Ban on religion in schools sought
Primary schools in South Canterbury are among many across the country being approached about religious education in schools.
The Secular Education Network (SEN) is trying to further its cause of removing religious education from schools in New Zealand.
Timaru South School principal Mike Hogan said although South did not offer religious education, he had difficulty with the way SEN presented its argument because parents and children had the right to choose and got value from the experience.
"Parents have the option to opt out of those programmes if they wish but most children want to stay in them as they feel excluded," he said.
He said the school did not offer religious education but did have another generic value-based programme called Kiwi Can.
Bluestone Primary principal Ian Poulter said Bluestone offered an optional programme at lunchtime attended by about 50 children.
"It's entirely a choice thing. It's like many other choice activities we offer at the school," Poulter said.
Other schools in the region to also offer religious education all said it was an entirely optional activity. Waimataitai, Gleniti and St Andrews said they offered it in some form when contacted by the Herald.
Timaru Girls' High School, Opihi College, Timaru Boys' High School, Grantlea Downs, Beaconsfield, Barton Rural, Geraldine primary, Mountainview and Arowhenua schools all said they did not offer religious education.
A co-ordinator for SEN, Peter Harrison, said the organisation felt it was against children's basic human rights for there to be religious education in schools.
"Basically teaching children one religion is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights and their human rights," Harrison said.
He said it was unacceptable in state schools for children to be told they should adhere to one religion or a political party.
"It's unacceptable to ask children to prioritise one religion over another," he said.
Harrison said they had approached registered political parties, schools, the Ministry of Education and the Human Rights Commission in their mission to remove religious education from New Zealand schools.
SEN is only campaigning secular state schools, not religious schools such as Roncalli College or Timaru Christian School.
- The Timaru Herald