Opt-in clause added to Education Bill

opt-in clause

A long-running court battle over Bible studies being allowed in state primary and intermediate schools has been dropped after an opt-in clause was added to the Education and Training Act 2020.

The August 2020 update to the Education and Training Act requires state primary and intermediate schools to enforce an opt-in process for religious instruction.

So SEN member Tanya Jacob will not be proceeding with her planned High Court case against the Attorney General in October.

The court case, along with persistent media attention and Human Rights complaints, motivated a change to religious instruction in the Bill.

The Secular Education Network (SEN) was the group behind the move to ban religious teaching in schools.

Spokesperson Mark Honeychurch says that SEN is relieved the government has finally ensured that parents and caregivers should be made aware of any church-led religious instruction their child is receiving.

But whether this happens in practice is up to individual schools.

“The content of the church-led religious instruction ‘classes’ is not curriculum-based, but young children are incapable of recognising the difference.

To children, what is taught at school is fact.

It is up to us responsible adults in their lives to ensure that evangelism doesn’t take place in class time,” Honeychurch said.

However, SEN group member David Hines felt the opt-in did not go far enough and said in a separate statement he felt Jacob had “dropped the ball, with the finish line in sight.”

“Tanya and I had this wider target in mind when we began our campaign.

It is distressing to see her now accepting a lower target and a campaign dragging on for further years.”

“The petition objects only to religious instruction. The court case had a far wider target,” Hines said.

“It included: religious observances (such as hymns in school assemblies), chaplains in schools, Christian youth workers, discrimination in secondary schools, Christianised karakia, and a broader definition of what secular education means.”


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

Tags: , ,