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Copeland: Islamic prayer room has tenuous hold

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Copeland: Islamic prayer room has tenuous hold

United Future's Gordon Copeland says New Zealanders ought to be concerned that Education Minister Trevor Mallard today confirmed that the Islamic prayer room, constructed at Christchurch's Hagley High School two years ago, will only remain at the whim of each future board of trustees.

"We have a substantial bricks-and-mortar investment that can be overturned at the whim of the next board of trustees with complete disregard for the wishes of members of a school community," Mr Copeland said in comparing the prayer room with the ongoing dispute over Christian Kids Klub lunchtime classes at Wellington's Seatoun School.

The latter school's board of trustees has moved to end the lunch hour sessions that take place with the explicit approval of each child's parents, and despite a "categorical and unambiguous" legal opinion from former prime minister and top lawyer Sir Geoffrey Palmer that the board is acting in breach of its legal requirements.

Mr Copeland said he was also surprised and disappointed that Mr Mallard had not read the legal opinion on the Seatoun School issue some two weeks after he had provided it to him.

"Clearly the Minister is content to sit idly by and ignore a debate that is about tolerance in our society and our schools," he said. "Parents and students deserve a Minister of Education taking considerably more interest than that."

ENDS

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