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Educational Zealots Ban School Prayers

25 August 2006

Educational Zealots Ban School Prayers

“Ministry of Education officials who appear to be determined to eradicate the last vestiges of Judaeo-Christian religious influence in our schools have lost the plot in their latest attempts to ban all forms of religious prayer in primary and intermediate schools,” says Society Vice-President Graham Fox. “They have demonstrated just how out of touch they are with mainstream New Zealanders in their zeal to advance a secular humanist agenda,” he says.

“They appeal to the Bill of Rights Act 1990 and The Human Rights Act 1993 as providing support for the "guidelines" they intend to issue to school administrators, claiming that their advice is designed to ensure that schools uphold the 1964 Education Act that makes religious education and observance illegal in primary and intermediate schools' during normal hours.

They point out that since the Education Act of 1877 came into force defining education as “secular”, such religious activities have only been able to take place on a voluntary basis, when normal classes are closed,” says Fox. “However, the term “secular” as used in the Act must be considered in the context of the time period the statute was passed: meaning that which does not favour one particular (denominational) religion over another.

It does not carry the meaning of “Godless” embodied in the godless tenets of secular humanism. The secular clause in the Act is there to prevent instruction in and observance of a particular (denominational) religious dogma and the Act was never intended to stifle the religious expressions of staff or students. New Zealand has a rich cultural fabric and religious history nurtured by and based largely on the dominant Judaeo-Christian world-view which these self-appointed ‘Thought Police’ wish to eradicate,” argues Fox

Right across the board Ministry officials want to reverse the long-standing educational principal of ‘opting-out’ of events that involve religious components to one of ‘opting-in’. Furthermore, they insist that the law requires formal notification to be given by schools to all parents, in advance of any event involving a “religious” element, and that schools must be technically “closed” for the duration of any such event.

It would be “inappropriate to deliver the Lord’s Prayer in any language at any school function says Education Ministry manager Martin Connelly. He told a parliamentary committee that in most circumstances prayers and Christian-based karakia also breached the law and that the Ministry’s forthcoming “guidelines” would remind schools of that. Non-Christian karakia are lawful in his view because they are “spiritual”, not “religious”.

He issued a veiled threat to school administrators who might choose to ignore his Ministry’s guidelines: they would be investigated by the Human Rights Commissions once complaints against them had been laid.

Judging from his statements the Society wonders if he and his officials have properly thought through the implications of the Ministry "guidelines". As Connelly explained, the “guidelines” require school administrators to contact the parents or guardians of every child seeking their written permission before children can ever sing, listen to, or discuss Our National Anthem "God Defend New Zealand". Christian hymns, Christmas carols, spiritual songs, including negro spirituals, Bible readings and any other "religious” expression would have to be banned for all primary and intermediate school.

The ban could only be lifted if all parents had in advance of the event, received permission slips and had the opportunity to “opt-in” their children. Alternative supervised events for those who wished to “opt-out” would have to be in place before any such event could ever take place.

Long-term planning would have to precede every event containing a "religious" component to ensure that the new draconian PC- "guidelines" are closely adhered to. If schools failed to adhere to the “guidelines”, students, parents or staff could very easily have a basis for laying a complaint with the Human Rights Commission provoking these secular Pharisees into legal action. “As with the Pharisees of old, they pervert the meaning of the law to advance their own self-serving prejudices.

Parents' wishes and community standards are irrelevant to them because they have the power to enforce their own agenda. We have seen what has happened in the United States when these types have their way. We would not like to see a similar thing happen here,” says Fox.


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