Christian fury over school prayer ban
Victoria’s Minister for Education, Martin Dixon, (above) is accused of persecuting young faith-heads
THE Mentone Baptist Church in Cheltenham, Victoria, yesterday issued warning:
There is an air of phobia entering Victorian society toward the Christian faith that is both irrational and dangerous. Intolerance toward Christians (and other faiths) is not new, but we have begun venturing into a place not befitting a society that esteems freedom of belief and practice.
And what place might that be?
The current Minister for Education, Martin Dixon, has implemented changes to the Victorian School Policy & Advisory Guide. These, writes the church’s “Murray”:
Have direct implications for thousands of school children, from Christians homes and from other religious backgrounds:
The new guide says that Student Initiated Activities (SRI):
Cannot and does not take the form of prayer groups, youth groups, clubs, information sessions, or workshops. Legislation requires that Government schools are secular, and the only exception to secular education in government schools is SRI delivered in accordance with the Act, MD141 and this policy.
Any other forums or activities as noted above, would constitute promotion of specific religions in schools outside SRI, and are not permitted. For the avoidance of doubt, students engaging in prayer in observation of their religion at lunchtimes is not SRI as there is no element of ‘instruction’. Such prayer cannot be led, conducted by or at the instruction of staff or parents/visitors/volunteers. For further advice please contact the Legal Division.
Principals must ensure that no religious programs, plays, events or activities run or conducted by any external religious organisations or individuals are offered or provided in government schools during school hours.
Principals must not permit material, whether associated with SRI or not, to be distributed or displayed at a Government school if that material has the effect of promoting any particular religious practice, denomination or sect. This includes the distribution of religious texts (eg Bibles) by any person or organisation whether accredited SRI providers or not.
When advertising events or activities in school newsletters or on school premises, principals should be mindful of the requirement in the Act that government schools must not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect.
It is disappointing to see Mr Dixon succumbing to the demands of a few but vociferous hard-line anti-Christian antagonists. But it is more than just disappointing – the directive is built on a false premise and a contravention of Victorian State Law.
The false premise is this: ‘secular’ means the removal of religious views. The term secular was originally used in Australian polity to denote that we are not governed by a particular religion. For example, we are not an Islamic State, nor are we ruled by Vatican or any single Christian denomination.
Christians strongly affirm the notion of a secular society, and it is one that concurs with Jesus’ own teaching, that his ‘kingdom is not of this world’. Secular, however, has never meant that religious views have no place in the public realm and in our places of education. That view belongs to ‘secularism’, which is a fairly recent phenomena that is trying redefine Australian society as one that is free of religion, except in the most private of contexts, such as the home.
Mr Dixon’s directive also appears to be violating Victoria’s Charter for Human Rights.
If the Government is serious about this initiative, then what of religious activities that sometimes come into schools under the guise of other classifications such ‘physical exercise’ or ‘cultural learning’; for example yoga or aboriginal spirituality? Yoga is a religious activity as much as it is anything else.
When I was first told about these changes to the Victorian School Policy & Advisory Guide, I thought it was a joke, because the idea of telling kids that they can’t give a friend a Bible at school is beyond ridiculous.
But clearly, I was wrong: it appears that Christianity is an evil that needs to be eradicated from our society. After all, any belief system that teaches us to love our enemies, to do good to all, and to obey the Government, is surely to be the cause of grave social distress.
And when the lineup of Christian adherents includes social Beelzebubs such as J S Bach, William Wilberforce, C S Lewis, Dietrich Bonehoeffer, Martin Luther King, Bono, and Francis Collins, we realise just how dangerous this Jesus Christ must be.
Mr Dixon and the Victorian Government, this is an extraordinary overreaction to the complaints made by a few people. I urge you to reverse this unnecessary and dangerous precedent. In a world that is seeing human rights being denuded, surely we can take the reasonable path.
Some outfit called “Make a Stand” has launched a petition, demanding that Ministerial Direction MD141- Special Religious Instruction in Public Schools which came into effect on July 14, 2014 be scrapped.
Hat tip: Lyle Allan