Warding off Christianity

Yesterday Access Ministries attracted a lot of heat and attention after their portrayal of Australian teachers as harsh, uncaring, authoritarians with a perversion for torturing kids.  In the wake of this tsunami of criticism two things occurred:

  1. Access Ministries removed the offending material for their online store, and
  2. Rob Ward, Victorian Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, emerged from the shadows with all guns-a-blazing.

In a two page piece Mr. Ward lambastes “militant secularists and atheists” accusing we want to “expunge Christianity from the classroom” and view Christianity as a “dangerous toxin from which children must be protected”.  Even Anglican Priests are not immune from Mr. Ward’s mouth foaming venom if they dare to call the curriculum developed by Access Ministries “crap”.  So in the interests of education I feel obliged to correct Mr. Ward’s on a number of matters.

According to Access Ministries 2009 annual review regarding “Christian Religious Education and School Chaplaincy for Victoria” they received $5,500,000 of Government funds to deliver “Christian Religious Education” to 319,305 school children with 282 staff and 3,477 volunteers to 68% of all State Primary schools in Victoria.  The same report states Access Ministries Mission is to:

“… reach students and school communities in Victoria and beyond with the transforming love of God and His Son Jesus Christ.” – Access Ministries

They achieve their goals by:

- Provide quality, dynamic and relevant Christian religious education, chaplaincy and other appropriate activities
- Equip CRE teachers, chaplains and others to teach and nurture students
- Are student-focused, educationally sound, biblically faithful, theologically clear and contextually appropriate
- Model Christ’s love, authentically, without discrimination

On the surface this leans far more toward religious instruction than the impartial religious education Mr. Ward promotes when he asks:

“What’s wrong with accredited volunteers teaching kids a few Bible stories and telling them about Jesus?” – Rob Ward

As Ron Williams (a Queensland father and musician who is taking the National Schools Chaplaincy Program to the High Court) says:

“If you don’t think there isn’t a difference between education and instruction, ask yourself if you want children to receive sexual instruction instead of sexual education.”

The student literature pulled from sale yesterday by Access Ministries makes it clear they are not teaching what Christians believe, rather what to believe; and undermining decent hard working teachers in the process – many of them almost certainly Christians themselves.

The central point Rob Ward, Tim Mander (CEO Scripture Union QLD), Jim Wallace (Twitter incompetent), those at Access Ministries, and other vocal Christians do not understand is very simple: Not everyone believes what they believe.

Sure children can opt out of religious indoctrination education instruction, but they are banned by the Education Department from learning anything while these classes are being conducted (although some might argue you don’t learn anything even if you do attend).  Parents who do not wish their child to be spoon fed Christianity must make the conscious decision their child will learn nothing instead.  This is absurd.

Yes, others faiths are able to present their beliefs, but how many have resources approaching those of Access Ministries, or Scripture Union? Next to none I would hazard a guess, especially in light of Access Ministries 68% coverage in Victoria alone.

Should the Government be awarding one religion the lion’s share of funding simply because it’s popular?  Since when has popularity ever been a guide to supernatural truths (if such a thing exists)?  There was a time when entire countries believed in the pantheon of Greek Gods, but this does not make them any more real. Sure Jesus may have been “a good man whose teachings offer us much”, but this long way from demonstrating the “transforming love of God and His Son Jesus Christ”.

Shouldn’t a secular and non-discriminatory Government provide equal funding and access to children to all faiths?  How should the Government decide which religions, denominations, and sects will receive funding without appearing to favour one over another?  Will Rob Ward stand up and defend the rights Muslims to ensure they receive the same access to primary school children Access Ministries enjoys?

No, I suspect not.

For all their pompous posturing, Government funded evangelical Christian agencies do not “do unto others as they would do unto you”.  Once again the “militant secularists and atheists” find themselves standing up for the rights of all religious views and requests our Government stops trying to play God with our children.

Posted May 4, 2011
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  • jane douglas

    Great post, Andrew. Thanks.

  • Chrys Stevenson

    Brilliant Andrew. A great summary of the current situation.

  • http://thinkingdoesnthurt.blogspot.com/ David_Gibson

    This is why it is important for us 'militant secularists' demonstrate we are not opposed to general religious education.

    A neutral syllabus which provides a factual and non-conclusionary view of multiple religiouns, at the very least the major religious groups in Australia (Christianity, Hinduism, Buddism, Islam, Judaism, and perhaps humanism, not sure about that last one :P) would be valuable in disassembling some of the barriers religion can erect within a pluralist society. In no way would this impact on personal religious views, at least directly, as the course would only entail an account of what different groups generally believe and why. Obviously this course would be taught by actual teachers, not volunteers.

    If parents wish their children to receive religious instruction then there are multiple avenues for this outside public schools, including but not limited to private schools, local religious communities and parental education. I don't see how anyone can cry foul about their rights being restricted should religious instruction be replaced entirely with general religious education. The only thing being restricted in this change is privileged access to young impressionable minds for a small group of people who are not representative of a large heterogenous group commonly referred to as 'Christians'.

  • Chrys Stevenson

    Not sure if everyone is aware of this group: http://www.reena.net.au/ I was wary of it at first but have it on good authority that they support the teaching of all viewpoints, including humanism and atheism and are happy to include representatives from our perspective in their deliberations. I am still skeptical about whether non-religious views might be pragmatically excluded during negotiations with government, so I think it's important for us to keep a close watch on this issue and insist loudly that while we support a course in comparative religion and philosophies, any such course should also fairly canvass those philosophies & 'belief' systems which reject the existence of the supernatural.

    • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

      . A REE curriculum could draw upon
      best practice models of existing SRI/SRE/multifaith curricula developed by majority and minority faith groups and educators for Australian and UK government and
      independent schools.
      Some educators and community leaders within REENA have also agreed that there
      could be units focused on individual faiths within an REE curriculum that would
      ensure a deeper understanding about individual traditions and also provide an
      opportunity for children of a particular faith to come together and affirm and
      showcase their faith identity. An integrated approach to SRI/SRE and General
      Religious Education (GRE), was thereby suggested. This model would include time for
      SRI/SRE within a more general REE curriculum and is the preferred option among
      some minority faith community members of REENA who support the need for a more
      inclusive and multifaith model of REE, alongside programmes that provide the
      opportunity for students from particular faith communities to learn about their own
      faith traditions.

      That sounds quite good.

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