The god intrusion


A WOMAN, perhaps in her mid-60s, enters a classroom of eight-year-olds in a state primary school on the outskirts of Melbourne. She is carrying a Bible. She joins the teacher, who reads out about eight of her pupils’ names. A child stands as a name is called, and when all are called, those on their feet file out of class to a side room. They amount to about a third of this particular group; their parents have chosen to withdraw them from half-an-hour a week of Christian instruction. 

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruled recently that such scenes, which are enacted in scores of state primary schools throughout Victoria each week, are non-discriminatory. Whatever we think of that decision, the VCAT case, which was brought by three parents, failed to address a more fundamental question. 

When Victorian students are reading and spelling less well, Christianity is declining and Julia Gillard is desperate to improve school education, are children getting pedagogic value out of almost 3 per cent of class time sequestered for Christian instruction?

Under Education Department guidelines, pupils removed to side rooms must not be taught “core curriculum”. They must be “appropriately supervised” in activities such as revision, “self-study” and “positive independent learning”.

But what happens to those who remain in class?

ACCESS ministries, which is responsible for almost all religious instruction in Victorian primary schools, has trained for 5 hours the woman with the Bible. She has volunteered to take Christianity to children. ACCESS’ website says that “every day of the school year”, its 3200 “teachers” are “sharing God’s love” with more than 130,000 Victorian children. According to the statutes, public schools must let ACCESS into classrooms. And, to a significant extent, taxpayers foot the bill for the organisation’s activities.

The principal of the primary school on the city fringes is incensed that ACCESS’ Christian religious education (CRE) is in his borough. It simply wastes precious classroom time, he told me. It is unprofessional, and possibly “pedagogically harmful”. He is determined to rid his school of it by next year.

Written By: Stephen Downes
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  1. I wrote “What exactly is a “Victorian School” ? Is that in Australia ? “

    Edit: Right. You can laugh, now. Victoria is a part of Australia. Didn’t know that. Even have doubts about the existence of Australia.

    On Google, Victorian School gives that kind of result :….

    Now, that seems to be a museum, but I got scared for a minute. I have a saying that nothing is dum enough so that foreigners don’t do it somewhere.

  2. “Pupils removed to side rooms must not be taught core curriculum.”  So even the kids whose parent don’t want them to be indoctrinated are missing out on real education.  Are they afraid that non-Christian kids might show up the Christian kids at exam time, so they’ve got to make sure they’re all equally dumb?  What an absolute travesty of education.  At least in the U.S., we have a constitutional leg to stand on when fighting these retarded religious school invasions.  Aren’t there any laws against government endorsement of religion in Australia?  This is just so blatantly wrong.

  3. If Victorian schools are state funded why do they condone the instruction of lies in their core curriculum? Especially when conducted by a non professional, ignoramus volunteer.

  4. Apparently: “section 116 of the Australian Constitution prohibits the federal government from making any law to establish any religion, impose any religious observance, or prohibit the free exercise of any religion”.  Broken wikipedia reference though so I’ll go with the about australia department of foreign affairs website

    “Religious worship

    Australia is a predominantly Christian country, with around
    64 per cent of all Australians identifying as Christians.
    However, most other major religious faiths are also practised,
    reflecting Australia’s culturally diverse society.

    Australia’s earliest religions or spiritual beliefs
    date back to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,
    who have inhabited Australia for between 40 000 and 60 000
    years. Indigenous Australians have their own unique religious
    traditions and spiritual values.

    [Australia has no official state religion and people are free
    to practise any religion they choose, as long as they obey the
    law. Australians are also free not to have a religion].”

  5. …if sheep are like people

    I’m surprised she hasn’t tried to insert the old children’s rhyme –
    Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors, and out come the people (hand gestures accompany).

    Updated –
    Here’s the school, they allow a steeple, open the door, and out come the sheeple (hand gesture included!).

  6. That’s okay. When I first started reading the article, I thought it was talking about schools in Victoria, British Columbia (Canada). It wasn’t until I hit several bits that made no sense that I realized it must be talking about Victoria Australia. (We both should have noticed the mention of Melbourne in the first paragraph.)

  7. If parents want their children to have special lessons in pointless ignorance, intolerance and science denial why can’t they send them to Sunday school instead of damaging their education in real subjects?

  8. I live in Victoria, Australia and I am fucking ashamed of this situation in our state schools.  The Victorian state planning minister, one Matthew GUY is quoted in a local newspaper as saying “all religion should respected and revered”  Unfortunatley the seperation of church and state is not supported in our constitution (Australia) –

    Section 116 of the Constitution of Australia precludes the Commonwealth of Australia (i.e., the federal parliament) from making laws for establishing any religion, imposing any religious observance, or prohibiting the free exercise of any religion. Section 116 also provides that no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth. The product of a compromise in the pre-Federation constitutional conventions, Section 116 is based on similar provisions in the United States Constitution. However, Section 116 is more narrowly-drafted than its US counterpart, and does not preclude the states of Australia from making such laws.

  9. “He says that the ACCESS lessons he has observed are “tantamount to indoctrination . . . with little or no semblance to good teaching”.”

    I had to laugh reading that quote!  Its Religious teaching, what else but indoctrination did they expect?

  10. ACCESS’ CRE…he is determined to rid his school of it by next year

    Good, change it to ACCESS DENIED!!

  11. Surely after the last news article on “Victorian”, “religion” and “psychopathic” we could expect to change the tide?


    ACCESS lessons

    A – Ancient

    C – Christian

    C – confused

    E – ecclesiastical

    S – silly

    S – simpletons !

  13. It is a woman who is not described as have a disability who is teaching this so can we say…At least in the US, we have a constitutional leg to stand on when fighting these womanly religious school invasions.  Able minded people think these things up and impliment them, not people with developmental disabilities.

  14. I have written to both Julia Gillard and Peter Garrett about the millions of dollars spent on the School Chaplains program. The answers I have recieved expressed no hint that there was any intention to close the program. Petter Garrett in particular wrote enthusiasticaly about planned improvements to the Chaplians program!.

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