Religion and Schools

Too often when we talk about religious diversity, people with non-theist beliefs are excluded. We saw this with the the statement on Religious Diversity in New Zealand. It refers to our legislation, and international treaties, which guarantee human rights for people with religious and non-religious beliefs. However, it then goes on to ignore the non-religious when guaranteeing rights to safety (clause 3), recognition and accommodation in work and education (clause 5), education (clause 6) and relationships with government (clause 8).

This attitude is being repeated in current discussion on religious education. Proposals to teach an understanding of different religious traditions are positive but suffer from a huge blind spot if they don’t recognise non-theist traditions as legitimate and include these in the education of our children.

Discussion forum

This month the New Zealand Human Rights Commission is holding the 2007 New Zealand Diversity Forum in Auckland. This includes a Discussion Forum on Religion and Schools. Its invitation describes it as providing “a meeting point for faith and interfaith groups, parents, teachers, school trustees, and education policy makers.”

Its programme consists of:

  • “an introduction by Professor Paul Morris, Professor of Religious Studies at Victoria University and principal author of the Statement on Religious Diversity
  • a panel discussion on teaching about religion and the new curriculum, introduced by Secretary for Education Karen Sewell with commentators representing religious and state schools on teaching about religion and the new curriculum
  • a panel discussion on religious instruction and observance in schools, introduced by Auckland University Law Professor Paul Rishworth and Human Rights Commission Principal Policy Analyst Sylvia Bell, with commentators representing the School Trustees Association and teachers.”

The programme really needs input from atheists or non-theists. Otherwise the non-religious traditions are going to be ignored again.

For anyone interested the forum details are:

Monday 27 August – Afternoon
Venue: Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell, Auckland
Hosted by the Auckland City Council, the Victoria University Religious Studies Programme

Further details on the Religion and Schools Discussion and the forum and the NZ Divcersity Forum are available on the Human Rights Commission website.

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