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Articles in the media regarding religion in schools. For a more comprehensive list please see “MEDIA LIST: ROADMAP TO SUCCESS” under MEDIA

God save me from those who think I’m lost – THE AGE

Despite constitutional efforts to protect one’s freedom from religion, God and religion continues to be imposed on Australians who do not wish to receive Him.

The key changes relate to the switch from an “opt-out” to an “opt-in” arrangement, which requires parents to positively consent to their child receiving SRI. Principals can decide to cancel SRI based on low opt-in numbers or if they believe the programs go against the values of the school.

The changes have clearly unsettled Access Ministries, prompting the general manager of Christian Education and Training, Linda White to implore the audience to: “Embrace the opportunity we still have … to enhance our relevance.” And she added: “We live in a religious world.”

Supporters were also urged to pray for “Principals … that they would not daunted or dismayed by the challenges of the new Ministerial Direction”.

It is no wonder that Fairness in Religion in Schools – a parent-run, grassroots  group which has brought the teaching of religion in schools to public attention – has been approached by parents voicing their concerns about tactics used by certain state schools to get parents to sign the the opt in form.

READ THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE AT THE AGE (4 AUGUST 2014 BY secondary school teacher and writer Chris Fotinopoulos)

READ ALSO RECENT EDITORIAL IN THE AGE: “PLAYING GAMES WITH RELIGION IN SCHOOLS” – 1 AUGUST 2014

Illustration: Matt Golding
Illustration: Matt Golding

Kew Primary School ends religious instruction classes

Kew Primary School has told parents it will no longer run Special Religious Instruction classes.

Jacqui Tomlins, whose children attend the school, said the decision is a cause for celebration.

“It was something that had concerned me for a while and it concerned other parents too,” Ms Tomlins told 774 ABC Melbourne’s Richard Stubbs.

Ms Tomlins is in a same-sex relationship and has in her blog described Access Ministries as narrow, prejudiced and homophobic.

READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE AT ABC (19 JUNE 2014 BY Simon Leo Brown)

Read also  The Standard recent coverage for Allansford Primary School “Lack of interest cancels religious program at Allansford primary school” . 

 

Access Ministries uses taxpayer money to threaten parents over religious teaching – THE AGE

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A powerful Christian organisation has threatened a small grassroots parent group with legal action for posting its religious curriculum book online.

The main provider of religious instruction in state schools, Access Ministries, this week warned activists from Fairness in Religion in Schools (FIRIS) to remove a copy of its teaching materials from their website.

“Parents have never been able to know what is taught to their children in SRI classes, and Access has now taken steps to shut down the only way that parents could look at the books,” said campaign co-ordinator Lara Wood. “Access is using its taxpayer funds to sue a grassroots group run by ordinary mums and dads.”

READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE AT ABC (31 MAY 2014 BY Konrad Marshall)

 

2014.05.31.Christian group threatens parents - THE AGE

Victorian Department of Education to overhaul religious education after Access Ministries breach – ABC News

The way religion is taught in Victorian primary schools will be overhauled after a report found that volunteers from the state’s key provider Access Ministries breached its guidelines.

However, in a summary of the investigation the provider was found to be in breach of regulations:

“The content and distribution of the Biblezines is inconsistent with the relevant Volunteer Agreement and Team Leader’s Guide; the Education and Training Reform Act 2006; and the Department’s Schools Policy and Advisory Guide (SPAG), Supporting Sexual Diversity in Schools Policy and Human Resources Policy on Same-sex Attracted Employees.”

READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE AT ABC (30 MAY 2014 BY Karen Percy)

Schools to lose secular welfare staff under Christian chaplaincy drive – THE AGE

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The group that provides chaplains and Christian religious instruction to Victorian schools expects a surge in demand after the federal government revealed plans to remove the option for schools to hire a non-religious welfare worker.

The latest financial statement from Access Ministries showed it was given $5.7 million by the federal government for the 2013 calendar year, compared with about $5 million for 2012.

Australian Education Union Victorian branch deputy president Justin Mullaly said the existing chaplaincy arrangements allowed schools to hire secular welfare staff. ”Often that was in the form of a social worker or psychologist,” he said. ”It allowed schools to get the professionals they needed.”

He said the union opposed the changes the federal government plans to introduce. Mr Mullaly said schools with students from diverse religious backgrounds could be disadvantaged if they were only able to hire religious chaplains who were mostly likely to represent a Christian faith.

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said she was astounded the federal government had given Access Ministries more than $5 million for 2013.

READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE AT GNN (29 MAY 2014 BY Benjamin Preiss and Ben Butler)

 

Former education minister calls for end to religious education – JOY 94.9 FM

This is by far the highest ranking endorsement to date!

The section starts at 49:30min, and right off the bat, former minister Pike has to bat back the “ethics” boogyman, which she does with aplomb and consistent with the FIRIS campaign.

Having a person of Minister Pike’s profile advocate for the FIRIS position is a huge validation of this campaign, which has been attacked by both the religious right, and atheist zombies for its pro-secular and non anti religious stance.

You access the article by Ben Rylan (10 May 2014) and have a read of the story as all the important quotes are pulled out in the text.

Here is the audio starting at 49:30min at the transcript in PDF format:

FIRIS will be asking for Minister Pike’s formal endorsement, way to go Bronwyn Pike!

Our schools don’t need more school chaplains. They need mental health professionals – President AEU, VIC

READ THE ARTICLE HERE (25 May 2014 by Meredith Peace, President, AEU Victoria)

Schools took a big hit in last week’s federal budget.

And yet, amid the savage $80 billion cut from education and health, there was one program the Abbott Government deemed worthy of increased support.

The National School Chaplaincy Program has attracted an extra $243.8 million in this year’s budget and is set to replace the existing School Welfare Program from the start of 2015.

To put it bluntly: Abbott has elected to support a cheap, faith-based program in place of genuine support and welfare in our schools.

For a government that claims to value “freedom” and “choice”, this government is prepared to restrict the options for principals and parents when it comes to choosing how kids’ wellbeing is supported at school.

Clearly, Education Minister Christopher Pyne is content with leaving control over schooling to the States – except where he sees an ideological opportunity.

In a move that severely undermines the secular tradition of public schools, principals will no longer be able to put this welfare funding toward professional psychologists or qualified counsellors, as was possible under the former Labor Government. Instead, only religious chaplains will now be eligible for Commonwealth support.

Meanwhile, Abbott has abandoned his commitment to implementing a needs-based schools funding model, leaving 100,000 students with disabilities without the additional resources required to meet their educational needs.

With schools reporting increasing rates of behavioural and learning difficulties, and a rise in social and emotional problems among our young people, can we really afford to hand over pastoral care to people who, though possibly well-intentioned, are not qualified to identify children in need of expert assessment and provide the appropriate intervention?

School counsellors are tertiary educated, usually with a specialisation in developmental psychology and mental health issues, and subject to a national registration scheme and a strict code of ethics.

While the Scripture Union — “a Christian organisation which works to make God’s Good News known to children” — acknowledges that there are prohibitions on proselytizing, it claims that attending to a child’s “spiritual wellbeing” is central to its welfare role in schools.

According to Peter James, CEO of the Scripture Union of QLD, welfare issues “touch on issues of spirituality and that’s where a chaplain has an extra tool in his or her bag”.

So what if that person is a teenage girl deciding whether or not to start taking contraception? Or a Grade 6 boy who finds he’s attracted to his male friends?

What if the wellbeing of a child is informed by their non-Christian faith, or indeed by their secular values?

meredith 290x385 Our schools dont need more school chaplains. They need mental health professionals.

Meredith is the AEU Victorian Branch President (previously a science teacher!)

Read more at http://www.mamamia.com.au/australian-politics/chaplains-in-australian-schools/#4gwjOloUx0k3642I.99

CHAPLAINCY PROGRAM TO FUND GROUPS WITH LINKS TO HOMOPHOBIA – GNN

Chaplaincy program to fund groups with links to homophobia
Several organisations running chaplaincy programs in Australian schools have connections to homophobic campaigning and will benefit from the funding allocated in the Government’s proposed budget, MCV has revealed.

Tony Abbott’s Coalition has allocated nearly $250 million to Chaplaincy Programs over four years in the latest budget, which offers schools up to $24,000 per year to pay for a chaplain approximately two days a week.

ACCESS Ministries is one of the providers of chaplains in Victoria, providing approximately 330 schools with Special Religious Instructors, and came under scrutiny in February when it was revealed one of their educators was distributing homophobic materials.

Students at Torquay College were handed brochures that instructed children to seek counselling if they had homosexual feelings. The Victorian Education Department then conducted an investigation into the incident after stating the action was “inappropriate and offensive”.

A spokesperson from the Victorian Education Department told MCV, “the investigation has now been completed and we are in the process of gaining a right of reply from Access Ministries”.

Acting CEO of ACCESS Ministries, Dawn Penney, said the organisation represents 12 mainstream Churches which all hold their own views on the matter of homosexuality.

“The ACCESS ministries CRE (Christian Religious Education) program and materials do not stray into areas of sexuality, none of our approved material mentions this subject” she told MCV.

Former Victorian State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Rob Ward, is now the General Manager of Development and Communications at ACCESS Ministries, and has campaigned against same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption.

In 2011 in response to the launch of the “Fair go, sport!” program, a program aimed at increasing awareness of sexual and gender diversity in sport, Ward said:

“The suggestion that the aim is to have the sexual orientation of gay, lesbian and transgender sportspeople…so public that it’s normal, so people don’t think about it is very troubling.”

Darren McMahon is the Director and Presenter of Your Dream Incorporated in Sydney and runs chaplaincy programs through NSW, and has significant ties to Hillsong Church.

Hillsong Church has had a controversial history with the gay community regarding their involvement with the now dismantled Mercy Ministries and the recently abolished Living Waters Australia, which ran ex-gay and conversion camps.

McMahon graduated from the Hillsong International Leadership College in 1993, and has been an avid “friend” of the Church ever since.

Although McMahon was unaware of the acronym LGBTI, he told MCV he “doesn’t and has never discriminated against anyone’s life choices.” He also said he is unsure if any of his youth workers have had any training in how to deal with young LGBTI and questioning youth.

LGBTI activists are also questioning the qualifications of chaplaincy workers in dealing with same-sex attracted youth. It is understood that the training can be as little as a five-day intensive course in ‘Chaplaincy Essentials’ and is all that is required by some chaplain organisations.

Studies on LGBTI youth have consistently shown that they have higher rates of suicide and depression than their heterosexual counterparts and Jacqui Tomlins, a founding member of the Australian Equality Party and parent of three, told MCV she was appalled at the allocation of funds to the Chaplaincy Program.

“Young people – especially those who might be questioning their sexuality or sexual identity, need access to good, non-judgemental counsellors who can provide advice and guidance that is not based on any religious foundation.

“Likewise, when my kids are in high school I want to be confident that their same-sex family will be treated with the same regard and respect as any other family.

“While I’m sure some individual chaplains may provide non-judgemental support, it makes far greater sense to employ trained, secular social workers or counsellors whose guidance does not stem from a religious system that can, and often does, treat us and our families with disrespect or contempt,” she said.

The funding is a continuation of the Chaplaincy Scheme introduced by John Howard, but the Abbott Government has changed back the conditions to prevent School Principals from being able to elect a secular student welfare worker instead of a chaplain.

Defending the decision to not allow non-religious student welfare workers to access funding, which was possible under the previous Labor Government, Education Minister Christopher Pyne told The Guardian, “counsellors and social workers in schools are really the responsibility of the states and territories.”

In response, Federal President of the Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos, noted:

“Where does the Australian constitution say that the Federal Government is responsible for school chaplains?”

In the same article, Opposition Education Spokeswoman, Kate Ellis, said it was wrong for the government to direct funding only to chaplains who had a “direct link to organised religion”.

At the time of going to print MCV was yet to hear back from the Department of Education.

Questions asked about religious education provider – ABC 7:30 Report, May 9 2014

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A report has been commissioned to inquire into incidents involving Victoria’s main religious education provider Access Ministries.

Check the video in ABC own page  or in this embedded video:

Exempt children still receiving religious instruction in state schools – THE COURIER-MAIL

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READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE (4 MAY 2014 BY TANYA CHILCOTT)

Principals are being accused of ignoring their own policies and allowing kids to participate in religious instruction (RI).

Civil libertarians and secular organisations maintain RI has no place in the state system.

RI came under fire earlier this year after academic Dr Cathy Byrne revealed Queensland students in five schools had reportedly been told they would “burn in hell” by instructors.

As we celebrate Passover and Easter, what is the religious sentiment in the U.S.? How has the power of religion changed over time? Fordham University theology department chair Patrick Hornbeck discusses. Photo: Getty.

In 2010 The Sunday Mail exposed how primary school students were being taught that man and dinosaurs walked the earth together, while in 2012, a Brisbane mum pulled her young son out of RI after he was shown disturbing crucifixion images.

Department of Education, Training and Employment (DETE) deputy Director-General Jeff Hunt said the provision of RI was legislated in Queensland and could be taught for up to one hour of the school week from Year 1.

DETE recently set up a quality assurance taskforce to oversee the quality of programs provided by faith groups.

Keep the faith but keep it out of our state schools

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Michael Fay said he believed RI provided a good ethics foundation for young children and was available to students of all faiths with appropriate permissions.

New RTI figures show about 396,343 out of 525,730 students had no religion nominated on their enrolment forms or department records. Under Government policy these students are meant to receive “other instruction”, unless their parents inform the school otherwise.

A DETE spokesman said enrolment figures did not reflect the number of students participating in RI as parents may opt in or out at a later date. Outside enrolments, religious nomination figures are not collected by the department.

Australian Secular Lobby national director Hugh Wilson said this showed DETE was either “totally incompetent” or trying to hide over the issue.

“There is no excuse for officials to continue to hide and pretend they don’t know how many should be in and how many shouldn’t,’’ he said.

He accused principals of ignoring the policy, but Mr Fay denied the claim and said he didn’t think the 396,000 figure would be a true representation of parental permissions.