Politicians lobbied over bible class

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 01/06/2014

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Secular school campaigners are knocking on politicians' doors to lobby for a law change over religious lessons in school.

The latest effort to cut bible classes from school time follows a recent success for the group with the Human Rights Commission.

Secular Education Network spokesman David Hines said he had met with education spokespeople from the Greens, Mana Party and NZ First and was hoping to talk to Labour and National.

Although Education Minister Hekia Parata wasn't "bubbling with enthusiasm", her office has indicated she would agree to meet with him.

"We're not hopeful [for change], but I'll be surprised if they don't talk to us."

Although no political party is willing to make religious lessons a political issue for this year's election, he said the three political parties he spoke to are open to debating the cause.

However, Hines said no one knows exactly how the rules should be interpreted, so schools are operating off their own assumptions.

"There's no rhyme or reason to the rules. When we go to complain to ERO [Education Review Office] or the Ministry of Education, they say they have no guidelines."

A group of Auckland primary schools recently took their concerns about religious teaching to the Human Rights Commission.

The Secular Education Network celebrated the commission's decision in January, which made Auckland's St Heliers School halt half-hour bible classes during school time.

However, it was a bittersweet victory after the school restarted classes during the lunch break.

The apparent retreat came after the Churches Education Commission was unable to offer teachers outside school hours.

Hines said he was preparing to make a group complaint to the Human Rights Commission following a number of new complaints from parents concerned about bible lessons in class.

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