Scripture in School campaigners want to do it the Christian way

NSW, Queensland campaigners want open discussions and to share information

Christians continue to press the cause of volunteer religious classes in State schools in NSW and Queensland, with significant new developments in each state.

In NSW, campaigners for Special Religious Education (SRE) are not returning blow for blow the latest argument raised by opponents in the media. This is a deliberate strategy of seeking dialogue with key players.

 “I want to talk face to face, rather than by talking through the media.” – Murray Norman

The NSW Teachers Federation recently stated it will campaign to remove scripture from NSW public schools. In the SMH coverage, the Secondary Principals’ Council is recorded as saying that Scripture should be scrapped due to an overcrowded curriculum. However Eternity understands Scripture was on a long list of possible cuts to the curriculum that the Secondary Principals’ Council recommended – the council had not singled out Scripture.

tspokesperson Murray Norman tells Eternity that the Secondary Principals’ Council has already agreed to meet with SRE representatives. He’s seeking to meet with the NSW Teachers Federation after extensively consulting with many decision makers in Parliament and the Education Department.

“I am keen to go directly to the people who raised issues or expressed concerns,” said Norman. “I want to talk face to face, rather than by talking through the media.

“I am keen to bring all parties together and achieve positive outcomes.

“I take Matthew 18 very seriously and I think it applies to non-Christians, too,” said Norman. That’s the Bible passage where Jesus tells his followers how to handle disputes between themselves. “Go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the whole church”. (Matthew 18:15-17)

Some SRE critics have highlighted the preaching in some churches during their Sunday meetings; the large evangelical EV Church on the NSW Central Coast was featured in a Newcastle Herald article. In an official response, Christian SRE states that it “plays no role in teachings delivered by religious groups outside the school system (for example, sermons given to church/faith members in their meetings), and any attempt to link different views to what is taught in SRE classes misrepresents the facts.”

Churches will vary in their views on things such as women’s leadership within the church, but still work together on a common curriculum for SRE that covers core doctrine.

Religious groups have joined together to make some noise about Religious Instruction (RI) in Queensland.

Christian SRE points out that it “has strict guidelines and works within the parameters set by NSW Department of Education. SRE teachers are trained and accredited, using age appropriate curriculum.”

“In addition, SRE curricula is in alignment with the framework established for NSW public schools for the well-being of all students which highlights the importance of their cultural, religious or spiritual background.

“We note comments by Labor’s education spokesperson Jihad Dib and share his desire to ensure that ‘the values being taught are what parents would be expecting to happen’.”

In Queensland, by contrast, religious groups have joined together to make some noise about Religious Instruction (RI) in that state. The aim is to ensure parents have all the information they need in 2019 to choose religious instruction (RI) for their children in state schools.

For the first time, providers of Religious Instruction (RI) in state schools – which includes 15 Christian groups, as well as Queensland representatives from the Islamic, Jewish, Baha’i and Buddhist faiths – have organised for the state-wide distribution of pamphlets to every state school.

The information brochures and consent forms for parents will be distributed from next week with RI coordinators collecting sufficient brochures for every student in Year 1 and all existing RI students.

Spokesperson David Baker (who is also the state’s Moderator of the Uniting Church) said the brochures were important because they provide a valuable update to parents on changes including the review of the RI curricula.

… QLD principals are ensure up-to-date information about the RI programmes is made available at their schools.

“Each brochure and consent form was developed in consultation with the Queensland Department of Education and importantly are all about parent choice,” said Baker.

“We feel it is important that all Queensland parents, regardless of their beliefs or religion, have access to this information so they can be fully informed about the RI programs available at their local school.”

He said the group worked closely with the Department of Education, principals and P&Cs to make this happen, which together are assisting with the distribution of e-versions of the brochure.

The distribution is facilitated through the permission of each principal in line with the Department of Education’s requirement that they ensure up-to-date information about the RI programmes is made available at their schools. It is intended that the information also be placed in the school newsletter at the start of first term, as well as school websites and in the parent information handbook.

“We want to take this opportunity to thank all stakeholders, particularly the minister, the Education Department, MPs from all sides of politics, principals and P&Cs who are all playing an important role,” Baker said.


Some prayer points to help

Pray for Scripture Teachers (including the editor of eternity) as the school year begins.

Pray for amicable discussions between Scripture teachers and their representatives and school principals, Education department officials and politicians.

Pray for the students that they will learn about Jesus.