The whole idea of “special religious instruction” is public schools is a joke to begin with, especially when you consider how much room there is for abuse. In theory, it’d be great because kids could learn about the beliefs of all different faiths. But in Victoria, Australia, for example, the religious education is primarily Christian and the education is veering into heavy indoctrination. Story after story suggests that volunteer groups — and it’s always Christian volunteers — are using the time with students to seek converts instead of merely educating them about what they believe.
There’s a fantastic group called Fairness In Religions In School (FIRIS) trying to raise awareness of the abuses within the program in part because they say parents don’t really know what’s going on in their kids’ schools.
To that end, they put up a billboard in Melbourne on Tuesday morning that shows parents what their kids may be learning in school:
Father of three Rupert Fitzpatrick-Robertson, a member of the Fairness In Religions In School group, which paid thousands of dollars for the billboard, said the spiritual development of children was too vital to be left to SRI volunteers and should be the domain of parents.
He said religious instruction was better placed via programs at places of worship, not at schools during class time.
“Schools are for education — they are not for preaching to five-year-olds,” Mr Fitzpatrick-Robertson said.
Beautifully put. The billboard encourages parents to opt their children out of the religious classes. (To be fair, they technically have to opt their children into the classes, but FIRIS Campaign Coordinator Lara Wood told me there’s confusion about this at many schools.)
The leader of ACCESS Ministries — a Christian group that provides about 96% of SRI in the state, in 850 of the 1300 primary schools — was quick to denounce the billboard, not because it wrongly depicts humans and dinosaurs living at the same time, but because it’s mocking Jesus:
“We feel that the billboard is dishonouring to Jesus and are sure that many fair-minded people will find it offensive,” Dr Paddison said.
Nope. Not offensive in the least. At least not for that reason. If there’s any reason to be upset, it’s because too many children are being taught, inappropriately, that God created the world and all the beings in it in a six-day span. This is the sort of fiction that belongs in Ken Ham‘s Creation Museum, not a place of education.
There’s nothing wrong with teaching that a lot of Christians believe in Young Earth Creationism. But there’s a major problem when anyone suggests in a public school that that’s actually true.
Lara Wood added (and I’m paraphrasing here):
Australians like to think we don’t have a problem with evangelicals — that it’s an American problem — but we have more of a problem than you guys, because these people have just taken over our schools. Our organization is just trying to get the message out about what is going right under people’s noses.
Kudos to FIRIS for taking a strong stand against religious indoctrination in public schools.
(Thanks to Julia for the link!)