There has been a lot of traffic on this site about the question of FIRIS’s opposition to the idea that “Ethics” is a workable or principled response to the problems caused in our school by SRI.

We’ve discussed specifically the reproof that FIRIS’s position is too hard line, not reasonable, unrealistic, out of touch, my way or the highway, etc … regarding the question of whether the decade long effort in NSW to get an alternative to SRI introduced as an alternative/complement (the law ended up calling it an alternative) to “scripture”.

Largely this debate has turned on the idea that “change in legislation is impossible” or “will take too long”.

Rather than the substance or the principle of the issues themselves – our allies – who strongly advocate church state separation and who strongly identify with the moral purpose of a “secular society” feel that the current policy path is a kind of “best of all practical” worlds.

The reason the debate is worth having however turns on the question of whether the policy of having a “secular” form of SRI addresses the problems with SRI/SRE in the first place – FIRIS believes that it does not – and we go further to argue that “Ethics” validates and secures the practice of “child evangelism” (aka SRI/SRE) in our schools.

It was with some appreciation then that a very thoughtful participant in this conversation, Neil Murhead left the following comment:

After thinking long and hard about these issues and taking on board what everyone else has said I have changed my mind about the ethics classes in NSW. While it may be great for some students to have this option I can see that by introducing the program the NSW government effectively snookered the opponents of SRI, and those opponents who accepted the program snookered themselves. The govt and the evangelical SRI providers can now simply argue that there can no longer be any legitimate argument against SRI because they have accepted a secular alternative. I have always totally supported FIRIS’s position that SRI has no place in our state schools. And I agree with Lisel as well. I only posted my first comment mainly to object to the accusation that the SPA is somewhat less than totally opposed to SRI.


It is gratifying to have the participation of people who are capable of changing their minds.  I must admit I’ve been of various minds about this, and like Neil have come to realize what must happen, and why what is happening in NSW is the opposite of what we want to have happen.  We all have.  I did not mean to suggest these issues were obvious or simple.

If we are going to change this policy, and we are going to change this policy, we must agree to pursue change based on principle, not political calculation – because this matter is one of principle.  Not all political matters carry the weight of principle, and in these compromise is a virtue, and moderation and accommodation are often praiseworthy – however, when it comes to the segregation and human rights of children and families over religion in matters related to the foundational principles of public education, we throw away our principles at great peril.

No one I’m aware of at FIRIS made any comments on the policies of the SPA – we only responded to the accusation that the aims of FIRIS were unrealistic, politically unattainable, and uncompromising – and more to the point to the idea that support for Ethics in NSW was moving us in the “right direction”.

It is not in anyway moving us in the right direction – it is political calculation that leads to the permanent imposition of an unacceptable imposition on our basic rights.