplain.” Christian Today

Gay News Network highlights the particular concern for LGBTQI school students who may want to seek out counselling during their school years.

CHAPLAINCY PROGRAM TO FUND GROUPS WITH LINKS TO HOMOPHOBIA
James Findlay, Rachel Cook

“Several organisations running chaplaincy programs in Australian schools have connections to homophobic campaigning and will benefit from the funding allocated in the Government’s proposed budget, MCV has revealed.”

“Tony Abbott’s Coalition has allocated nearly $250 million to Chaplaincy Programs over four years in the latest budget, which offers schools up to $24,000 per year to pay for a chaplain approximately two days a week.”

“ACCESS Ministries is one of the providers of chaplains in Victoria, providing approximately 330 schools with Special Religious Instructors, and came under scrutiny in February when it was revealed one of their educators was distributing homophobic materials.”

For LGBTQI school students who are being bullied the last thing they need is to be ‘counselled’ by a homophobic chaplain who says that being gay is a disease and you need to be cured.

“Scott Hedges, co-founder of Fairness in Religions in School, said the push to protect gay pupils, who are up to six times more likely to contemplate suicide than their straight peers, was irreconcilable with the chaplaincy scheme.” Jill Stark

Here are two petitions you can sign to oppose the budget proposals for the National School Chaplaincy Program & one to terminate SRI:

Please take the time to donate and sign petitions supporting this campaign.

  • Help raise the alarm and stop taxes from being spent to bully vulnerable teens – See & Sign Petition
  • Stop the changes to the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Programme – See & Sign Petition
  • Introduce legislation to terminate Special Religious Instruction and preserve the secular character of public education – See & Sign Petition

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Faith Based Religious Instruction

Although there is little reference online as to the history of SRI/SRE in Australia some sources suggest that government legislation to provide special religious education has been in place since the Australian public school system was established.  The Public instruction Act of 1880 retaining “all the existing provisions for its teaching in government schools – general religious instruction (heavily protestant) and special religious education by visiting clergy.”

Today, faith based religious instruction in Australia is known as:

  • ‘Special Religious Instruction’ (SRI) in Victoria,
  • ‘Religious Instruction’ (RI) in QueenslandTasmania and NT,
  • ‘Special Religious Education’ (SRE) in NSW and WA; and
  • ‘Religious Education’ (RE) in South Australia and ACT.

The policy of Special Religious Instruction (SRI) or Special Religious Education (SRE) currently enacted through differing state education statutes across Australia, is an outdated and flawed model of segregated, unaccountable and unprofessional religious instruction, which caters to the interests of religious organisations and not the needs of students, educators or families.

David Zyngier

The law in all states and territories allows for SRI in government schools. In the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, school authorities may provide SRI but are not obliged to do so. Victoria’s Education and Training Reform Act provides that:

“Special religious instruction may be given in a government school in accordance with this section.”

The important word is “may”: schools are permitted but not required to provide SRI classes. Many still choose to do so.

However, in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, the law requires that schools provide SRI classes.

Renae Barker

Despite legislation in Victoria stating that Special religious instruction “may” be given in a government school, the education department was keen to interpret “may” as “must” and so when school principle Joe Kelly decided to evict ACCESS Ministries from his school he faced opposition.

In 2011, 940 government schools delivered an SRI program, but by 2013 the number plummeted to 666 – a drop of 274. In real terms, 130,100 students received SRI in 2011, with just 92,808 in 2013.

Joe Kelly has been principal of Cranbourne South Primary School for 15 years, and acknowledged that until two years ago he had been “blindly supporting” Access Ministries’ presence. That was until he took a closer look at the actual classes and curriculum.

Despite the decline in numbers, Dr Evonne Paddison, chief executive of Access Ministries, said CRE was a “choice” that the parents of nearly 90,000 Victorian children still make.

Prior to August 2011, the SRI enrolment forms used by schools were “opt-out”, …  In the past two years, however, the forms became “opt-in”, meaning parents have to make a conscious choice to enrol their child in religious education… [Now] far fewer kids are enrolled.

Konrad Marshall

Federal Funding to Proselytize to 4 Year Olds in Public Schools

FIRIS – Fairness In Religion In School, is a grassroots parent group based in Victoria.  They were recently threatened by the main provider of Chaplaincy and SRI in Victoria – ACCESS Ministries, for publishing damning evidence of government funded proselytizing in public schools.

“Access Ministries uses taxpayer money to threaten parents over religious teaching  A powerful Christian organisation has threatened a small grassroots parent group with legal action for posting its religious curriculum book online.” The Age

ACCESS Ministries ‘Launch 1 Red Teacher Book’ provides a litany of violations to the condition that they must not proselytize their faith.  Children as young as 4 years old are subjected to proselytizing about the existence of a Christian God and told that their lives can be changed by meeting Jesus.

ACCESS Ministries As children will want to please their teacher they will happily accept your teaching

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 9

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 8

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 8

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 4

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 4

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 11

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 11

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 10

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 10

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 11

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 11

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 4

ACCESS Ministries Launch 1 Red Teacher Book, Page 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACCESS Ministries ‘Launch 1 Red Teacher Book’ clearly violates the secular principles on which the Australian education system was inspired.  The separation of Church and state means that individual families can send their children to school for a secular education and then send their children to ‘Sunday School’ for their religious education.

Conclusion

The Progressive Atheists are part of a network of organisations, governments, parent groups and individuals who are working towards removing religious incursions in the Australian school system and reclaiming a secular education system.

JOIN the Nationwide Campaign to STOP the National School Chaplaincy Program

Please take the time to donate and sign petitions supporting this campaign.

  • Help raise the alarm and stop taxes from being spent to bully vulnerable teens – See & Sign Petition
  • Stop the changes to the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Programme – See & Sign Petition
  • Introduce legislation to terminate Special Religious Instruction and preserve the secular character of public education – See & Sign Petition
  • End the National School Chaplaincy Program – See & Sign Petition

Read the story of Hugh Harris, a concerned parent living in Queensland: School is for Teaching Not Preaching

Disclaimer: we have links on our website that we think will be of interest to our members but we do not necessarily endorse the views and opinions expressed on those linked web-pages.

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