On Thursday 18 August 2016, the office of Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones released a report on the review of materials used within Christian religious instruction at Queensland state schools. The report comprises twenty one pages, twenty of which contain esoteric theological debate relevant only to the approximately 30% of Queensland public school children legally eligible for placement into Christian religious instruction.
Across ten years of receiving many hundreds of complaints regarding religious instruction and chaplaincy from Queensland parents via The Fourth R, Humanist Society of Queensland, Australian Secular Lobby, Highcourtchallenge.com, Secular Public Education Lobby (SPEL), and now Secular Public Education, not one has been related to religious instruction lesson resources.
Leaving aside the sizeable proportion associated with NSCP chaplains, the overwhelming majority of complaints regarding religious instruction always concern children being placed into RI contrary to parents’ distinct instructions within the student enrolment application—and the traumatic, seemingly impossible task of having them extracted. Remaining complaints pertain to various matters including Christian prayers on assembly, creationism being taught in science and other classes, and unsolicited handouts of Bibles by the Gideons and Bible Society.
We are currently receiving complaints weekly, if not daily, from Queensland parents and caregivers who are at best frustrated—at worst severely distressed—regarding the above matters.
The matter of the ‘outdated’ or ‘inappropriate’ nature of religious instruction materials provided for an audience of Christian children—30% or less of the Queensland state school population—has provided Education Queensland with the reddest of herrings. A magnificent diversion of attention from serious human rights and legal rights abuses being suffered by a potential 600,000 (70%) children of undisclosed faith—or lack of faith—according to their enrolment application.
On 8 March 2016, we corresponded with Kate Jones seeking an urgent meeting regarding the ongoing and unacceptable flouting of religious instruction provisions within the Queensland Education (General Provisions) Act and Regulation 2006. Our request was rejected. The letter below graphically and disturbingly describes these circumstances, while referring to my close involvement with drafting of the current Education Queensland religious instruction policy statement in 2013.
We intend to engage our relevant charitable purposes—promoting or protecting human rights, and promoting or opposing a change to law, government policy or practice—in order to seek justice for potentially 600,000 state school children immediately ineligible for placement into religious instruction.
Secular Public Education Limited