Regular readers of this site will know that FIRIS has been forced to take on an aggressive tone and launch a campaign to defend our children and reform the current SRI policy.
We tried being reasonable and we tried discussing the problems in a precatory manner assuming the system would respond to reason and common sense, it hasn’t and we were ignored with pro-forma nonsense letters that didn’t respond to our points.
The next tactic was to use the courts, and that process is wending its way through the legal system, carried on the backs of a few brave, if scared families who are facing a cashed up band of angry religious nationalists.
The conversation we are now having is via a free press.  When we want to talk to the minister of education, we host that conversation on the 7:30 news, we talk to the public via the news papers, and radio – in short, we are heard because we are speaking in an effective audible tone of voice, that can’t be ignored.
Our opponent wants to use the schools as a “mission field”, and is full of self righteousness that leads them to see this as an accepted use of education, they are a state funded parachurch ministry who have a $12 million budget and thousands of volunteers and full time staff.  They even have a fax machine and a network to “get the word out”.  They feel they are “god’s presence” and they feel that they can pray to the creator of the universe to help them get their way.



What they don’t have however is the truth, or a good argument.  So they are going to distort the truth and use bad arguments.
Shortly after we embarked on our 3 pronged strategy, Barney Zwartz, the religion writer at the AGE said prophetically, that our opponents are “doomed to loose”.  Sadly this fact has not dawned on ACCESS Ministries, who feel they are fighting for their lives.  They will go on fighting and dissembling till the money runs out, or till the legal system makes them, or until the politicians grow a spine and do the right thing.
Despite all this, factions who oppose the aims of FIRIS, are loosing.  You know that you have advanced when your opponent changes talking points and rolls out new answers.
A new raft of talking points have been released by ACCESS Ministries and there are a few that we are going to hear over and over and over again, so it bears explaining how to defend ourselves and our children from them.
The first talking point is that what ACCESS does is “non dogmatic”.  Most people think this makes sense because the word “dogma” is out of favor in our language.  No one likes being called “dogmatic”.  It means that one’s opinions are not open for revision or appeal from facts or evidence.
The curriculum that ACCESS Ministries teaches, is absolutely dogmatic.  It is designed to inculcate a set of religious beliefs which are all based on “dogma”.  You can just open up the SRI curriculum take out a highlighter and mark off the “dogma” contained there in.   The problem is that there is no Christianity, no “creed” without dogma.  The creed is what a religion believes and the creed is dogma.  So ACCESS can’t teach a “non dogmatic” Christian Instruction class, its a logical impossibility.
The next talking point is that ACCESS don’t “proselytise”.  Again, we have a language problem going on.  The term proselytise means to bring someone to belief or to convert them to a belief.  Every SRI class is designed to proselytise – now of course this design does not employ “force” or intimidation or unacceptable forms of coercion.  It simply involves a volunteer from a local church going into a classrooms and reading the dogmatic curriculum and telling stories and leading children in prayer.  The whole point of doing this is “to proselytise”.  The reason that volunteers do this and not teachers is because teachers won’t teach dogmas and they won’t proselytise – to get around this refusal on the part of the teaching profession, ACCESS ministry has lobbied the department of education to create this crazy system where volunteers organized by clergy go it and the teachers have to stand there and watch, because the Minister of Education (their boss) says they do!  The AEU however has said in no uncertain terms that they don’t like this and want it to stop.
So when you hear these talking points just stop the conversation because if you accept that ACCESS isn’t teaching “dogma” and if we accept that they aren’t proselytising, then we have nothing to complain about.  If they are just friendly people out to encourage good values and to help out our schools and teachers, then we are jerks.
FIRIS is advocating for children to learn about religion(s) and to have our teaching profession do the job responsibly to the standards of all other subjects.  What ACCESS wants is the right to conduct dogmatic religious instruction and to proselytise to children who are very young.
Remember they don’t want the freedom to practice their religion, they want the freedom to proselytise to other people’s children and they want other people to stand up and “opt out” of this practice if they object because they know that if they run a program that is voluntary or requires some positive effort on the part of participants, that there will be fewer children to proselytise.
ACCESS can’t tell the truth and they want to do something while telling you that they aren’t doing it.
They want to instruct children in religion (ie teach Special Religious Instruction) without telling you that this means giving “dogmatic instruction”.
They want to proselytise and excuse this unwelcome behavior by telling you that they aren’t doing via coercion.
Go look up proselytise in the OED … you won’t find the term “coerce”, that is because the word proselytise simply means to encourage or induce a person to convert – and while ACCESS may not be able to claim that they are successfully doing that, and when they do threaten children with hell or some other scary idea, they can genuinely say that they aren’t supposed to do that.  As Bishop Hale has said many times, they are involved in a balancing act.
Teachers however are not treading a fine line between right and wrong.  The whole enterprise of SRI is treading the line.
The big tell came last week when ACCESS sent a letter to all the Chaplains working under the NSCP – and reminding them not to teach SRI.
Why?  Because the purpose of SRI is to proselytise, and under the “guidelines” chaplains aren’t supposed to proselytise.