Thursday, May 04, 2017

Religion in schools and the BORA

Its finally happened: the secular Education Network is taking the government before the Human Rights Review Tribunal seeking a declaration that religious instruction in schools is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act:

The Secular Education Network has filed a case with the Human Rights Review Tribunal, saying the Education Act allows religious favoritism in state schools, which it says is prohibited under the Bill of Rights.

Its spokesman, David Hines, a retired journalist and lay preacher, said Section 78 of the Education Act allowed a school to hold religious instruction for up to an hour a week or 20 hours a year.

But he believed all religions should be taught in an academic way - the Christian religion should not be given preferential treatment - and the impact could be damaging for other people.

In theory, s78 of the Education Act 1964 is religion neutral - schools can close for any sort of religious instruction. What happens in practice is that school boards of trustees get in a bunch of evangelical christians who teach that their brand of christianity is superior and create a discriminatory atmosphere in the school as a whole. And that's simply not acceptable. Schools should be a welcoming environment regardless of religion. And the best way to ensure that seems to be not to offer religious instruction at all, but instead leave it to parents to do at home.