Parents shun school religion


The group representing parents in Victorian state schools has joined teachers in calling for controversial religious instruction classes to be scrapped during school hours. 

Parents Victoria yesterday passed a motion at its annual general meeting calling for the religion classes to be moved outside the normal school day.

The Education Department forces primary schools to run the classes during school time if an accredited instructor is available.

About 96 per cent of special religious instruction in Victoria is provided by Christian organisation Access Ministries, whose volunteers run the classes in 850 of the state’s 1300 government primary schools.

Parents have always been able to opt their children out of the classes but many say they feel upset about being excluded and are bored by the alternative activities provided.

The government is already under pressure to change the contentious policy, with a case still before the courts alleging the classes are discriminatory and segregate children on the basis of religion.

Psychologist Sophie Aitken and two other parents, whose names are suppressed, have asked the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to order that the classes be held outside school hours. Judge Timothy Ginnane is yet to give a ruling on the case.

In information circulated to its members, Parents Victoria said special religious instruction classes may not be compulsory, but required families of minority religions or no religion to withdraw their children from class.

Written By: Jewel Topsfield
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  1. And the push back against religion continues on this and many other fronts.

    In my lifetime it has gone from being religion de rigueur to religion out the door! A welcome change.

  2. I did my last 3 years of High School in Melbourne, and I loved RE – it was great to get a 45 minute nap a few times a week.

  3. Excellent ,if I was bringing up my children now I might think of moving to Victoria.

  4. Religious  vs education? 1+1+1= 3 said the math teacher….. 1+1+1= 1 said the religious education teacher… there a thinking reasoning person who can honestly say they understand the TRINITY

  5. It is one thing to teach kids about the goofiness of the world’s religions, but something totally different to hand over the kids for indoctrination by a cult.

  6.   @Op:disqus
     Parents have always been able to opt their children out of the classes
    but many say they feel upset about being excluded and are bored by the
    alternative activities provided

    I recall an occasion when I was teaching an RI class (in England) while standing in for an absent teacher.  The religious parents had no objections to my teaching about religions, but objected to the opted out children using educational computer programs in the (visible) corridor outside the classroom, (where I could see them through windows), because their children wanted to opt out and join them.

  7. Like you, I also spent 3 years of my life in the 60’s at a high school in Melbourne (Melbourne HIgh School if you want to know – an excellent school, but I digress). Although brought up as a “cradle Catholic”, by the time I reached my teens, I would have called myself an Agnostic. As I no longer wished to attend “compulsory” R.E. (Anglican) classes, I asked my mother to let me opt out by telling the school that I was a devout R.C. This she did, which enabled me to spend one hour a week on more relevant subjects such as science or history. I am sorry to hear that even after 50 years, nothing much seems to have changed in Melbourne (or anywhere else for that matter).

  8. There is a cartoon of children in a dark church looking out a window to kids playing in colour and sunshine. Yes, the grass is indubitably greener on the other side, and youngsters instinctively know it.   

  9. Aye, same here. However I would have rather been causing mayhem outside than inside.

    In the end they gave up and threw some of us outside. Win-win.

  10. The Trinity (Holy Trinity, its full name), Transubstantiation (difficult word, it’s an alchimia that turns bread into flesh, far more difficult than turning lead into gold), and the virginity of a mother who had a child who was tortured to death but resurrected three days later, are the most  preposterous  mental diarrheas ever to be conceived, and still believed in the XXI century. Is there any thinking person who can understand all that stuff?

  11. This is interesting 

     Meanwhile, lobby group Fairness in Religions in School has lodged a complaint with the Education Department saying schools are confused about new rules that make the religious instruction opt-in rather than opt-out.

    The complaint says the department has failed to properly communicate the new policy, which was introduced in August last year after the legal action began.

    Previously, if a parent did not return a consent form within 14 days, a child would automatically be put into the religious instruction class. However, the new rules insist on principals obtaining parental consent for students to attend. ”Schools are still requiring parents to specifically exclude their children if they do not want them to receive SRI,” said Fairness in Religions in School spokesman Tim Heasley.

    A department spokeswoman said a memo had been issued to schools two months ago regarding the special religious instruction policy.

    I would imagine once it becomes “opt-in” that will be the end of it.  When did this special Christian religious instruction appear in  Victoria ?  I know it was there and run by the local vicar when I was at primary school in the sixties but I would have thought the seventies got rid of all the rubbish.


  12. I’m a Victorian and I did what is laughably called “Religious Education” in a Victorian state primary school in the early nineties. Anything with “education” in the name is pretty much a guarantee that it isn’t educational. I chose to do it even though I’m an atheist because I thought it would be more interesting and informative than the alternative, the alternative being singing songs. Like it or not religions are a big deal and people should know about them.

    Unfortunately, though it was more interesting than singing, it wasn’t very informative. It was just the more benign stories about the late Mr bin Yussef as ‘recorded’ in the Bible, taught in a limp and tedious way. (At the end of primary school each RE participant was given a free Bible, i.e. Victorian schools hand out X-rated historical fiction to 12-year-olds.)

    All in all a complete waste of school time for those who did it AND those who didn’t. If it were taught where it belongs (to the extent that it belongs anywhere), i.e. churches and Sunday schools, everyone could have been doing a lot more that was genuinely educational. (Then again, most of the rest of of my primary schooling was glorified day-care.)

    It’s absurd that Christian indoctrination is part of state school curricula and the “opt-out” policy is just as absurd. If we’re going to be stuck with this nonsense in state schools, it should be an “opt-in” subject, and those students whose parents don’t compel them to do it shouldn’t have their time wasted.

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