Removing the right of religious missionaries to take over classrooms to deliver Religious Instruction in Queensland state schools would not be controversial, a secular advocacy group has said.
In an interview on ABC Radio Far North on Tuesday, Alison Courtice, of Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools (QPSSS), said the state government had already demonstrated that it could deal with more difficult religious “hot potato” issues such as abortion rights and voluntary assisted dying.
“Religious instruction, as far as the political aspect of it, seems to us to be pretty low-hanging fruit. All the government has to do is say, ‘Look religion should be done in family time. And we need that time back for teachers.’ That shouldn’t be very controversial,” she said.
“The state government has in recent times stood up to the religious lobby groups’ pressure and they have decriminalised abortion, they have passed voluntary assisted dying. Now, those two political hot potatoes are dealt with and now we have moved on from that.
“So simply saying we need to take the right of entry of churches to do Sunday School in a classroom out of legislation to me seems to be something that should be a lot more straightforward and way less controversial than what they’ve already done with religious hot potatoes.”
Calls are mounting for the government to review the program in public schools, with teaching professionals and secular advocates labelling the program a “waste of time”.
Last weekend, The Courier Mail revealed that just one-third of students had parental consent to take part in the RI program – meaning that the program was disrupting most students’ learning time.
Tracy Tully, of the Teachers Professional Association of Queensland, told The Courier Mail that non-participating students would end up playing games for an hour each week while religious missionaries took over class time to deliver RI.
Ms Courtice told ABC Radio that education minister Grace Grace should conduct a proper review of the RI program, allowing for all stakeholders to have a say in a transparent way.
QPSSS and the Rationalist Society of Australia last year raised concerns with Minister Grace about RI instructors treating public schools as mission fields.
In videos found online, Citipointe Church West missionaries told their congregation that they use the program to “harvest children for the Lord”.
In a letter to the RSA, however, a spokesperson for Minister Grace Grace said the government had “no plan to change the current arrangement”.