The release of a video in which Religious Instruction (RI) missionaries describe public schools as “mission fields” for “harvesting” children has revealed for parents the true nature of the RI program, a secular advocate told ABC radio today.
Speaking on the Life Matters program, Alison Courtice (pictured), of the Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools, said the comments in the video, which gained widespread media attention last month, had “horrified” parents across Queensland.
While RI providers have tried to distance themselves from the Citipointe Church missionaries’ comments in the video, Ms Courtice said such language was commonly found in materials published by groups delivering RI.
“We found that church service of Citipointe online… It’s a church member telling the congregation how amazing RI is. ‘It’s like having a church in the school system,’ she says. And she’s right. She’s spot on with what she says. That is exactly what RI is,” Ms Courtice said.
“This video is just one example. We have found many videos and newsletter publications that use similar language of schools being mission fields for ‘reaping’ and ‘harvesting’ kids. And these are in mainstream Christian denominations, as well.”
Ms Courtice appeared on Life Matters along with Jack Galvin Waight, Regional Organiser for the New South Wales Teachers Federation, and Murray Norman, a supporter of Special Religious Education (SRE) from Better Balance Futures.
Ms Courtice said media attention in response to the video had increased pressure on the Queensland government from parents, the public and also Labor MPs, to remove RI from class time.
“I’m happy that it’s now being revealed as to what their intention is when it comes to what they are trying to achieve in state schools by providing Religious Instruction. They’re allowed to proselytise, they’re allowed to evangelise, they’re allowed to invite children to consider following the religion on offer. That’s the nature of Religious Instruction,” she said.
“But parents should be quite horrified that that is how their children are seen because schools don’t tell them that. The Department of Education won’t let schools explain that, ‘Hey, you know, your kids are seen as mission fields ripe for harvesting.’ So we’re glad that it’s now out in the open, but we do know that it has horrified lots of parents and just members of the public generally.”
Mr Galvin Waight, author of the 2022 report, Teaching not preaching: Making our public schools secular, said similar issues had been identified in the SRE program in New South Wales.
He said General Religious Education (GRE), or worldviews education, was the appropriate place for children to learn about religion, not in SRE.
“The debate we’ve having is not about getting religion out of schools… It’s about removing segregated religious instruction and giving the time back to the professionals – the teachers,” he said.
“Our teachers do their best to keep our public schools a secular haven. The profession is united that religious instruction, known as scripture or SRE, is simply a flawed, outdated model that no longer has any place in our school system. We need more teachers. We don’t need more preachers.”