Greens call for immediate suspension of scripture classes in public schools

The Greens are calling for an immediate suspension of scripture in public schools and for the urgent release of a secret report into scripture classes.

The $300,000 NSW report into Special Religious Education and Special Ethics Education was completed more than 12 months ago but is still yet to be released to the public. This is not good enough.

As reported by the Newcastle Herald:

The Queensland review in August recommended removing an animal sacrifice lesson for children aged 10-12, which suggested scripture teachers “bring in a dead animal to dissect”. The review found other lessons had the potential to be upsetting, inappropriate or likely to affect the social and emotional wellbeing of children, including a lesson for children aged 7-9 about a man born blind, which asked: “Was it a punishment from God because his parents or someone else had done something wrong?”

The material also included a lesson requiring children aged 7-9 to list ways to “get rid of” a person, after a Bible story about people “getting rid of” Daniel, and a concluding prayer where children “pray that we may not be like the Israelites”.

The review noted Connect producer, the Sydney-based Anglican Youthworks, amended lessons about Indigenous children and children with disabilities after community anger that scripture teachers were told “SRE, a barbecue and an afternoon’s sport would be the most pleasurable experience Aboriginal Primary students could imagine”. Scripture teachers were also reminded not to see children with disabilities as “unintelligent”.

You know something is wrong in this state when even Queensland is more proactive in releasing information than NSW.

The Queensland review shows that the unvetted material used in NSW scripture classes encourages behaviour that put children at risk of sexual abuse, such as having special relationships with adults and keeping secrets.

Given the ongoing risks to children we will be demanding its public release, through freedom of information, parliament and if necessary the courts. Until it is released, scripture should be suspended.

It’s time for the NSW Government to listen to the justified concerns about these programs, rather than any conservative religious elements within their own cabinet.

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