Australia’s Minister for Education, Kate Jones, above, yesterday confirmed that the Department of Education would review the Connect religious instruction syllabus materials taught in some state schools.
A statement issued by the Queensland Government followed a report that the principal of Windsor State School, Matthew Keong, had banned Connect Religious Instruction classes.
In a letter to parents, Keong explained how the lessons contravene RI policy by attempting to convert children to Christianity. He said:
Connect’s materials go beyond imparting knowledge of Biblical references, and extend to soliciting children to develop a personal faith in God and Jesus and become a Christian or ‘Kingdom Kid’.
The review found the Connect programme in breach of the policy that prohibits proselytising, defined as:
Soliciting a student for a decision to change their religious affiliation.
Keong found that:
In the teacher’s manuals, the Connect authors remind instructors that most of their audience is not yet Christian, and the whole programme appears to be based on that premise of trying to solicit them for a decision to become the kind of Christian prescribed in the materials.
The Facebook page of Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools (QPSSS) has published various Connect lessons, highlighting the apparent aim of converting non-Christian schoolchildren.
Pupils are invited to become a “Kingdom Kid” in Connects C2 lower primary lesson:
Maybe you’re not a Kingdom Kid yet. If you would like to live God’s way and follow Jesus, we can pray a prayer right now. I am going to say the words of the prayer first so you can hear what the prayer is about. If you agree with this prayer, when I pray it the second time in parts, think the words in your head after me. If you don’t want to pray this prayer with me, just sit quietly with your eyes closed so that you are not disrupting those who would like to say it. This is the prayer I will be praying.
Dear God, thank you that Jesus dies on the cross so I could be part of your family. I am sorry for wanting to live my own way, but now I want to live your way. Please forgive me and help me to learn more about you. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer in your head, welcome to God’s family! You’re a Kingdom Kid.
Connects C2 upper primary lesson emphasizes the choice children need to make:
The Bible tells us there are two kinds of people; the people who have faith and will live forever with God, and those who say no to Jesus. We need to decide which type of person we want to be. Will we follow Jesus?
The programme is full of entreaties to join the faith. Connects C1, lesson 1:
I want you to think about Jesus who is the King and think about whether you would like to be in his Kingdom forever.
Instructors are also encouraged to link children:
To church-run children’s and youth activities.
The offer to “experience the Christian community and learn more about the Christian faith” outside of school, could also breach RI’s policy prohibiting proselytising.
Keong also expressed concern over a lack of scrutiny over faith based programmes.
It has recently come to my attention, contrary to my previous understanding, none of the programmes used in Religious Instruction provided by any faith groups are approved or endorsed by the Department of Education and Training.
The Connect material has also been the subject of outrage following its David and Goliath lesson, where students were asked to roleplay a beheading.
The Department of Education has had a long-term policy in place to ensure appropriate materials are taught as part of any religious instruction programme in state schools. I am concerned content outside the guidelines of this long-standing policy may currently be being provided in state schools. Any materials found to be in breach of the policy will be removed from schools.
Last week the The Independent reported that Christian fundamentalist schools in the UK are teaching children creationism as fact, that gay people are “unnatural” and that girls must submit to men. The schools use a programme called Accelerated Christian Education.