Progress in removing religious instruction from public schools?


Image credit: rethinking schools

Looks like we might be making a bit of progress in attempts to establish a genuine secular education system in New Zealand.

There are reports that “secular education advocates have had a win in their fight against the Bible in Schools programme.”

The Secular Education Network has been asking for months for removal of sectarian religiousΒ instruction classes from public schools. They have now been given access to guidelines the Ministry of education may suggest to resolve the problem.

Network spokesman David Hines said schools would be encouraged to end religious instruction during class time.

“And instead have it at lunch, or after school. Parents would also have to give written permission before they could get put in these classes. They are suggested guidelines. But these are both problem areas, so it’s good that they’re addressing those,” he said.

Apparently the suggested guidelines would also make it clear religious instruction is not part of the New Zealand Curriculum and would discourage religious observances in school assemblies. The Ministry will also consider how to raise awareness about the difference between religious instruction and religious education.

So this is progress. Religious instruction will be relegated to an out-of-school-hours activity like sport. Hopefully, there will also be changes to make this an opt-in choice and not the current opt-out system where parents requests are often ignored.

I agree with the Secular Education Network that there is a place for religiousΒ education (and education of other belief systems) in schools but this is very different to religious instruction which is a form of dogmatic brainwashing.

Clearly this is an ongoing process ofΒ negotiation by of the Education Ministry with concerned parents and schools. I just hope this progress is confirmed and there is no backsliding.

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27 responses to “Progress in removing religious instruction from public schools?

  1. So you’ll be cheerleading for a new National Anthem???

    I’d support you on that…



  2. Definitely – and removing parliamentary sectarian prayers.


  3. Religion is an important part of many people’s lives. Do you now expect the many of those contestants in the recent world wide Tchaikovsky Competition who cross themselves before going on stage then to have no fellowship of that sort in school classes? Just a checkup that you are not trying to get the 13% mid-grey minority to force their ways on all the others in this chart:

    Brian Sandle


  4. Brian, sex is an important part of many people’s lives. That doesn’t mean we should allow in in public schools.

    And I can’t see what the hell your link has to do with this. I am sure Russian atheists couldn’t give a stuff about NZ.

    However, in our society Christians comprise only a minority and they should not have the right to impose their beliefs and customs on our children. (Even a majority does. It have the right to violate the rights of others in this way). They especially should not have the right to go behind parents’ backs to do this.

    No one wants to prevent the private practice of anyone’s belief. But it is arrogant to demand that such beliefs and practices be imposed on others – especially defenceless children.


  5. Ken it’s not as if sex had been going on in schools, like religion in classrooms, then banned.

    People listing Christian affiliation in NZ,s 2013 census were about 49% which though a minority is larger than National voters.

    And the NZ census does not have a tick box for the large group of spiritual types, many more than atheists, who do not belong to a church, or religion. That is where the Christians may have going. Not atheists.

    In Russia religion is now compulsory, but you can take a sort of moral values option, though I bet that would be a worry if it started action against exploitive companies.


  6. The NZ census does not have a tick box for atheist either – perhaps everyone is going there? πŸ™‚ (By the way the number of Christians is actually smaller than usually quoted because in the census their is double dipping resulting from the long list of Christian choices).

    But this has nothing to do with the census or atheists of “spiritual types” it is to do with human rights. A religious sectarian belief and practice should not be imposed on others, especially children. That is a violation of human rights.

    The situation in Russia is of course their business and has nothing to do with us. However, on the surface it appears that they have a compulsory religious education (with choices that include secular ethics which appears to be the most popular – even for orthodox people). This sounds to me more like religious/belief education rather than religious instruction or indoctrination. That would be consistent with their current policy of not allowing religious symbols to be worn in schools becuase their education is meant to be secular. But I guess things will not be that perfect.

    I made clear in my article that I agree with the idea of education in religion and beliefs. This enables children to learn about beliefs, including religions and beliefs different to that of their families. This helps to develop a tolerant society. However, I am strongly opposed to religious instruction which imposes dogma and the veryreverse of tolerance.


  7. Yes Ken we must not confuse, the census box, “no religion” with “atheist.” Some 42% ticked “no religion” and I suggest it may be divided up more as in Russia, though of course it cannot be said. Some atheists will be in it. But many who may be in between religions or can’t decide, not been going to church so can’t include themselves in a particular religion, or respect spiritual things but have not got a name for their beliefs. I think we need to improve the census form. Ours is not good enough to base policy on.

    And there is not double dipping. Christians are subdivided.

    And it’s possible some people do not adhere to church though would be pleased to see their kids contacting Ringatu, &c.

    Of the full primary schools in Christchurch only 75% of kids are enrolled in state schools. The others are in private or integrated schools, calculated from Wiki list with a few little questions like Montessori. That’s nearly twice the proportion of people called atheists in Russia, using Russia until we can get a figure for NZ.

    And there will be kids too far from a private school, or can’t afford it, but do not want to lose ties to our forefathers, who set up our country so it had been rather good compared to many, largely Anglicans settling in Christchurch, Presbyterians in Dunedin, and not perhaps so well defined but Methodists in Wellington a with some Catholics everywhere. The foundations of our houses should not be looked upon lightly when they are being pulled out.

    My feeling is that people who do not want RI in schools so strongly as to work against it should set up special schools without it, as a test. Then we could see the real percentage.

    Reading out the Gospel of St Mark or Luke in class at the state secondary school I went to did not mean much to me at the time, but later in life I began to feel there were more to things. But even at the time the compulsory assemblies, with 1000 boys and all the teachers, except for the some 20 Jews, singing hymns and saying prayers was a solemn occasion and I don’t know if anything replaces that for many kids today.


  8. Religion, the cause of wars and divison amongst peoples. And to think in a moment of temporary insanity I thought of moving to North Carolina here in the U.S. Love My California!!!!! I gave up on all religion FINALLY.


  9. Brian – some responses:

    1: There is double dipping – precisely because Christians are subdivided. Many Christians will identify with more than one of those choices (my own brother would have identified with baptist and Assembly of God, for example). it is perfectly natural to tick all boxes that apply – maybe even Christian and Baptist?). Read my articles Census 2013 – religious diversity, Census 2013: That religion question, None so blind, and Is New Zealand a Christian nation?.

    2: I don’t know why you are concerned about a figure (probably extremely inaccurate) for “atheists” in Russia – or “atheists” in general. This article is about human rights for all – not “atheists.

    3: As for setting up special schools without religious instruction – this has already been done. The education system in NZ is meant to be free and secular. Unfortunately, religious bigots and evangelists have infiltrated the public school system with religious instruction classes by pretending to close the school. They are also imposing their indoctrination on children in many cases without parental consultation – even sometimes ignoring the requests of parents.

    4: Our education system allows for private special schools which impose religious indoctrination. In principle, a similar “atheist” school could be set up under the same system. So far “atheists” in NZ seem to unwilling to subvert the human rights of children in this way. (I actually have the impression most atheists do not object to education about religion – in fact many strongly support it. But they do object to indoctrination – usually called religious instruction).

    5: I am pleased for you that you had some positive experiences as a child. So did I (and these weren’t religious. Like most kids of my age group religious imposition was often terrifying and negative). However, our positive experiences do not give us the right to violate the human rights of other, especially children, and to indoctrinate them with what is often a very immoral ideology.

    6: Again, you might find prayers and bible reading “solemn. I don’t. I find them anti-democratic and immoral. Even worse, I find imposition on others to be a violation of others’ human rights.

    It actually says a lot – people who advocate for such violation of the human rights of others are bringing their own religious beliefs into disrespect. Thye are disrespecting the very beliefs they advocate. Perhaps that is why many Christians and people of other religious are opposed to the bible in schools programme. And perhaps this is why “atheists”, so far, have refused to follow such an evil practice.


  10. My feeling is that people who do not want RI in schools so strongly as to work against it should set up special schools without it, as a test. Then we could see the real percentage.

    (roll eyes)


  11. Ken I hope for the days when kids experience daily solemnity and I do not have to lock my house any more.

    Would you allow atheist proselytisation to be taught at an atheist school?

    I am waiting for stats NZ to provide the data for the two columns on the religion question.

    Actually when they merge the two columns and display the data it does not add up to much over 100%.


  12. Brian, your hopes for daily solemnity and desire not to lock your house have nothing at all to do with the subject of this article – progress in moving away from indoctrination of children in our schools which are meant to be secular?

    I don’t even know what you could possibly mean by “atheist proselytisation” – and I am an atheist. Can you enlighten me? Surely you don’t mean the informed education about religion and belief systems I am advocating!


  13. “atheist” “a”=without, “the”=god
    so “without-god”-ist.

    In other words reacting against god(s).

    So in a secular education system you may not teach atheism.


  14. Come off it Brian – I know what “atheism” is – simply not believing in gods. It’s equivalent to having hobby of not stamp collecting. Really difficult to have a dogma about or instruct children in non stamp collecting.

    But, yes a secular education system should not impose a dogma of any sort of belief on children. However, I think it would be desirable for our education. System to teach about belief systems – religious and non-religious – as a way of fostering understanding and preventing dangerous divisions in society.

    Sure, we should teach our children about atheist belief systems as well as theist ones.

    But you seem to be very confused as you are mixing up education, instruction and proselytising.


  15. β€œatheist” β€œa”=without, β€œthe”=god
    so β€œwithout-god”-ist.

    In other words reacting against god(s).

    Another example of Brian going from A to B but including the letter Z on the way.

    To Brian it may be a case of “in other words” .
    But to most it is a case of another meaning.

    “Without” does not mean “against”.


  16. Good thread and Ken, something we agree with. Thinking back to my childhood and having religion/god stuffed down my throat…it was: fear, guilt, shame, division from many other people, shame to give $$$, it goes on and on.

    My 96 yr old dad on his death bed confessed he never believed, had to go along with mom as they would all say he was crazy.

    The church was visiting her in her last months and asking her for money at that time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  17. Richard, look at it like GMO-free food.


  18. Joy what moments of seriousness do people get in their lives these days besides hakas at rugby matches which I presume are only kept because corporate advertising can be included in the picture?

    Can you elucidate on the shaming to give money?

    The churches have been welfare providers. That is now done through tax and people are sent to jail if they avoid.


  19. .Richard, look at it like GMO-free food.



    How about thinking of it as the word under consideration, atheism.


  20. The churches have been welfare providers.

    Firstly, most are welfare recipients.
    Then, after paying for the palaces, art collections and salaries of their officers (clergy), all sans taxes, they then sometimes become welfare providers.

    Joy what moments of seriousness do people get in their lives these days besides hakas at rugby matches

    Brian, I suggest you lay off the pink pills.


  21. Rather one sided to attempt to concentrate on the welfare activity of some churches, some times. These days people are seeing churches as more known for the hiding of child abusers.


  22. Richard I don’t know what you imply by pink pills. How about being constructive in this group.

    The Christian World Service is based on a group of churches in NZ mainly non-pentecostal I think. They will be the ones who founded NZ. What do you say about the activities they give for?

    Click to access CWS2013AnnualReview.pdf

    If there were no theists then the word atheist would not exist.


  23. Ken: “Certainly the safeguards against paedophilia in the priesthood are now among the tightest in the world. That won’t stop a steady trickle of scandals; but I think that objectively your child is less likely to be abused by a Catholic or Anglican priest in the west today than by the members of almost any other profession.”


  24. You are desperate, Brian. Read the comments on the Guardian piece you recommend.

    Apologists for child abuse and it’s coverup suffer from the same evil as the abusers themselves.

    And these guys insists on the right to violate basic human rights of children so they can screw thief minds!

    Religion is not the source of morality.


  25. Richard I don’t know what you imply by pink pills. .

    That’s hardly surprising, if you weren’t so obviously a few hundred fly-buys short of a holiday you would understand that the comment was in reference to the idiocy of your question, as quoted.


  26. Ken the message seems to be that because priests are trying to help people to be better that they themselves should be perfect. It’s a bit like saying a medical doctor should never be ill. Or if there are any ill doctors then the whole of medicine is a sham.

    Catholic priests are trying to do something rather difficult. A lot fail.

    But to me an import of the Guardian article could be that people who do not like Catholicism are using the statistic against this one group for their agenda, when the wider statistic shows these Catholics are no worse than other humans.

    One comment pointed out that a lot of the wider abuse statistic happens in families. Much gets denied such as Woody Allen.


  27. You undermine yourself, Brian. Your fallback position is that catholic priests and religious leaders are no worse than everyone else (arguable because the data presented is hardly objective) and actually no better.

    So what the hell gives them the right to think that only they can teach our young children values?

    Might I suggest values are the last thing on their mind. They want to indoctrinate young children into their own mythical beliefs. Beliefs, incidentally, which are used to justify their kiddy fiddling.

    And you continue to ignore the way religious instutions and leaders have hidden this child abuse, excused it and gone out of the way to die and protect the offenders.

    Surely churches are the last place to learn good human values.


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