Some of you may be seeking to keep up with the inaccessibility of ACCESS Ministries, particularly apropos the lack of alternatives or compromise to what is offered under Religious Instruction. Their quite absolutist affirmation on the ACCESS Ministries site, includes:

– God’s concern for the whole person in context of his or her being in relation with others and the world, and that God is concerned that justice and mercy form the hallmarks of society
– The redemptive presence of God in the world, and ACCESS ministries personnel, along with other Christians, form part of God’s presence in the school
– That the Christian tradition recognises the educative and pastoral needs of people and that these needs are to be respectfully and educationally addressed

ACCESS have adorned themselves with a mantle that must challenge the composure of any thinking person. ACCESS ministries personnel, along with other Christians, form part of God’s presence in the school gives the stamp of divinity to potentially absurd notions dreamed up by eager converts with two days training.

Finally, “recognising educational and pastoral needs…. [so that] …. “these needs are to be respectfully and educationally addressed” is at present being challenged, across the media, in The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, across the community, within the education system and in many households scattered around our Fair Go nation.

Speaking of a “fair go”, many of you will have heard Evonne Paddison selling her “Don’t shoot the messenger…. only following orders…. “, line;

“Christianity is not the only faith group represented. By law, all recognised religions have equal opportunity to present classes. The genius of the Victorian system is that the current spread of religious instruction programs reflects the religious demographics of our society with Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Baha’i, Greek Orthodox, Islam and Hindu faith groups all participating.” [Source]

The Gospel according to Evonne Paddison is unusually self-serving. Input from other religious identities and critical thinkers is long, long overdue.

Anger at schools’ Christian “bias”

Michael Bachelard April 10th, 2011

BUDDHIST community leader Dr Sue Smith has complained of the ”Christian bias” in religious education in Victoria, saying if her group had access to government funding, they too could expand to hundreds of schools.

And social commentator and Muslim Waleed Aly said it was a ”logical necessity” to ”get proselytisation out of the classroom”.

Public debate on the issue was sparked by a Sunday Age revelation that the Education Department was forcing schools to host Christian religious education whether they wanted to or not.

It took a new turn last week when state Education Minister Martin Dixon granted $200,000 in extra funding to Christian religious education provider Access Ministries to improve its training.

Mr Dixon, a Catholic, said that despite the controversy he had no intention of reviewing the system.

The move sparked anger yesterday from groups representing other religions, who said Mr Dixon had not consulted them.

”We were requesting a meeting with the minister and have not even received a reply,” said Anna Halaffof of the Religion, Ethics and Education Network Australia, which promotes religious tolerance and respect.

”Instead he made a decision to support Access without doing any community consultation.”

Access is the only religious instruction provider that receives government funding, and only Christian religious education is given to children as a default if their parents forget to opt out.

The leaders of Access Ministries say their syllabus gives children an introduction to spirituality and values, and they insist that they do not proselytise.

Mr Aly asked whether ”the providers of Christian education feel equally comfortable if the religious education spot were handed over instead to Jewish teachers, or Buddhist teachers or, shock horror, Muslim teachers?

”If they’re not comfortable in that, then it’s clear that there’s a bias in the teaching that they would wish to preserve.”

He said children in state schools should be taught about all religions.

Dr Smith said Buddhist education was offered in 14 Victorian schools, but did not have the advantages enjoyed by the Christians, who teach 96 per cent of all religious education.

”There is definitely a funding bias … Ours is funded by volunteers and donations,” she said.

She said half the children attending Buddhist classes came from other religious traditions, but their parents were keen for them to experience their world view.

If they had the resources, ”I am confident that we could be in hundreds of schools”.

Scott Hedges, a parent involved with the ”Fairness in Religions in School” grassroots campaign, said that the Christianity taught in his daughter’s Hawthorn school was missionary in nature.

”The only difference between my daughter’s class and an African village to these people is that we have cleaner water and shoes.”

© The Age, Sunday April 10th, 2011.