In a number of states and territories, religious missionaries are allowed to enter public school classrooms to deliver instruction in the tenets and beliefs of a particular faith tradition.
Religious instruction programs across the country are referred to in various ways, including ‘Religious Instruction’, ‘Special Religious Instruction’ (SRI), ‘Religious Education’, ‘Special Religious Education’ (SRE), or, informally, ‘scripture’.
The media reporting and public understanding of such programs are often confused with General Religious Education (GRE) or Worldviews education, which teaches about a range of faith and non-faith traditions.
Public schools should be secular places of learning and not places for faith indoctrination.
Religious instruction programs promote segregation in public schools, dividing children along religious lines.
In some states and territories, such as New South Wales and Queensland, religious instruction disrupts precious learning time, with parents having to consciously ‘opt out’ and with non-participating children being required to stop their normal curriculum to allow for participating students to take part in the program. In Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, religious instruction takes place during normal class time but parents have to ‘opt in’ and other children are able to continue with their regular curriculum.
Generally, there is little oversight and control over who the instructors are and the nature of the materials they are using. One expert referred to this situation as a “policy blindspot” which is opening the door to religious extremists.
As we reported in early 2022, missionaries from Citipointe Church in Queensland view public schools as “exciting mission fields” for “harvesting children for the Lord”.
We support the teaching of General Religious Education (GRE) or Worldviews education as a useful way to equip children with an understanding of the world’s range of religious and non-religious traditions. But we do not support the indoctrination of children into religion. Public schools in particular should be strictly secular.
We are campaigning and lobbying state and territory governments to remove religious instruction from normal class time in public schools. If parents want their children to be instructed in the traditions of a particular faith, they have the freedom to engage with their local church, mosque, synagogue or temple.
At a minimum, all states and territories should follow the lead of Victoria and make religious instruction an opt-in activity held outside school hours, with formal oversight by professionally qualified teachers.
New South Wales Premier Chris Minns and senior members of his government have thrown their support behind the establishment of a new religious lobby that
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