Thursday March 08, 2012
Media Release

FIRIS calls terms for NSW ethics alternative unethical

Parents in Victoria are cautioning against the practical limitations that have emerged from the latest hurdle that the NSW Ethics trial has been forced to overcome as the finding of a parliamentary inquiry are released.  FIRIS is urging NSW parents to question the compromise agreed to in order to secure a way for kids to opt out of youth ministry permitted in the state schools.

While the battle for ethics has been hard fought, the political and church opponents of the ethics solution have forced conditions on NSW parents that make the solution difficult to implement and unsustainable.   After waiting ten years for action, parents in NSW are now potentially celebrating a Pyrrhic victory.  The concessions that have been made to accomplish this victory are a great source of comfort for the child evangelists in NSW – who know that in most cases, ethics will never make it into the schools because finding volunteers to coordinate and teach ethics is going to be an ongoing struggle.

parent run campaign in Victoria has chosen to deal differently with the problem of segregation caused when church ministries are invited into schools.  FIRIS is not seeking to find a group of volunteers to bring ethics in order to find a solution.  If religion is to be taught in schools it must be done to the same educational and professional standards as we expect in every area of the curriculum.

The FIRIS campaign has attracted the support of the teachers union, and notable clergy, as well as leading child welfare experts and offers a contrasting approach to what has been happening in NSW.

Volunteers should not be doing ministry in schools, and parents should not have to go round up volunteers to teach ethics to find relief from a bad policy that has nothing to do with what children should be learning in school.

Victorian parents have taken the view that families who want religious instruction should do what people across the free world do and join a congregation, temple, synagogue or mosque, and these institutions should stop demanding that the minister of education cater to them, via the legislature.  Churches in Australia, have exploited a loophole in 19th century law that is anachronistic in modern day context and we believe is unlawful under anti-discrimination laws.

The attempted compromise in NSW, while apparently allowing children to undertake ethics classes and so escape religious indoctrination by untrained volunteers, fails to deal with the fact that segregating children under the current system according to religion is wrong.

Independent experts in religious education have called the NSW system a “sham”, and testified that in the quest to find a politically “acceptable” solution, that a discriminatory, unaccountable, segregating system of voluntary Religious Instruction is being perpetuated.

FIRIS believes that there is simply is no place in a modern education system for child evangelism, it is obsolete, against the principles of education and should take place in a religious community in a family context, not a state school.  Why should any teacher be asked to stand aside when obviously evangelically motivated volunteers have a go at preppies in our schools?

If the system in NSW is to persist, FIRIS believes that it can not be run by volunteers, it must be part of the actual offering of the schools and the teachers in NSW should present the alternative.  Ethics is not religion, and therefore teachers are not prevented from presenting instruction in it.

If the parents in NSW can not count on their elected leaders to protect them from child evangelism run by non educational groups with hip names like “Gener8 Ministry” – the best way forward would be to question the restriction that teachers can not teach ethics.  Churches in NSW fought the P&C’s in NSW with everything they had and they lost, now parents are entitled to what the legislation says they can have, if the NSW ethics solution is going to stay, it should be run by paid teachers and the schools, not by more volunteers.

Parents in NSW should be asking, did we really just go though all that to now have to wait for a non profit group to organize volunteers to teach ethics, and if so, is this what we really wanted?

FIRIS is available for comment 

The Siege of Sparta - Phyrrus