Religious instruction materials being used in Queensland public schools face review after claims that one school’s program was “soliciting” students to Christianity.
Windsor State School, located in Brisbane, suspended its religious instruction classes after discovering its ‘Connect’ syllabus taught students that “every single person has sinned and rejected God and deserves to be punished”.
In a letter to parents, the school’s principal, Mathew Keong, said he had suspended religious instruction classes after reviewing the syllabus, adding that the materials “go beyond imparting knowledge of Biblical references”.
“Religious instruction policy defines proselytising as ‘soliciting a student for a decision to change their religion's affiliation’. Solicit by its ordinary meaning is to ask for, to try to obtain, to persuade, to seek, to influence and express the need or desire,” Keong wrote.
“Connect's lesson materials go beyond imparting knowledge of Biblical references, and extend to soliciting children to develop a personal faith in God and Jesus to become a Christian or ‘Kingdom Kid’.
“In the teachers' manuals, the Connect authors remind instructors that most of their audience is not yet Christian, and the whole program appears to be based on that premise of trying to solicit them for a decision to become the kind of Christian prescribed in the materials.”
Queensland Education Minister, Kate Jones, has now ordered a review of the Connect program’s use across the state.
“We have guidelines in place for religious instruction in state schools for a reason, and it's concerning to me that any materials are being taught outside of those guidelines,” she said in a statement.
“That's why I have asked the department to review the Connect materials. If it is found these materials are outside the guidelines we will remove it from all state schools.”
Stake holders ‘not included’ in review
However, Paul Clark, the spokesman for the Queensland Christian Religious Instruction Network, told The Brisbane Times he was disappointed that “the decision of one principal in one school” had led to what he felt was an unwarranted review.
“We're a little disappointed that the decision of one principal, in one school, that independent legal advice clearly shows is a mistake, is somehow precipitating a ‘review’ and media attention, without the stake holders - all the providers of RI represented by RIQA [Religious Instruction Quality Assurance - Christian, Muslim, Bahai, Buddhist, etc] - being informed or included”, he said.
“We're comforted to know that the RI regulations/guidelines are very clear, and that the Government, DET and RIQA always work together well to ensure RI is done according to the guidelines.”
Clark said he was confident that “cooler heads” would prevail to resolve the issue in the coming weeks.