Paul Green, a member of the NSW upper house, has a very personal reason to support “Scripture” (volunteer-led Bible lessons) in public schools, known as SRE (Special Religious Education) in NSW and RI (Religious Instruction) in Queensland.
Having a real, live Christian in the classroom made a world of difference to this country lad.
“Through the teachings I received and the examples that were shown by my ‘Scripture’ teachers, I made a personal decision to accept Christ,” he tells Eternity.
“Scripture classes became a lifeline for me during a turbulent and unstable time.” – Paul Green
“In my conversations with other Australians, I have heard similar stories. I am grateful to the government of our nation that has provided a place for SRE in our public schools for so many decades and am committed, as a member of parliament, to protecting this important space for future Australian students.”
Green explains that as a young boy he faced many challenges. “I had challenging family circumstances at home,” he explained to the Catholic Weekly. “I was desperate for hope and eventually found that hope in Christ. Scripture classes became a lifeline for me during a turbulent and unstable time – having my local Scripture teacher commit to a weekly lesson allowed an introduction to my Lord Jesus Christ and this introduction eventually changed my life.”
“SRE in our nation has provided a safe place for children to explore issues of faith.” – Paul Green
Green, who is standing as a Christian Democrat in this month’s state election, points out that SRE teachers make up the largest volunteer group in NSW on a weekly basis.
“As Christians, we also respect the rights of others to believe differently than we do,” Green adds. “For this reason, SRE in our nation has provided a safe place for children to explore issues of faith, with the consent of their parents, in the religion of their choice, for over 130 years.”
The continued existence of that safe space is under threat from a policy adopted by the NSW Teachers Federation. In a report about a campaign to remove SRE from public schools, the Sydney Morning Herald quoted the union thus: “Federation’s policy is that NSW public schools must be secular in order to provide for students from diverse cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds.”
“I do believe that SRE represents multiculturalism at its finest.” – Paul Green
However, Green believes SRE creates a safe place in classrooms for students from those diverse cultural linguistic and religious backgrounds.
“I do believe that SRE represents multiculturalism at its finest,” Green tells Eternity. “This was showcased last November at the parliamentary celebration of SRE. Over 400 guests gathered, including many members of parliament, faith leaders from a broad range of religious groups and international scholars.
“Important research confirming the importance of SRE in our society was presented that states that SRE provides values education, strengthens the multicultural fabric of our nation, provides a safe place to explore faith and belief and provides important psychological benefits to students’ mental health and wellbeing.”
A public school teacher has forwarded a protest against her union’s policy.
“I really am sick and tired of the Teachers Federation spokesperson making sweeping statements which don’t represent the views of all teachers.” – Public school teacher
“SRE and, in fact, public education in Australia both owe their origins to Rev Richard Johnson, who set up the education system in a very young penal colony. It has been carefully shaped ever since to be inclusive and caring for students from all backgrounds,” she writes.
“As a public school teacher, I really am sick and tired of the Teachers Federation spokesperson making sweeping statements which don’t represent the views of all teachers. As a parent, I am infuriated that my voice to keep SRE in schools would be silenced and my right to choose whether or not my child attends Scripture be removed.
“Given that in the last census the majority of Australians declared they had some sort of a faith, this is unacceptably discriminatory against any student or teacher who holds a personal belief of faith.”
“I encourage you to speak up and let your voice be heard in the Teachers Federation in order to protect SRE.” – Murray Norman
Murray Norman, the CEO of Christian SRE, tells Eternity, “the Teachers Federation has confirmed to me that they are a democratic body and so members have a right for their voice to be heard. I would encourage teachers of all faiths to maintain their membership in the Teachers Federation and to speak up. Let your voice be heard.
“If you are silent about the important permanent beneficial role that SRE plays in our multicultural schools and nation, those who are committed to their own personal agendas will prevail and an important part of our culture will be lost.
“If you are a public school teacher, I encourage you to speak up and let your voice be heard in the Teachers Federation in order to protect SRE.”