All posts by Scott

A response to Vickie Janson – who is worried about having to approve of teh gay.

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Little did I know when I got involved in the “FIRIS Campaign” that I’d be asked to comment on issues related to homosexuality or chaplains, neither of which have much if anything to do with the campaign issues mapped out by FIRIS.  Nevertheless, as Peter Sherlock, Dean of Divinity points out in his piece I agree with, it has been hard to avoid discussion of these issues for several reasons, first is as Sherlock says:

This is largely due to the fact that the same organisations are often running dual programs, coordinating the training and placement of both school chaplains and special religious instruction volunteers.

This is especially the case in Victoria, where FIRIS is based, where ACCESS Ministries especially never discusses one program without linking to the other.  To them, both are different sides of the same coin, and according to them, the coin is “God’s presence in our state schools”.

ACCESS Ministries also was the group that accredited the volunteers in Torquay, which handed out “Biblezines” which had very little to do with treating the bible as a means of learning Shakespeare, but did contain some advice on “How to attract Godly Girls”, while also avoiding “teh Gay”.  (they said sorry and it was an accident).

tehgay

The other reason however is that a group which opposes chaplains in state schools, have chosen to pursue the Queensland Chaplain provider into the High Court, and although this case merely opposes the means though which the funding arrives at the various parachurch group’s offices,  like the dog who chased the car, and caught it, they’ve won … and so now people want to know “what does FIRIS think of this”?   No one I have talked to seems to have a dog in the fight between the power of the Commonwealth vs. the States, and no one even seems to want to talk about this issue, however, because the court case is about funding “Chaplains” … we’re NOW talking about it.  If you raise this with some, especially with people who strongly associate with “atheism”, they get all sun tzu, on you, and explain how this is all part of a grand strategy and that by attacking they way we pay chaplains will lead to an end of Chaplains!  (I personally don’t buy this) but you can’t reason with people who wrote the book on “reason”.

In fact the more engaged I’ve gotten with “religion in schools” the more it seems that its the religious people who are making the case against Religion in Schools, while the “Scarlet A Crowd” seems to just want to “win” … regardless of the costs, or the means.  Even if the costs are making sure they are seen as exactly what people say when then want to insult them.

atheism

Personally, I am in favor of an Australia made up of many religions (including nones), but I also feel that it is incumbent on us to avoid fusing religion and politics, as well as claiming for ourselves, what we would wish to deny others.  Religion, has always made for compelling politics, especially when it is used to assure its advocates of their superiority.  This sense of having “god on our side” is unmistakably the case with a group which calls itself the “Australian Christians”.  This group, with apparently no sense of history, asserts that “The Bible” is an indispensable tool of Government, and they use terms like “unapologetic” for these “values”.  They use terms like “Judeo-Christian” and apparently they have confused the narrative of “Smurfville” with “western history” and they imagine that their “Judeo-Christian” heritage ™ is an infallible guide to setting up a great culture.

vickiandfred

Recently, FIRIS has become a target of their ire, because of comments I’ve made about the incompatibility of the Chaplain Programme and SafeSchools Coalition.

I have called on the former to endorse the latter, to prove the sincerity of the former’s claim to support all people equally.

It seems worth responding, in a “point by point” fashion to Vickie Janson’s arguments, if only to show that these points are, well, wrong.

Jansen’s comments are in GREEN
It looks like FIRIS – those claiming to be advocates for ‘Fairness in Religions in Schools’ – are once again displaying their lack of fair play by suggesting that the welfare of gay pupils is ‘irreconcilable with the chaplaincy scheme’.

It would of course be easy to address this, and reconcile the two, but this I fear isn’t something that the groups presently under state contract to provide Chaplains want.

Imagine that; this is suggesting that only people who share the same ideas and worldview can be empathetic and provide comfort and assistance to hurting people of different views. Does that mean a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or other faith based worldview puts a pupil ‘at risk’ from a secular student welfare worker?

This is not true at all, and in our culture, it is trivally easy to find people giving each other assistance and comfort in spite of, or better put, irregardless of their “world views”.  Please visit, for example, the Alfred Hospital, and you will see people of all different faiths helping and comforting each other.  The basis for this cooperation is “secular”.  Visit a large important corporation, for example, Kraft Foods, and go see where Vegemite is made.  Mates, from all different faiths, all working and helping and comforting each other – again specifically because they separate their work, and their faith.  I could go on, but if you haven’t gotten around to say, Errol St. Primary, where there are 58 nationalities and God knows how many religions … that laughter and sense of joy is real.  Its also “secular”.

FIRIS Co-founder Scott Hedges acknowledges that the ‘Safe Schools program’ to be rolled out on Friday is ‘affirming the normality and acceptability of homosexuality’

Check, you are correct, add “legality” to really underscore the moral weight of what this means.  (h/t Rodney Croome)

and quite clearly any other view held in our diverse community is not to be tolerated.

Here is where she is wrong.  I completely endorse her right to not only not be gay, but to be grossed out by gays.  No one wants to stop her feelings of “yuck”, nor come into her home or office and make her show affection or change her mind about what she thinks her Bible says about gay people.

Quite apart from what FIRIS may consider radical Christians who wish to safeguard the legal possibility for children to have what should be perfectly natural for them – a mum and a dad – one wonders if FIRIS have considered the diversity of so many immigrant communities who call Australia home and choose to hold to these same family values? Do they have a say in what should be affirmed as ‘normal and acceptable’ or will we impose this upon all?

Again, not at all, such views really should disqualify Janson from any role, such as political office which requires “following a train of thought”.

Why must a theological position on homosexuality have to support the view FIRIS holds?

Again, no, theologians are free to interpret the bible to imply just about anything.  The issue isn’t about what you have to “hold” it is what kind of training and qualifications you need to demonstrate to get a job in a role that obligates you to be in a welfare job in a school.  

It is a sad fact highlighted by Hedges that ‘gay pupils are six times more likely to contemplate suicide than their straight peers’ but his suggestion that this relates to being rejected by family, church and society is up for debate. A recent Queensland study by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research andPrevention (AISRAP) found that a leading cause of suicide among “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex” (LGBTI) people is stress from their romantic partners.

I agree, the causes of unacceptable rates of suicide among gay kids are up for debate, but does anyone really think that the argument which Janson supports, which goes something like, “Homosexuality is a sin and is unnatural and is rejected by God” does not bear on this issue?  Even if we allow that it is only one of a suite of complicated factors, is Janson really just waving it away?

Here is a question, if you were going to create a test to determine what factors contribute, what would that test be?  Would you just cherry pick the literature to defend your rejection of the idea that there is no role that “organised religion” plays in this?  What if we asked gay teens what they thought?  Who would you believe?

The study found that “LGBT individuals experienced relationship problems more often” than heterosexuals, “with relationship conflict also being more frequent than in non-LGBT cases.”

“We tend to assume that the psychological distress LGBTI people are often going through is due to family rejection. But it seems that’s not so much the case. The conflict seems to be largely related to relationship problems, with partners,” Dr. Skerrett said.

Jansen is saying here in effect that its gay people who are hurting each other … to which I say, “you bitch”.

In fact, he said, “The numbers are telling us there’s a general acceptance at the family level,” something he said is “great” and “really heartening!”

Yes it is great. Bullying is not something any decent person – be they secular, counsellor, chaplain, leader or mentor of any kind should endorse.

Correct, when we see “bullying” by an individual we can, and do sanction it, but what we are talking about here is people living in a culture, where some people hold up a book and say:
1.  This Book is the final Word
2.  This Book Condemns Homosexuality

Usually what is said in response to pointing this out is something like “Well, I can’t do anything about that, have you read the book”?  The circle, it is closed.

 

But as Melbourne’s Rabbi Cohen once said ‘when a child is bullied because of their obesity, we condemn bullying but it doesn’t follow that we must validate obesity’. That is another discussion.

Vickie Jansen her outs herself again as someone unable to follow logic … in what ways is obesity *not* like being gay?  In what way is obesity *not* like having parents from the Punjab?  Think Vickie … I know you can.

It appears FIRIS is engaged in its own form of bullying to achieve its goal of ridding schools of Christian chaplains. Perhaps same-sex attracted youth feel ‘rejected by religion’ because groups like FIRIS present chaplains as limited in their ability to support youth with suicidal thoughts just because they don’t endorse every behaviour. Goodness – when did we move from validating people as human beings to having to validate every behaviour? Perhaps what we are really at risk of in our schools is being subjected to ‘one world view’ where tolerance isn’t applied to any other.

Specifically what I’ve suggested is a way to “save school chaplains”, by asking them to take action to show that they aren’t hostile to LGBTI (teens) because of their religious orientation or to show that they aren’t lying to us so that they can keep the money they take from us.  I’ve never called for “Chaplains” to be removed from schools because they are anti gay, they in fact claim they’re not.

I’ve called for ACCESS Ministries to demonstrate their commitment to “SafeSchools” by formally endorsing and supporting it.

Jansen can’t quite grasp that this isn’t about forcing compliance with my world view, but instead it is about the proper conditions that accompany terms of employment in the capacity of “welfare worker” in a state school (you have to affirm that you are a Christian to be selected as a Chaplain, per the contract administered by ACCESS Ministries, which is funded by the Commonwealth).

No one is arguing that any component of this job that requires one to perform religious rites or to minister to people according to religious custom, they are simply demanding that we only hire though confessional means administered by ACCESS.

Since we are demanding that these people swear an oath, to get a job, I’d just like to add a stipulation, or some kind of small codicil, that ACCESS would formally reassure us of how they interpret the meaning of the bible on this issue.  Again this has nothing to do with religion, since the role of “Chaplain” is not performing any religious function, its purely a job, in a school, to work with kids at risk.  

Since we are paying them, I want to qualify them by asking them to tell me specifically what they would tell a young person who came to talk about being gay?  Why is that a problem?

Janson is free to reject gay people, ACCESS is free to reject gay people, the blokes down a the pub, they can also reject gay people.

However, with regard to being hired, on a public grant to perform a job, we reserve a right to impose “current ethical standards” … which are based on our current view of right and wrong, not on Janson’s hysterical demands for freedom of conscience on religious grounds.

Janson’s right to assert her religious freedom ends right at the moment she endorses and deposits a cheque to perform a job, funded by the Government.

That is of course, unless and until, she and her fellow Smufs can return our schools to “godly” values, for now, our secular values give us the right to make demands of people who we hire to work as welfare workers in our schools … and personally, I say these welfare workers have to make sure they aren’t telling kids that God rejects them.

A response to Rodney Croome from “one advocate”

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Writing in today’s “ABC Religion and Ethics” website, Rodney Croome offered what I think is an insightful and well considered piece on the subject of School Chaplaincy.

god and gays

I’m going to respond to it here, because the issue of “School Chaplains” is one that gets people worked up, especially atheists who oppose chaplaincy on ideological grounds.

I’m also going to respond because the “one advocate” that he cited as being on record opposing chaplains is me.  Like anyone who agrees to speak to the press, my views run the risk of being transmitted without the benefit of their context.  I was quoted as saying, “the safe schools program and the school chaplaincy program are incompatible”.

I’m going to defend this view here, which is my own view, and not that of FIRIS, but I’m going to post it on FIRIS so hopefully it is considered and added to the discussion.

I agree with Mr. Croome, that I don’t want to be part of an “us or them” narrative.  However, I respectfully suggest that we should not unilaterally declare this a non issue, and that it is (or at least should be) trivially easy to dispense with any claims that there is an incompatibility.

It would be, therefore easy for me to have to admit that “I’m wrong”.

First let me state that the case I’m making is that the “Chaplaincy Program” as it is currently run, is incompatible, not that “Chaplains” are incompatible, because it does not hold the “Chaplaincy Providers” to any standards on this matter, moreover the Chaplaincy Providers themselves seem to believe that they can and should be entitled to a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuality, in part because they are connected to religious groups.

Presently, in Victoria, the Chaplaincy programme is run by ACCESS Ministries who have as far as I can tell, responded to critical media reports by declaring that they have “no position” on homosexuality, but that the 12 churches which govern them, are each entitled to their own views on homosexuality.  

In this case however, I argue that neutrality is not good enough, because the schools have a policy called the “Sexual Diversity in Schools policy and Human Resources Policy on Same-sex Attracted Employees”.

This policy calls for:

School demographic data shows approximately 10 per cent of students are
same-sex attracted, even if they are unidentified. Approaches relevant for this
population can be included within a school’s annual implementation plan
and be recognised within the student wellbeing and engagement areas of the
school’s strategic plan.

So one hand, the schools have a policy to recognise and identify and support, the 10% (approx 30K) gay kids in our schools, yet ACCESS Ministries, who are a contracted service paid for by us, wishes to assert that it does “not stray into the matter”.

Anyone else see an incompatibility here?

My position is that if ACCESS Ministries wants our money, they have to relinquish their entitlement to “not stray into this matter”, because our money comes attached to an expectation that they will live up to the moral standards of our schools.  These include not merely “acceptance” or “toleration” but indeed an affirmation that homosexuality is normal and common, and in the case of those people who are doing “welfare work” an expectation that they will explicitly support “this population”.

I say it would be trivially easy for ACCESS Ministries to clarify this by publishing their strategic plan to support gay kids, one such act might be to endorse “Safe Schools Coalition”, you know like on their letterhead.  Mr. Croome’s experience in Tasmania seems to suggest that parachurch groups can and will sign up to this.  If so:  Everything is Awesome!

However, before we all agree that we’re batting for the same team, it is a fact that at least some of the people who ACCESS represents hold a view, which is easy to find live examples of, that Homosexuality is a “a sin” and therefore wrong, and that they actively declare this, and teach in their churches that being gay is “wrong” and that it violates God’s will.

All ACCESS would have to do, in order to affirm that it supports gay kids is to say, along with its other statements of “belief”, that it rejects the views of its member churches who oppose homosexuality, presumably if some of the people who sit on the board of ACCESS can’t or won’t affirm this, then they are free to go, ACCESS is, after all, a company, being paid by us to deliver welfare services in our schools, it is not a “church”, it is not bound by doctirine.

The issue here is not one of Safe Schools being incompatible with individual chaplains, it is that “safe schools” are incompatible with the doctrines of (at least some of) the churches who control ACCESS Ministries.

First, let me be clear that I have taken no end of grief from people who “oppose chaplains” for not joining the various campaigns against Chaplains, and for being critical of people who do.  FIRIS, moreover, and not only because of my influence, but certainly with my support, has avoided taking policy action against Chaplains.

We have not, however, been able to avoid bringing material to light which reflects badly on the group who hires most of the Chaplains in Victoria:  ACCESS Ministries, who I suggest are more deeply interested in seeing children “brought to faith in Jesus” than they are standing up to that segment of the clergy who preach that “God rejects homosexuality”.

Given the fact that the churches are in large measure responsible for providing a what amounts to an institutional justification for discrimination – we should not hire them on a “don’t ask don’t tell” basis.

ACCESS Ministries could have been at the “Safe Schools Coalition” launch event, one would think that if this was an issue dear to them, that they would have been.  However, as one journalist noted, not only was ACCESS absent, no one from “organised religion” was there to speak in support.  Keep in mind we’re paying for 300 of these people to be in the schools every day, because, we reckon, they know how to help kids.

starktweet

So, no ACCESS Ministries, no one there to speak for the 40% of schools that are run by religious groups, but there was Penny Wong, Scott Ryan, Clem-Newton Brown and Tim Wilson.  So the event was good enough for gay people and people who have to get elected in gay areas … but it was not the kind of place that ACCESS Ministries felt motivated to be seen offering any pastoral care.

Additionally, of these politicians diligently avoided any mention of the fact that the Commonwealth has a massive commitment to fund groups like ACCESS Ministries to do “student welfare work” in schools, but if this group supports “Safe Schools Coalition” none of its members deemed it important to be part of being seen supporting “Safe Schools”.

ACCESS Ministries was not alone in being “un present” or “un supportive” of “Safe Schools Coalition” – no one, as far as I could tell from a major religious body felt it was important enough to get up and reassure kids that this business about being “rejected by God” was wrong.

Lest anyone think I’m being too extreme, let me point out that AFTER the politicians spoke (and quickly left the building) a series of young people got up and spoke.  What they spoke about was what it was like being gay or transgender.  Each of them, at least in passing cited being “rejected on religious grounds” as being a live and real problem.

starktweet2

I think this is case of kids being much more able to speak honestly than adults.

As an adult, I wish to point out that if children are more morally honest and sophisticated than you are … it is probably because you are not being honest with yourself.

I am prepared to recant my statement that “the chaplain program is incompatible with the safe schools programme” as soon as the people who run the chaplain program do more than claim they claim to “not stray into areas of homosexuality”, especially when I can present examples of them standing at a pulpit and doing exactly this.

If “we” and by we, I mean the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, are going to pay for the Chaplains, then we can do more than “hope” (as Mr. Croome says) that “we can turn chaplains into a valuable resource for these students and their families”.

I say we have no need for hope, when we are paying for this service, and people providing this service should not be claiming any “religious exemption” from our moral expectations in this matter.

It might be fine to “hope” that churches in Victoria learn to drop their backward views on Gay people, for people who we hire as chaplains, I’d say we are in a position to make the same demands we make of all employees.

I am sympathetic to the views of Mr. Croome, who is making a point I agree with, we should work with anyone who wants to address the problems, and not assume anything about people just because they are aligned with groups who are known to reject gay people.

So anytime ACCESS wants to do more than deny that it has a position, and do something affirmative, like show up and publicly support Safe Schools Coalition, I’ll reconsider my views on this.

I would however close by reminding Mr. Croome that the expectations one can have of someone who you hire to do a job, is quite different from the expectations you can put on people doing you a favor.  Sure, it would be nice if groups like ACCESS Ministries would support “Safe Schools Coalition” … but if they aren’t, why are we paying them?

ACCESS Ministries uses the word “fact” in an unusual sense. We respond!

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Recently, ACCESS Ministries was features on “A Current Affair”.  If you missed the show it can be seen here:

 

In response, ACCESS Ministries claimed that the reporting was wrong.  It presented what it calls “facts” here.  Below, FIRIS responds to these claims.

Statement of Facts (according to ACCESS Ministries)
Recent media coverage regarding ACCESS ministries has presented information that is simply untrue.

ACCESS ministries (AM) thanks the numerous individuals and organisations that have contacted us seeking clarification and in response, the truth is provided below (and FIRIS has commented so you can decide what is true!):

Claim:
ACCESS ministries enters schools without permission.

ACCESS Fact:
Every accredited AM volunteer has received Departmental approval to deliver our SRI program. No volunteer participates in AM SRI without approval or permission.

YOU DECIDE:
ACCESS Ministries in effect is a “self accrediting” organisation.  When it says its volunteers are approved, it means that it approved its volunteers.  ACCESS claims a “legal right” which is derived from legislation to have a right to enter schools, if it decides it wants to.  FIRIS has documented cases where ACCESS Ministries forces its way, uninvited into a school completely uninvited and against the wishes of the Principal and School Council.  The AEU has voted to remove ACCESS Ministries from our schools.

 

Claim:
ACCESS ministries’ volunteers proselytise during Special Religious Instruction (SRI Classes).

ACCESS Fact:
AM strictly forbids proselytising within schools and all our SRI teachers are clearly instructed that this is the case. All SRI classes must be conducted with a teacher from the school present.

A review commissioned by the then Commonwealth Minister, Peter Garrett, and another conducted by HLB Mann Judd for the State Education Department in 2011, found no evidence of proselytising.

YOU DECIDE:
FIRIS argues that the curriculum that ACCESS uses, “Religion in Life” and that songs that it instructs children to sing are evidence of proselytising.  FIRIS has presented these materials.  Furthermore, independent experts have reviewed the materials that ACCESS uses, and found that they constitute proselytising.  ACCESS continue to dissemble on this important point.  FIRIS is not claiming that ACCESS volunteers “don’t follow the guidelines” we are claiming that what ACCESS claims and what its teaching materials show it is doing are two totally different things.  We’ve presented evidence to support this.  ACCESS continues to simply assert that it does not do what its own CEO plainly said it does.

Furthermore, Peter Garrett himself has recently said the following:

Taking God to School also focuses on the schools chaplains program initiated by the Howard government and continued and enlarged by the Rudd / Gillard governments. I became responsible for this program in 2010, and can confirm Maddox’s fear that the line between chaplains acting to support students in the provision of general pastoral care and proselytising was too easily crossed.

The claims that there is “no evidence” are therefore simply an attempt to avoid the plain facts in this situation and reflect a situation where ACCESS is influencing the policy using its political influence.  All of the actual evidence supports FIRIS.

Claim:
ACCESS ministries receives $21 million of Government funding for SRI.

ACCESS Fact:
State Government funding for SRI runs from July to June of each year. For the 13/14 financial year, $135,000 was received to be used in providing SRI in Victorian Government Schools.

AM receives no money for SRI from the Federal Government.

YOU DECIDE:
In reality, almost all of the funds that ACCESS gets (around $12M annually, are derived from either our schools, or grants it gets from state or federal sources.  FIRIS did not supply the figure reported to ACA, but the # reported is not wrong, as it isn’t clear what time period it refers to.  It is true that ACCESS gets income in 8 figure range from from public funding, or funding based on their control of a franchise given by the government to them.  The claim that they get $135K as they say here, is clearly intended to mislead on this point.

The breakdown is as follows (these %’s are from the last public Annual Report that we have).  The fact is that Church organisations control ACCESS, they don’t actually fund it though.  The amount of money that ACCESS gets from the taxpayer or though the franchise it holds (eg. selling curriculum to the schools who MUST run SRI) is substantial and supports a large publicly funded but completely unaccountable “parachurch” ministry.  The funding that ACCESS gets from the federal government goes directly to pay the overhead and administration costs for ACCESS Ministry.  The CEO of ACCESS therefore is paid by public funds and she administers both SRI & Chaplaincy.   You decide.

accessmoney

Claim:
ACCESS ministries’ SRI volunteers receive 6 to 8 hours of training.

ACCESS Fact:
AM Instructors receive two days initial accreditation training, followed by one term of supervised classroom instruction. They also participate in ongoing professional development, in order to retain their accreditation and enhance their teacher and engagement skills.

YOU DECIDE:
The actual time spent in “training” which, one must understand is given by ACCESS itself to its volunteers, is on the order of 6-8 hours.  It may be true that they distribute this training over two separate days, but by making the claim that volunteers get “two days” of training, implies “two 8 hours blocks of time” … this is false.  A person in Victoria, can find herself teaching a class with on the order of 6-8 hours of training.  Even if this training were 12-16 hours … would that suffice?  Who are we kidding?

The on going training that is provided, often consists of programs by groups like OAC, which have been affirmatively barred from teaching in the schools.

Here is a recent flyer from what ACCESS calls training.  Note the overtly evangelical tenor of this program and that it is administered by “OAC Ministries” and supervised by people who are all part of the “child evangelism” movement.  This is not “training” … its grooming.

Download (PDF, 749KB)

Claim: ACCESS ministries accredited ‘OAC’.

ACCESS Fact: AM does not accredit OAC.

YOU DECIDE:
It is very hard to tell where ACCESS ends and OAC begins.  Until recently, ACCESS volunteers simply invited the staff of OAC to run programs “for SRI” in the schools.  OAC Ministries has been the subject of recent sanctions by the Department of Education against ACCESS, and OAC is part of an “apostolic” religious movement pointed at children.  Essentially it is a group that uses puppets to “preach” at children, by getting the puppet to proselytise.  As you can see from the above brochure, OAC provide the training for ACCESS.  Reporting on the issues around OAC can be read here.   Wording from the DEECD to schools is as follows, the group organizing these now banned programs was “ACCESS Ministry”.  OAC is pursuing claims with the DEECD, claiming that ACCESS can simply accredit individuals who work for OAC and this can continue:

“The department has recently become aware that a number of religious organisations are providing programs or events to schools potentially outside departmental policy,” says the directive, sent to principals shortly before Christmas.

“These events can include a focus on music, food, gifts, creative displays (e.g. puppetry), youth groups, discussion groups. Sometimes other out of school hours activities are promoted to students within these events (e.g. camps).”

Claim: ACCESS ministries is a deeply dishonest organisation.

ACCESS Fact:
We comply with all Departmental regulations and policies as applicable to the delivery of SRI. Parents freely choose to have their children participate in the program. Our website provides information and sample curriculum for parents to make an informed choice.

YOU DECIDE:
ACCESS have a large and valuable franchise in our schools.  Its leaders have made extensive and clear declarations which they claim have been taken out of context. We disagree, and many prominent Christians disagree too.  Please listen to these statements, do you think they are misunderstandings or are they evidence of an intent to deceive?

 

 

FIRIS REPLIES to ACCESS THREATS: OUR LETTER

Download (PDF, 114KB)

FIRIS RESPONDS TO ACCESS THREATS

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ACCESS Ministry itself said that it “welcomes the current debate” and what better way to inform the debate than to allow anyone who wants to review and discuss the actual lessons given in our prep classes to see the lessons for themselves? Instead, ACCESS is using its muscle to come after us so that this debate doesn’t happen.We have presented scholarly reviews of these lessons, and these scholars affirm that what parents are told and what is actually in these lessons are two different things.  Most parents would have no clue that “Religion in Life” consists of singing songs like “God Made Cows” and decoding messages like “Jesus is alive! He can be our friend today!  (pg. 13 Trek 1) .

Our purpose of sharing this information is to support our assertion that these books are not “holistic” nor “respectful of other faiths” nor do they contain cultural content about the influence of Christianity on our society.

 

2013.Religious Instruction in Australian Public Schools

 

This is “religious instruction” not “religious education” and if you want to grasp the difference, replace the term “religion” with “sex” and see how your understanding of these two things changes.

Even the title of the curriculum, “Religion in Life” is designed to mislead.

We have not posted this curriculum for commercial gain, and our sharing of this material in no way imposes on their right to sell the material in schools, which is what their copyright protects.  Copyright does not protect published information from being seen and reviewed.  It is preposterious that this group proposes to use our schools to market this material and to sell it to us, but wishes to restrict our capacity to review it.The purpose of copyright is not to prevent comment or discussion, it is to protect their commercial property, and we are not in anyway hindering their sole right to sell these books to our children in our schools.  However, these books are not in the library or bookstores and can’t be reviewed easily, and this is on purpose.

The issue beneath all of this is “informed consent” and we think ACCESS does not want to operate under honest terms.  ACCESS does not use clear language to explain what it offers in schools.  We object to this and feel it amounts to willful deception on the part of an evangelistic missionary group who views our children as a “mission field” (words used by their CEO).

In response to our campaign, ACCESS even took the words “god and jesus” our of their mission statement. Proof of this presented here:
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We believe that there is a moral purpose to a secular society, and the legal provision for ACCESS to be in our schools amounts to a violation of the core values of this society.  Families can and should be trusted to attend to the religious formation of their children and to conduct their engagement with worship and faith, during the time set aside for worship and reflection, not in the middle of the school day when they should be learning to read and write.  Our culture observes a “Sabbath” every week. No citizen in our free commonwealth lacks for access to a community of worship, these flourish here, and exist in peace, but our schools are secular for a good reason.The policy of using half a hour a week in our schools is predatory, divisive and counter to the ethos of our schools.  Even the former Minister of Education is now affirming that this policy should cease.  The head of the Melbourne School of Divinity says this should stop … when will it stop?  When Geoff Shaw is happy?

What is happening is unethical.  At the very minimum, parents must be told that SRI is a devotional exercise, which instructs and leads children in devotional worship, on a confessional basis, and is explicitly designed to motivate children to form a relationship with Jesus, who according to ACCESS Ministries is alive, and can be spoken to though prayer.  Ask any child psychologist if telling a 5 year old this is not taken literally.  We are not speaking abstractly, this happens to our children.

This is not “education about Christianity” and it contains almost zero culturally significant material.  The course work is presented to parents as if it carries the Depatment of Education’s imprimatur and approval, but this is not true, it is a course designed by, and for, ACCESS’s ministries purpose of “transformation” – which is a coded term for “being saved by Jesus”.We support the rights of families to pursue salvation for their children, but we feel equally as passionate that families who do not wish for their children to be saved by ACCESS Ministries, are not discriminated against.

This is not the first time, public awareness of material published by ACCESS has led to controversy, a blogger published a cartoon that disparaged teachers while advocating prayer caused ACCESS to threaten to sue, and the publication of their graphic novel which disparaged scientists, also triggered a claim.  If ACCESS were not in our schools distributing this material, no one would care, but the whole point is that these are publicly owned schools not Christian bookshops.We call on the Minister of Education to enforce the terms of MD 141, once everyone can freely review the lessons that SRI providers propose to conduct in our schools, we’ll be happy to link to their websites and remove the PDF’s from ours, but parents must be allowed to review these books and the claims that this program are popular or widely supported are flatly contradicted by people such as Bronwyn Pike, the former Education Minister.

Copyright does not protect publicly funded bodies such as yours from public comment, informed debate and condemnation from leading public figures:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lvVbwlbv3Q]

ACCESS blames others for Biblezines!

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ACCESS releases statement blaming others for distributing Biblezines at Torquay College.

Somehow, the Department of Education has hired Price Waterhouse Coopers, refuses to release the actual report, won’t inform us who distributed the biblezines, won’t tell us who hired Child Evangelist Performer Natalie Miller to perform at Torquay College, and leaves open the question as to who actually distributed the Biblezines.

Someone ought to investigate the investigator, cause this sure sounds more like a cover up than an investigation.  This is a clear cut example of a boundary violation, with the government paying for staff at the local church and the local church annexing the local school.  The lack of clarity where one institution stops and the other starts should be a matter of public understanding.

The Department of Education should review its contracts and its purposes for paying ACCESS Ministries.  Its not clear to us what ACCESS would have to do to loose credibility, as apparently its CEO’s claim that it wants to set up congregations inside our schools wasn’t enough to have them struck off.

We call on the DEECD to release the report, to inform us who handed out the Biblezines and what the Chaplain’s role in this was and who paid for Sally Squad.

Price Waterhouse Coopers is a reputable firm, surely they can answer these simple questions and we can know the facts?

Why is Natalie Miller performing evangelistic puppet shows like this in our schools?

 

Here is the ACCESS Ministry statementTorquay Media release 30th May 2014

 

ACCESS threatens legal action against FIRIS!

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FIRIS has been threatened with legal action for exposing the truth about “Religion in Life” the curriculum sold under deeply misleading pretenses to over 90,000 children in Victorian Schools and sold commercially though an exclusive government funded contract which has no competitive aspect.

ACCESS Ministries is in effect a private corporation funded by our taxes, working under an exclusive, non competitive government grant which enables it to use 3% of the time children are required by law to be in school.

ACCESS wants to have its cake and eat it to, and prevent us from seeing what it does and what it publishes, as if it were merely a private business.

Parents have a right to inspect the curriculum that the government has authorised. FIRIS has every right to critique and comment on material in the public domain. We won’t be bullied by letters like this:

Access Ministries letter of 27.5.2014

ACCESS’ copyright prevents others from gaining commercial benefit from the sale of this material, but the fact that this material is required by law to be posted on line, means that parents have a right to see it

8. A principal must ensure that each accredited and approved instructor delivering special 
religious instruction in a school delivers a program that is: 
(a) approved by the instructor’s organisation; 
(b) available for parents to access in an online format.

We call on the Department of Education to immediately enforce its rule in MD 141 which directs ACCESS to publish its curriculum on line.

Once this is done to our satisfaction and once every parent in Victoria can see for themselves what ACCESS teaches in our schools, we’ll be happy to remove our examples, and link to their website.

We also will not tolerate false information being handed out to parents, and the latest Ministerial directive backs us up on this.

ACCESS Ministry Volunteer’s Screed Against Muslims, Gays and well everyone who isn’t Christian!

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We were alarmed to get this screed from an ACCESS Ministry Volunteer and have shared our concern with the Principal of the school where she instructs for ACCESS Ministries, and the Office of Student Well-being.

I hope it illustrates the difference between professing values because of religious identity, and actually having values.   We don’t wish to assert that this person is not entitled to voice her animus toward gay people, Muslims, and also to object to abortion, or to whip up culture war in Whitehorse.  She doesn’t even have to get her facts right.  These views are hers and she is free to voice them.

What I do wish to point out to the Department of Education is that simply asserting that one has “Christian Values” is not the same as having values which should be tolerated in our schools, where I am at pains to point out, gay people are welcome, Muslims are welcome, and at least for the time being, people’s choice to have abortions is not “murder”, in the eyes of the law.

What is totally insane is that all this person has to do in order to have the right to enter a school and teach in it, is to cough up a note from her PASTOR, and “poof” the prep class is all hers to “share the Christian Faith” … which I point out, has not exactly inspired her to the kind of compassion I’d like to see in my neighbour.   The matter here is not that some people hold extremist views, and wish to run around scaremongering and caviling against, “the gay” or say loopy things about jewelry and hijabs – this is the price of freedom – but it should not ALSO be a qualification to TEACH in a public school, for heaven sake.  You are free to have these views, but they disqualify you from belonging to the value system that we call “Australian”.

It speaks volumes that we have a program in our schools which encourages people with extremist views like this to use our classrooms to instruct children in their religion and employ our trained teachers to monitor these people.

The Christian culture in this nation is under threat

The Christian culture in this nation is under threat

 

The post Screed  blog post was posted in Febaruary 2014 but removed mid-March and Karen’s blog fully removed; however a cached version can be found here.

Here is a PDF file containing the screed: CRE teacher screed

Here is the coverage in The Age: Parents group offended by religion teacher’s blog criticising gays

Here is a copy of said screed (as posted in February 2014): 

What’s happening in our nation…??

We need people who are concerned about what’s happening within this nation…

–  Freedom of speech is under threat;

– Pressure to have Extreme discrimination laws put in place is underway;

– Constant pressure to allow Same Sex Marriage which will have a huge negative impact on the family unit as we know it now;

– A constant push for ‘diversity’ actually encourages young people into homosexuality by making it sound ‘normal’ rather than encouraging them to fight against early thoughts of same sex attractions that they might be dealing with in their teenage minds;

– The Christian culture in this nation is under threat – ‘Christmas’ to be known as the ‘holiday season’… no singing Christmas carols because it may offend other nationalities…when entering banks other religions can wear full head/face garments, but we MUST remove bike helmets,…. no crucifix jewellery permitted in schools with strict jewellery policies, but muslim students can still wear their full religious attire.  What’s happening??

– Political madness is rampant;

– Abortion rates are outrageous because women are not given accurate information about the health/emotional risks;  It’s constantly being encouraged as acceptable which makes it available like a contraceptive method.  A MCG full of babies (100,000) were aborted in Australia in 2011.

– ONLY in Victoria, abortions can take place up to 40 weeks…yes the day before giving birth!  Over 200 cases in Victoria last year of full term abortions.  I’m sorry, but why are we allowing the killing of innocent little babies?  Like it or not, abortion is another word for killing.  At 4 weeks or 40 weeks it IS a life.

-Muslims aren’t having abortions…they’re multiplying dramatically!

-Employed medical staff (including nurses) can be charged for breaching the law if they refuse to conduct/assist with an abortion;

-Sex education in schools now talks openly and explicitly about the many different ways of having sex with the same or opposite gender….and at any age that suits because ‘they know best!’

‘Australian Christians’ is a political party that is trying to infiltrate the federal government.  It is not affiliated with any religious movement.  We have a variety of candidates and supporters, including ‘muslim born’ people (who are now Catholic/Christians) standing up and fighting against the infiltration of the Islamic culture.  They don’t want it in this great nation…which is why they left countries like Egypt in the first place!

We need to get people into the political realm in this nation that will stand up/speak up for what should be ‘the majority’ but unfortunately the minority are having their say way too loudly.
You don’t have to be a Christian to share the views above.  I know many non-Christians who are alarmed and frustrated about what’s going on.
Get informed….get involved….speak up!
I refuse to believe the lie that you can’t make a difference, because the truth is we CAN!

 

Has the FIRIS Campaign made a dent in this issue? You bet.

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ACCESS Ministries maintained a quiet closed door existence with the Department of Education … until some parents in Victoria decided to do something about it.  The Campaign began in March of 2010 … four years later, SRI is collapsing with enrollments plummeting and no one with a public profile will defend the practice.

 

 

Huge Win for FIRIS!

The AGE announced today that FIRIS’s Campaign to remove SRI from State Primary Schools in Victory has won a major battle:

Primary school principals shut down religious education classes

FIRIS’s win here is on several levels:

1.  The Department of Education now allows Principals the discretion to remove SRI – this is a result of FIRIS’s campaign to make the department follow the law “may” does not mean “must”

2.  Parents have voted with their feet and left in large #’s enrollments have fallen 30%, this is a result of FIRIS’s push to require consent.  These #’s would be higher, but the information given to parents is still shockingly bad.

3.  FIRIS published, with the help of David Zyngier and Marion Maddox, critiques of the curriculum used by ACCESS Ministries.  These reviews showed that the curriculum was not consistent with good teaching and should not be in the classrooms.

Way too many people have had a role, public and private in this campaign to list here.  FIRIS believes that religious instruction is a family and church matter, and should not be in schools at all, we realise that unless we get someone in the legislature to pass a bill, that the law as it stands provides an exception to the schools to shut down their secular values and allow Religious Instruction – we think this is wrong in all cases.  Today’s victory however means that SRI groups no longer dictate terms to schools – this is now a matter for educators and parents, guided by common sense, to evaluate.

Parents who wish to raise their children according to a particular religion should engage with the appropriate religious community.  Victorians proudly come from every religion and creed, and our schools are places that treat all children alike regardless of their families religious preferences.

This is a great win for FIRIS and a great win for Education!