The Queensland parliament needs to investigate the appropriateness of religious groups using their access to public schools through the Religious Instruction (RI) program to “harvest children for the Lord”, says a parents group.
The Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools (QPSSS) group has told the Rationalist Society of Australia it would renew its push for a full parliamentary review of RI following the discovery of an online video in which schools are described as “amazing mission fields” for “harvesting” children.
Earlier this year, QPSSS found a video which showed Citipointe Church West missionaries explaining their involvement in the RI program, their access to classrooms and the ability to make disciples for Christ.
Following the emergence of the video, RSA president Meredith Doig wrote to Queensland education minister Grace Grace to urge her to remove scripture lessons from class time.
QPSSS spokesperson Alison Courtice (pictured) said parents and guardians were not aware of how religious groups were targeting their children.
“The Religious Instruction provider that goes into state schools that was invited on at that church service of Citipointe had a lot to say about going into state schools as a volunteer. She was talking about how exciting that opportunity was and that state schools are mission fields and that they were able to harvest children.
“Everything that she said in that respect is all true. That is the purpose of Religious Instruction and faith instruction in state schools. They’re allowed to proselytise and evangelise by the Department of Education because there’s no prohibition under the law that sets up RI in the Education Act.
“The only trouble is is that parents are not told by principals, schools, P&Cs, the Department of Education, or the education minister that their children – whom they’ve given permission, if they have, to do Religious Instruction – are seen as souls for harvesting, and their state school classroom as mission fields. And that’s the problem.”
QPSSS has been pushing for a review into RI for a number of years, but the Palaszczuk government has been unwilling to hold one.
Ms Courtice said the community was no longer prepared to give religious groups free reign in public schools.
“Times have changed. With the Religious Discrimination Bill, there’s a whole lot more talk around privileging religion. And the whole Citipointe debacle … people’s perception of the role of religions, particularly in relation to state schools, it’s more openly talked about,” she said.
“RI has been a part of the Education Act for 112 years. It was controversial back then and it has only become more and more controversial as less people are religious and the percentages statewide of children who have permission to do RI has dropped significantly. A majority no longer do it.
“So a review is essential. That needs to be done. And then, ultimately, we would like that to lead to the removal of RI in our Education Act, and give that time back to classroom teachers to do what it is they’re paid to do – educate our kids.”
Ms Courtice said schools continue to give parents false information, including that the RI programs are approved by the Department of Education.
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman