Zac Veron is the CEO of the Youthworks SRE franchise that operates in NSW. He is the Evonne Paddison of NSW. Evonne recently resigned after years of claiming that her organisation, ACCESS Ministries, “did not proselytise”. Evonne made this claim despite also giving this speech, which laid out her strategy to proselytise.
Evonne proved, and Zac Veron seems to be confirming, that the CEO’s of Youth Ministry groups can’t be trusted to account for their true intentions. So while we don’t yet have a tape of Zac Veron blatantly articulating how his ministry group seeks lost youth whose parents can not be trusted to raise them in his religion, we will just have to trust that he’s not trying to deceive anyone.
Having changed the terms on which SRI operates in Victoria, FIRIS has recently expanded the scope of its campaign to change the landscape for SRE in NSW and because of this, Zac Veron has to address the issues surrounding the policy in NSW against a highly effective FIRIS campaign, which has as its core tool: honesty. We simply show what SRE is, how it works and tell why it should not be in schools.
Zac Veron is correct that one of our core messages is that SRE/SRI is proselytising. The campaign has now moved into the phase where the CEO’s of Ministry groups like Zac, stand up to deny that they exist to proselytise.
In his latest blog post, Rev. Veron has taken to the web to argue in effect that:
1. Youthworks don’t proselytise by calling for conversions in class, but when they do, (ie when FIRIS catches them out) its not their fault, it is a mistake, because (start over at beginning of sentence). Zac is in essence saying that his classes don’t involve “pressure” to convert.
2. Youthworks exists to instruct children in faith (and the law makes this legal for them to do inside our schools), which makes what they do instruction which is not proselytising, because the people in SRE classes have chosen to sign up for this program, hence they are not being converted, they are being instructed in their chosen religion.
In essence, what Zac is saying is that his lessons are “for Christians”, so don’t be offended if your child is woken at night with nightmares about being a sinner, because – Zac isn’t responsible for “what is in the bible”, and he essentially defines away proselytising by using it to mean “coerce” or “pressure” in a way that is outside of the kinds of coercion or pressure which he designates as “acceptable”.
Read Zac’s piece here:
Lately he, like Rob Ward of ACCESS Ministry have been thanking FIRIS for helping them clean up the SRE/SRI program, which they swear they have all along been wanting to see improved. It has just been providence that the FIRIS campaign has been ordained to create the conditions under which their improvements can take place.
We at FIRIS are grateful for this kind recognition of our role in helping tighten the ship of SRE/SRI.
It is in that spirit then that we offer this challenge to Rev. Veron. Since you forthrightly state in your essay that:
[Youthworks] educates students in the Christian faith by teaching biblical truths such as universal sin and that Jesus the Son of God became flesh and reconciled us to God through his death and resurrection.
We would like to ask that this “purpose” is clearly communicated to parents in your sign up and promotional materials.
If you are sincere about only wanting families who approve and fully understand what you do, to take your classes, why not use language substantially like the above when recruiting for participants and when marketing your program?
We think you avoid doing this. For an example of the kind of information that is used to market SRE to parents, see this, from the “overview” page from the YouthWorks website. Here you will find words like “ethical”, “holistic”, “moral”, “nurturing”, and “faith”. What you will not find are words like “sin”, “death”, “resurrection”, and “biblical truth”.
While you are correct in asserting that the law in NSW provides you legal access to schools to instruct children in the tenets and beliefs of your religion – when presenting this to parents, you always choose to phrase things in ways which we assert are intended to conceal your plain motives and the simple meaning of your program. To answer the question, “are (Christians) being dodgy? The answer is “yes”, because you are choosing to speak in terms that make your program seem like something it is not: “holistic”, “ethical”, “moral”, “nurturing” and above all “inquiry” based. You use terms like “help children explore the gospel for meaning”, when in fact your program is “catechetical”.
Context in this situation is everything – and what is going on in NSW, as it was going on in Victoria, is that Zac Veron, and YouthWorks seek to hijack the education system of NSW to run a youth ministry inside of a period of time when children are compelled by law to be present in the school. They then carefully manipulate their “pitch” to the captive audience, knowingly avoiding the plain theological implications of their instruction to make catechetical instruction seem like some kind of inquiry based learning that is consistent with what parents expect inside a state primary school.
This is why it is easy to spot the difference between Zac Veron says in his defense of SRE in response to FIRIS, and what Zac Veron says to parents who ask “so what is SRE”.
Rev. Veron, nothing is stopping you from being forthright and direct with parents, and from the words you’ve written in your essay, it is plain that there is language that we can both agree on to describe your agenda. Now all you have to do is use those words when speaking to parents about what they are signing up for.
It is a simple matter to speak plainly and in clear language. See, we think that the entire reason why you demand legislation to be in our schools in the first place is because you are a missionary organisation and you are seeking out converts among other people’s children. That is why SRE instructors describe your program as a “mission field” to be taken advantage of.
If you really only intend to educate children whose families choose for them to take SRE, why not be honest with parents?