Religious Instruction means teaching and endorsing a faith in its own right, for example the practice of Church volunteers ”leading children to a faith in Jesus”.
There is a significant difference between religious instruction, being taught religious beliefs as truth, and religious education.
Religious Education teaches a comparative overview of the major world religions, taken by qualified teachers in a neutral manner. New Zealand does not currently have this programme.
The Secular Education Network (SEN) has the primary goal of removing Religious Instruction from New Zealand state primary schools. Ultimately this will involve repeal of the New Zealand Education Act (1964) Section 78.
While SEN is supportive of Comprehensive Religious Education that includes non-religious viewpoints, this subject is more appropriate for high school. It is incidental to our core goal of inclusive primary schooling.
All Children Deserve an Education in Values
SEN was established to support parents who believe that Values are important in the education of all our children. That Values education should be provided on a non discriminatory basis.
Values are important regardless of religion.
Many parents have been put in the position of deciding whether or not to allow their children to attend religious classes. These classes are designed to indoctrinate children with religious belief. They are often promoted to parents as ‘values classes’. The sectarian nature of these classes and the refusal of schools to conduct inclusive values classes is a poor example of the values they purportedly teach. Often this leaves parents believing their children won’t receive values education if they opt-out.
The purpose of the Secular Education Network is to promote the true separation of church and state; to give all faiths equal treatment by the state. It is to ensure that all children are treated equally. It is to ensure that children are not excluded and segregated from their classmates because of decisions by schools to permit religious indoctrination. It is to ensure that children are given positive instruction in values, not ignored in libraries.
- Promote an inclusive school curriculum, which does not require any student to withdraw from class on account of different religious beliefs.
- Cease the practice of volunteer-run religious instruction during school hours.
- Treat all religious organisations who wish to use the school facilities outside of the school day with transparent and equitable policies.
The Secular Education network supports personal religious freedom, including:
- The wearing of religious symbols,
- Student-initiated prayer,
- Religious history and social studies, taught by qualified state teachers.
The Secular Education does not support the promotion of Atheism by state schools.
The Secular Education Network has no position on:
- The celebration of Easter and Christmas,
- Prayer in parliament,
- The NZ flag,
- or the teaching of Maori culture.