Bahai News - Teach all religions in school

Teach all religions in school

RELIGIOUS education in state schools has come under fire from two academics who say children should learn about a wider range of faiths instead of focusing on Christianity.

Paul Morris, professor of religious studies at Victoria University, says a broader approach has become even more pressing since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Threats against an Auckland Sikh temple in the belief it was a Muslim place of worship "indicates the need for education about our non-Christian neighbours. We live in a region with millions of Muslims, and Pacific and indigenous religious traditions".

Morris says it's vital schools teach cultural history and religion is part of that. But it is equally important that they look at religion in general, rather than pushing a particular faith.

Canterbury University religious studies lecturer Michael Grimshaw says the name "religious education" is a misnomer. "It's not religious education, it's Christian education. We really need to cover things like Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam."

By law state schools must be secular but primary school boards of trustees can close schools for up to an hour a week for religious instruction and parents can withdraw their children.

The Churches Education Commission (CEC), an organisation representing 14 denominations, runs religious education programmes in about 60% of state primary schools.

CEC national co-ordinator Hilary Baskerville is aware of criticisms that the programme, often known as "Bible in schools", fails to recognise increasing cultural diversity. But she says there is no reason why other faiths can't run classes and knows of Bahai lessons running in a Kerikeri school.

Administration manager of the New Zealand Federation of Islamic Associations Qaiser Iqbal says Muslim parents are happy for Christianity classes to continue in state schools as long as their children don't have to attend. "They would rather attend Sunday classes at the mosque."

- Amanda Cropp

Losing religion: Focus C1

©Copyright 2001, Sunday Star-Times - Wellington

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