How can I help?
You may be thinking, I am just one person, what can I do? There are thousands like you and if we all make ourselves heard we can make a change. Here are some suggestions:
- Opt out of Religious Instruction,
- Talk to your school principal,
- Write a letter to your local schools Board of Trustees,
- Consider becoming a Board member,
- Write to the Ministy of Education,
- Write to the Education Review Office to complain about the schools lack of inclusiveness and ask for their next review to be brought forward,
- Write to the Privacy Commission about your right for your religious beliefs to remain private,
- Write to the Community Organisation Grants Scheme, this government organisation funds Bible in schools organisations against their own guidelines,
- Complain to the Advertising Standard Authority about any misleading material provided,
- Write to newpapers,
- Phone talkback,
- Write to your local MP and the Minister of Education,
- Complain to the schools trustees association,
- Complain to the Human Rights Commission,
- Complain to the Office of the Ombudsman
Although, many of the suggestions above many not immediately achieve the outcome you would like, they do bring the issue to the attention of the decision makers.
Ways that your school may be breaking the law
- Make sure that your legal right to Opt-out is being met.
- People teaching RI should be volunteers, insure they are not being paid.
Talk to Your Child
Find out what is being taught in these classes, and which children are opting out. Find out where the opting-out children go and what activities they do during that time. Those children’s parents are ones most likely to be your allies. Talk to the parents, and refer them to the Keep Religion out of School Facebook page. Also, you may find more information on our schools involved page.
Talk to other parents
Educate them, and rock the boat a little. How do they feel about having the school officially “closed” for religious instruction? Could they think of better ways that this 20 hours of time could be used? Do they know what is being taught to their children, and does it align with their own beliefs? Do they support the teaching of all the major world religions, or at least those represented by the various pupils in the school, as a useful way of increasing cultural awareness? Would they support a non-religious ethics class like the NSW Primary Ethics curriculum. This approach counters the influence of any one particular religion, is eminently reasonable, and kick-starts the discussion for change.
Talk to your child’s Teacher, Headmaster or Headmistress
Understand what they feel about the existing religious program, and whether it reflects the cultural roots of all the pupils. Ask about the 40% of New Zealanders who stated that they had no religion at the last census. Ask whether all the school’s children could be catered for by introducing a non-religious ethics program at the school, similar to the Primary Ethics curriculum being introduced in Australia. That will reveal if they support a broad ethics component for their pupils, or are actually pushing a narrow religious agenda.
Get onto your School Board of Trustees
Very preferably with other like-minded parents running for the board as well, in support. BOT’s are notoriously cliquey, and a single “outsider” trying to force change can be ostracized. Having said that, make a strong election statement about the school teaching Primary Ethics, or alternatively adopting an “opt in” (informed consent) policy for religious instruction, along with teaching about all the major religions represented at the school (which will get printed on the nominees list sent out with voting forms). This can influence parents and the new board, even if you are not eventually elected.
Write to your MP and the Minister of Education
Object to the schools being officially “closed” as a blatantly dishonest way of circumventing their secular purpose. Ask how the Education Act 1989 can be amended to get religion out of NZ schools for good. Ask how we can implement the NSW Primary Ethics curriculum in New Zealand. Contact details can be found here.
Formally Complain to the School Trustees Association
You will possibly have found by this time that you are getting stonewalled by the existing Board of Trustees and some other parents who cannot see what you are complaining about. In fact, in their eyes you are the problem! This will give you something to write about to the School Trustees Association, highlighting the divisive nature of a religious agenda being imposed on your secular school.
Phone Talkback Radio
Complain that the school is officially “closed” for 20 hours a year, which equates to about one whole week of school lost every year to religious indoctrination of one particular religion, namely Christianity. Talk about cultural awareness, and learning about other religions in this multi-cultural world – including learning about those New Zealanders who have chosen to have no religion, who were 32% of the population at the last census (2006). That is over 1 million people, or one in three. Talk about the non-religious Primary Ethics program starting in Australia. Mention this website, so other like-minded people can find us.
Write a letter to the editor of your local or national newspaper
particularly when an education topic arises that demands more of teachers. If you remove external religious programs from schools that gives back a week of time to teachers and children per year. Some schools already incorporate the teaching of values as part of their normal coursework – so we can give the religious component back to parents where it belongs. Don’t forget about adding your comments to online articles as well where you can, such as on TV3′s news site.
Use the internet to spread the message
Use all your usual social media to spread the word. This might include sharing relevant news articles on your Facebook page if you have one. Blog about this topic, and post comments on other people’s blogs. “Like” articles to up-rate them, and re-tweet them if you are on Twitter. Use the twitter hash-tag “#noNZRI” to link tweets.
The New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists exists to protect the secular way of life, to promote a free and open society. By joining the association you will be able to meet with many similar minded people. We have regular newsletters, a journal, email lists, and regional branches which meet all around the country. Join up and help us make tomorrows world a better, more inclusive, tolerant and rational place.