With interfaith leaders like David Schütz, who needs fundamentalists?

I know nothing!

Just like his sound alike character in the movie Hogan’s Heroes, who can be persuaded of anything, David Schütz ( no relation to Sgt. Schültz), comically labors against his own interests, by barracking for policy which is about segregating children according to their faith.

Taking  to his blog to side with ACCESS ministry and echo the reprehensible talking points that it is somehow “anti Christian” to defend a secular system of education, David Schütz pretty much manages to shoot himself in the foot and worse, expose the shortsightedness of the entire interfaith movement in general.

It never ceases to amaze us how people of so many different creeds can live in peace successfully under the banner of secularism, and yet that banner is continually assaulted by those who benefit most from what it stands for.

David Schütz, however does get some things right, he deserves credit for admitting what “Special Religious Instruction” is – and why he demands that it remain in our schools.  It turns out that is isn’t about understanding the biblical allusions in Shakespeare, or in giving children some background in the values of our culture.

He states:

 There is no real reason why education in this country had to end up a secular affair. That is the way it happened, but it happened because the State struck a deal with the Churches: support State provided, secular education, and we will allow you to have access for half an hour every week to catechise the children of your flock.

Let’s break that down.

First, keep in mind, who is speaking.  This is Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne – and he is also the Secretary of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Austraila.  These aren’t the policies of those groups, but rather the thoughts of one of the leaders of these groups – not random musings from the o’sphere.

Not only are his comments about the history of this colony and the important role that secularism has played in “interfaith” relations lamentably wrong, he clearly is saying that SRI is a grant from the state to the church to “catechise” “their” children – and was given to “the church” in exchange for their agreeing to allow public education to exist in the first place.

Public Education was not “granted by the church” in exchange for ANYTHING.  It was fought for by a progressive citizenry, and voted in over the explicit objections of clergymen, who it should be clearly stated, would rather their flock was kept illiterate and penned in, than free to make up their own minds about revelation and church dogma.

News Flash:  1872.  Victoria had Australia’s first, “secular” public education act – and it was in no way a gift from churches, and there was no “quid pro quo” – and there was no SRI – secular meant “no religious teaching in the schools” and “no clergy as teachers”.  State teachers did not then, nor will they now, catechise children.

The current “SRI” policy was started during the cold war, in 1950, and it is written into the law as an “exception” to the very principles upon which “public education” was founded.

However, the fact that David Schütz, wants to say it happened otherwise, and wants it to be this way now, reveals precisely why the interests of religious activists is so odious.

FIRIS is not saying that families should not pursue catechism for their children – we are saying that the schools should not place catechism in the school day and then say to parents that “anyone who doesn’t wish for this kind of instruction please let the teacher or principal know and your child will be excused”.

There was no “deal” of the kind imagined by David Schütz.

What is worse, is that we have a perfectly good model for “interfaith cooperation” it is called “the secular principle” – which means that all children in Victoria’s schools shall be treated equally, regardless of what claims David Schütz, and others working in various churches claim as rights over children whom they presume to brand as “their flock”.

This is the whole point – and the real tragedy is that interfaith leaders like David Schütz, seem to deny that treating children equally is the best way for them to be equal.  No parent, no family in Australia lacks for access to the religious community of their choosing.

What we will not abide, is what we have now – church activists, claiming they own part of the school day and using the authority of the Minister of Education to impose dogmantic, sectarian religious instruction (to catechise children) and furthermore require those who don’t want it to sit quietly in the corner.

It is absurd to claim that SRI ensures a “level playing field” – it is an unmitigated and unashamed assault on the level playing field.  The level playing field is called “secularism” and what David Schütz, and his fellow travelers are advocating, is, as the Dean of Melbourne’s School of Theology says, “The Revival of Sectarianism“.

They should be soundly rebuked both for forgetting the role that secularism has played in their own religious freedom, but also for their mendacity in this discussion.

Treating children equally and not dividing them into “flocks” is not an assault on religious freedom … State Schools are not Church Playgrounds.