The Rationalist Society of Australia has asked the Western Australian government to move Special Religious Education (SRE) out of class time in public schools and make it an ‘opt-in’ proposition for parents.
In a letter to Education Minister Sue Ellery, RSA spokesperson Vicki Caulfield (pictured) said the government should update its 2015 guidelines on SRE to stop religious missionaries from taking over precious learning time.
Currently, the guidelines allow for individual principals, in consultation with their school community, to remove scripture classes.
Last month, Spencer Park Primary School in Albany decided to discontinue with SRE after a majority of surveyed parents and guardians said they wanted it gone.
In her letter, Ms Caulfied called on the government to update its guidelines to remove scripture from class time.
“As a principle, we believe that Western Australia’s state schools should be secular. They should not be used by religious missionaries to take over precious learning time for religious indoctrination,” she wrote.
“Also, in schools where SRE is offered, parents should not have to ‘opt out’ in writing to have their child/children removed from these classes.”
The RSA is urging West Australians to write to Minister Ellery to let her know that parents don’t want SRE taking up precious class time. You can email her on: Minister.Ellery@dpc.wa.gov.au.
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman
RSA letter to Minister Ellery, 8 December 2021
Dear Minister Ellery
I am writing on behalf of the Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) and our supporters in Western Australia.
As you would be aware, Spencer Park Primary School in Albany has decided to discontinue with scripture classes after the school conducted a survey of parents and guardians and found that the majority of them wanted it gone. Based on the Spencer Park experience, the RSA urges you to update your department’s 2015 Guidelines on Special Religious Education (SRE) in public schools.
The state’s School Education Act 1999 says public schools must not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect. Yet, in many public schools across the state, Christian missionaries are allowed to enter our schools to deliver Bible studies during class time, with up to one hour a week provided to ‘scripture’.
As a principle, we believe that Western Australia’s state schools should be secular. They should not be used by Christian missionaries to take over precious learning time for religious ‘education’ (ie indoctrination).
Also, under the Education Department’s guidelines, in schools where SRE is offered, students are expected to attend scripture classes unless their parents specifically opt out. We recommend that this rule be reversed to become an ‘opt in’ system that ensures parents and students are fully aware of their choices.
We urge you to update your department’s guidelines:
(1) to remove SRE from class time and
(2) to make any religious activity an ‘opt in’ proposition for parents.
Based on information in the YouthCARE 2019 Annual Report, we understand that at least 32 public schools in Western Australia have SRE. Can your department confirm which and how many schools provide it?
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
WA Spokesperson, Rationalist Society of Australia
Perth, Western Australia