Secular Education Network says legislation does not go far enough

secular education network

The Secular Education Network has launched a Teach, Not Preach petition appealing for Section 54 of the Education and Training Bill to be removed.

They say the Education and Workforce Committee’s report to the House of Parliament last week on the Education and Training Bill: “sanctions bible classes for primary school children in state primary schools, even though the new bill, like previous laws, states that schools must be secular.”

The proposed Bill amends the 1964 Education Act’s provisions regarding religious instruction.

Section 54 retains the provision that “if a State school’s board, after consultation with the principal, determines school buildings may be used for the purposes of religious instruction or observances conducted in a manner approved by the board.”

The section states that “any 1 or more classrooms at the school, or the school as a whole, may be closed during the school day for any period or periods not exceeding 60 minutes in aggregate in any week or 20 hours in a school year, for the purposes of religious instruction or observances conducted by voluntary instructors approved by the school’s board.”

Currently, an opt-out approach applies.

But the new law makes provision for an opt-in provision to ensure that attendance at religious instruction only occurs with parental consent.

Section 55 states a student enrolled at a State school may only attend or take part in any religious instruction at the school if a parent of the student has confirmed in writing to the principal that they wish for the student to take part or attend.

A parent who has given an written permission may withdraw it.

Secular Education Network spokesperson, Mark Honeychurch, says that the change does not go far enough.

He says it is a discriminatory and outdated law and it must be changed.

The Secular Education Network is also taking the Attorney General, representing the Ministry of Education, to court in October, arguing that provision of religious instruction in state schools is discriminatory.

Sections 54 to 58 of Bill apply to religious instruction and observances in State primary and intermediate schools only.


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News category: New Zealand.

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