The Queensland Minister for Education, Kate Jones, has confirmed that children are allowed to talk to their friends about Jesus in the playground.
During question time in state parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Jones said, “My position is the same as what Labor’s position has always been, and that is that we support religious instruction in state schools and we will continue to do so.”
The answer was given in response to a question from Liberal National Party member Fiona Simpson, who asked, “Will the minister give a guarantee that children, whatever their faith, will be allowed to talk about their faith in the playground and children will not be banned from exchanging Christmas cards at school?”
In response, Jones said, “I can absolutely give her that absolute guarantee. As I have been saying publicly for more than a fortnight, I can look her in the eye and give her an absolute rolled-gold guarantee – from me to you. I will absolutely do that. The member would have seen the public statements I have made in this regard.”
In April this year, a government review called into question whether children should be allowed to talk about Jesus with their classmates outside of RI (Religious Instruction) classes. But the report was unsure of whether activities such as handling out leaflets about church events was direct proselytising.
This latest clarification comes two weeks after reports in The Australian that, “Queensland education officials have moved to ban references to Jesus in the primary school yard, with an unofficial policy that takes take aim at junior evangelists.” In response, the Queensland government issued a press release saying there had been no change to their policy.
Paul Clark, Chair of the Queensland Christian Religious Instruction Network, welcomed the guarantee, saying, “We at QCRIN are very encouraged and buoyed by the Minister’s ‘rolled-gold guarantee’ that Labor ‘supports religious instruction in schools and we will continue to do so.’ The Education Department and Education Minister have been working very constructively and positively with all the stakeholders in this space.
“We want to confirm, children are free to discuss whatever they want in the playground without censure, including their faith.
“What’s been really exciting for us, is the way the Churches, other faith groups and the Department are coming together. Positive plans are in place to develop minimum standards and best practice around Religious Instruction in Queensland. This will ensure Queensland continues to have a robust, responsible Religious Instruction programme that meets the needs of a 21st century, pluralist society. The ensures parents continue to have freedom of choice in matters of faith for their children.”