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HRC to Intervene in Bible in Schools Case

Human Rights Commission Prepares to Intervene in Bible in Schools Case

by David Hines, PRO, Secular Education Network August 1 2015 3.35pm

The Human Rights Commission is preparing to intervene in a Bible in Schools case in the High Court in Auckland, and this could even up the odds in what was shaping up to be a David v Goliath battle.

The Commission has formally applied to the court for a copy of the main documents and says: “these proceedings may have important implications for human rights law in New Zealand. It says “the provision of religious education in New Zealand state schools engages the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, under section 13 (of) the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990…”

The case is being brought by Jeff McClintock against:

• the Attorney General

• the Ministry of Education

• the Red Beach School trustees.

• And the Churches Education Commission has also been given the right to give evidence.

But the Human Rights Commission says it too has rights to intervene in Court proceedings, as part of its duty to advocate and promote human rights. It’s waiting to see the documents before it decides whether it will seek to intervene, but its application refers to section 5(2)(a) of the Human Rights Act, which says it may apply to be appointed as intervener or counsel assisting the court. And it may report to the Prime Minister on any matter including the desirability of legislative or other action.

Secular Education Network spokesperson David Hines welcomes the Human Rights Commission’s interest, and says McClintock was already describing it as a David and Goliath fight, but this could even things up.

“It could give Jeff a few extra rocks for his sling.”

The next court action will be a case management conference, set for August 12. This is expected to put the case in the queue for a substantive hearing, which could be some time in September.

It could also make decisions about:

• whether to provide case documents to the Human Rights Commission

• whether to make an order that the Churches of Education Commission must provide copies of its teaching material and details of which schools it is working in. McClintock’s counsel Richard Francois asked for this but CEC refused.


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