Church Education Commission outraged by accusations of bullying, secrets and grooming

secular education

The Churches Education Commission (CEC) is outraged by claims made by secular education campaigners who want to stop religion being taught in state primary and intermediate schools.

Tanya Jacob, the South Island representative of the of the Secular Education Network (SEN), said there are “really quite serious concerns, even concerns about potential for grooming, keeping secrets with children that they’re not allowed to go home and tell their parents”.

Asked is it scaremongering to use the word grooming, she said: “I think it’s accurate, whether it’s religious grooming or potential for other sorts of grooming.”

CEC teaches in around 600 schools and says its lessons focus on Bible stories and teaching life values.

A spokeswoman, Abbey Reeve, said Jacob’s statement was “really inflaming stuff that parents would be very scared about. But it’s not true, there is none of this keeping of secrets, there’s none of this hiding stuff”.

Another spokeswoman for CEC, Tracey Kirkley, said SEN’s claims were “not at all consistent” with current Religious Education programmes. The content they were protesting about stopped being taught in New Zealand schools some eight years ago.

Three members of SEN were handing out pamphlets outside Wharenui School in Riccarton on Wednesday.

The pamphlets show a picture of a little girl simulating choking herself.

The group said this was an illustration of an exercise children are asked to do as an example of what happens to non-believers.

However, pastor Phil Stedman from the church providing the lessons denied children had ever been asked to do this.

“I have no idea what it’s about, to be honest. We would never in our wildest dreams go anywhere near using a story like that. And I think that is a complete misrepresentation of the sort of thing we teach.”

Stedman said while he believed in hell, this was not something children were taught about.

Watch:  ‘There are no secrets’ – parents and church clash over religious education in schools

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