January 18, 2015

Since 2008 I have administered this website, and prior to that, TheFourthR.info.  Across this period to now, in association with the Australian Secular Lobby (ASL) and the Humanist Society of Queensland (HSQ), hundreds of often distressed Queensland parents have been advised of their rights regarding religious instruction arrangements at their respective schools. Any progress evident in the adjacent right-hand column links can be directly attributable to our input and action.

In early 2013, I was invited, along with the ASL and HSQ, to consult with Education Queensland regarding a potentially disastrous new draft religious instruction and chaplaincy policy. This resulted in four conferences with EQ executives throughout 2013. By the close of 2013, this consultation process had resulted in most of the more outrageous aspects of the draft policy being removed. The amended policy was published in April 2014. In a case of what could best be described as 'ambiguity by omission', all of the extremely useful, quotable, comprehensively detailed instructions regarding placement of children into religious instruction according to parent-provided enrolment form information from the previous policy page had been removed. One positive change was the requirement for no other religious instruction consent forms other than the enrolment form itself.

Although this website will be a work in progress across the coming weeks—particularly the new ‘issues’ page—it is imperative that the parental advice page is uploaded immediately, with the accompanying instructional video to follow shortly.

There can be no compromises in 2015—Education Queensland must be forced by all available legal means to strictly adhere to state laws regarding religious instruction in the public schools of Queensland. Every child who is legally ineligible for religious instruction according to provided enrolment form information (approaching 80% across Queensland) must not be placed into or allowed to participate in religious instruction. The widespread and ongoing statute-flouting practice by Education Queensland of allowing legally ineligible children to be placed in religious instruction by default must cease immediately.

There is much to be added to this site prior to commencement of the 2015 school year—meanwhile, please proceed to the PARENTS page for current information and advice.

Ron Williams


Aims and objectives of the BITA campaign

In November 2013 the AEU Queensland branch, the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU) published a most frank and forthright position statement regarding religious instruction and chaplaincy in Queensland state schools. I consider this statement to be squarely consistent with the essential aims and objectives of the BITA campaign:

Queensland Teachers' Union: Religious instruction in state schools
http://www.qtu.asn.au/files//1113/8681/3447/Religious_instruction_in_State_Schools_FS_November2013.pdf

Religious Instruction

The QTU supports and promotes professionally conducted programs of education in the area of belief. It does not support or promote any program of study where content is selected from a faith perspective, as in religious instruction.

In the light of the above statements and consistent with the  objective of  a  secular  public education system, the QTU believes that the current legislation allowing ministers of religion or accredited representatives of religious denominations right of access to students during school  hours for the purpose of religious instruction should be repealed. If a program of religious instruction is to be offered, it should be provided before or after school and not as an interruption to the already crowded curriculum. Further, legislation which allows selected Bible  lessons  by teachers during school hours should also be repealed.

Organisations offering religious instruction, chaplaincy services or spiritual or philosophical programs in state schools should require the approval of the Director-General of Education. Such organisations should demonstrate that they:

  • are incorporated
  • are able to provide a quality program
  • have procedures in place to monitor staff and any programs provided, and protect student welfare
  • have public liability insurance
  • would not pose a threat to the good order and management of the school.

School chaplains

The presence of religious chaplains in the Queensland public education system is a relatively recent development which significantly exceeds the pre-existing  community-delivered  religious instruction program. Chaplains are not members of staff at schools because they are employed by a separate employer. In Queensland, this is predominately the evangelical Scripture Union. Not being a member of staff creates a number of serious problems in relation to quality  control, accountability, responsibilities, qualifications, professional relationships, etc. Chaplains are appointed on the basis of their personal faith and their affiliation to a particular religion or religious denomination. The main purpose chaplains have for working in schools is to represent and give witness to a particular form of spirituality and to share it with members of the whole school community. In other words, this model has a clear sectarian basis and a clear element of proselytising. School chaplains should be prohibited from actively recruiting students to their particular religion.

QTU position

The QTU opposes the placement of chaplains in state schools, because it considers their involvement in general education, welfare or counselling programs delivered in and under the auspices of public institutions extremely inappropriate, and inconsistent with an open, secular state system serving a multicultural society.

 

NEWS

2015-07-29
2015 Secular Public Education™ and Humanist Society of Queensland secure the release via RTI latest Education Queensland religious instruction participation eligibility figures as per the definitive DETA OneSchool central database. Across Queensland, 388,731 (74%) of the total student population of 526,931 are ineligible by law for placement into Christian religious instruction without written parental/guardian consent.
Data available at DETE website (click)

2014-05-04 Courier Mail
Exempt children still receiving religious instruction in state schools

2013-02-22 Education Queensland
Creationism can be compared with Evolution as a ‘non-scientific theory’ in classrooms

2013-02-04 Qld Studies Authority (QSA)
Creationism can be compared with Evolution as a ‘non-scientific theory’ in classrooms

2013-02-04 ABC RN Life Matters
Creationism in science classes within State schools across Queensland

2012-10-22 ABC Religion & Ethics
Faith in schools: the dismantling of Australia's secular public education system

2012-10-22 ABC Chrys Stevenson
Blow your mind: religion in Australia's 'secular' state schools

2012-10-13 HSQ Brisbane Conference
Separation of Church and State Schools - Time for reform in Queensland? a success

2012-10-13 Queensland Courier Mail
Queensland Teachers' Union questions role of chaplains in state schools

2011-08-13 ABC TV NEWS
Education Queensland defends NSCP chaplain organising Creation Science lecture

2010-08-01 Queensland Sunday Mail
Creationists hijack lessons and teach kids man and dinosaurs walked together

 

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