Miles government still “holding the line” for missionaries on Religious Instruction program

Si Gladman / 04 July 2024

The Miles government is continuing to ignore the demands of Labor voters, Labor MPs and public education sector stakeholders by not committing to reform the Religious Instruction (RI) program.

In responses to inquiries this year, the Queensland government has reiterated that it has no plans to reform RI by requiring the classes be held outside normal learning hours.

Calls have been mounting for reform of the RI program following ongoing controversy over how missionaries are using their access to schools to target children for religious conversions and how declining participation in RI is interrupting normal learning time for many.

Key principal and teacher stakeholders in the public education sector want RI moved to outside school hours due to the overcrowding pressures on the curriculum and the declining participation rates in RI. Participation is as low as 15 per cent of students in some schools and students who do not participate are not allowed to continue with normal learning.

Last year, rank-and-file Labor members voted unanimously at the party’s state conference in support of a resolution asking that RI be either moved to lunch time or before or after school, or non-participating students be allowed to continue with learning the curriculum.

In response to media reporting on how Christian instructors who view the RI program as a “mission field” to “harvest hundreds [of children] for the Lord” , a number of Labor MPs publicly said that time was up for RI.

The change of leadership in the government and the appointment of new education minister Di Farmer (pictured) gave some public education sector stakeholders and secular advocates some hope of reform before the upcoming state election.

However, in a letter to the Rationalist Society of Australia earlier this year, the chief of staff for Minister Farmer repeated the former education minister’s line that there were “no changes planned” to RI.

The education department has relayed the same message in correspondence to parents this year.

The Miles government’s stance on RI will please religious lobbyists and religious members of the Liberal-Natonal opposition, such as MP and Pentecostal pastor Mark Robinson, who used a speech in parliament last year to urge the government to “hold the line” on RI

In letters to Minister Farmer, the RSA has argued that committing to reform of RI would be popular with voters and differentiate the Labor Party from the Liberal-National opposition.

Polls suggest the Labor government is on track to lose the election in October.

The RSA has asked opposition leader David Crisafulli to outline his party’s policy on RI, but has not received a response.

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Si Gladman is Executive Director of the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.

Image: Di Farmer MP (Facebook)

All the more reason.