Is your child being Indoctrinated?
You may have thought that public schools in New Zealand do not include religious indoctrination. The fact is that approximately 40% of public primary schools conduct religious instruction classes run by outside volunteers from churches. Every week New Zealand schools are “closed” for religious classes in which a single religion is taught as truth, often without parental consent. We are a coalition of parents ranging from Christians to Atheists and Hindus (and more) who respect others enough within our multicultural society to recognise that our children deserve better than what amounts to indoctrination. Why should a school board be able to choose one religion for their community? Join us and help remove the loophole that’s dividing our children.
What is religious instruction?
Religious instruction is defined by New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission as “teaching aspects of a faith in its own right. Religious instruction carries an implicit or explicit endorsement of a particular faith and/or encourages students to engage with and make decisions about accepting it on a personal level. An example is optional classes run by voluntary groups.”
Schools may not be informing parents of religious instruction.
There is no explicit requirement for schools to inform parents that religious instruction is taking place. It is often the case that the first a parent will know about religious instruction is when their children come home with religious materials or asking questions about religious doctrine.
Schools often don’t ask parents permission before including children in religious instruction.
No pupil can be required to attend or take part in Religious Instruction and some argue that this means schools cannot put children into religious instruction without first giving parents the opportunity to refuse consent. However, this has not been tested and many schools include pupils in religious classes without informing parents. For example, if a child has parents of the Muslim faith and is sent to a public primary school as required by law, the school can include the child in Christian religious instruction classes without the consent of the parents. Once the parents find out, they then have the legal right to opt-out.
Opt Out of Religious Instruction
One of the few legal rights you do have as a parent, is the right to opt your children out of Religious Instruction. As some schools are not communicating clearly with parents, you may not be sure if your school conducts Religious Instruction. You may like to opt out, just in case. By opting out you will be making it easier for others to do the same. Here is a sample Opt Out letter. Remember to talk to your child so that they know they have not done anything wrong and are not being punished. You could also consider taking your child out of school for some parent (or grandparent) time, while Religious Instruction is being conducted.
Opting out is not negotiation
We have had reports of some teachers questioning parents choices to opt their children out. Try not to get lead into a discussion about your reasons, just remind them that it is your legal right. You do not need to tell them about your beliefs or your reasons for opting out. Your right to hold your beliefs private is protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights.
What about teaching our children Values?
Values are important regardless of religion. All Children deserve an education in values and the Ministry of Education has set out a values curriculum for all children. One of these Values is “Inclusion” and the Secular Education Network believes that segregating children on the basis of Religion (or their parents willingness to receive Instruction in one religion) is Non-Inclusive.
Many parents have been put in the position of deciding whether or not to allow their children to attend religious based values classes. The teachings in Religious Instruction classes commonly represent opinion that may be considered by parents to be dubiously represented as “Values”, including those that impinge on the human rights of minority groups. 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. This may leave parents with the impossible decision of allowing religious indoctrination and some teaching of values, or no instruction on values at all.
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.
If you are not happy with your child missing out on schooling because of Religious Instruction, go to the What can I do? page for suggestions on who to write to and examples of letters. We suggest you start with your Board of Trustees.