Jesus unwelcome in schoolyard crackdown
by REBECCA URBAN
Talking about Jesus, exchanging Christmas cards and encouraging Christianity have been targeted under an unofficial policy from education bureaucrats that takes aim at junior evangelists in Queensland primary school yards. Christian groups and free-speech advocates have expressed alarm at the recent edict from the Queensland Department of Education and Training contained within its latest review into religious instruction materials and warning that principals were expected to take action against students caught evangelising to their peers.
“While not explicitly prohibited by the (legislation), nor referenced in the Religious Instruction (RI) policy, the department expects schools to take appropriate action if aware that students participating in RI are evangelising to students who do not,” says the department’s report into the GodSpace religious instruction materials, released earlier this year.
“This could adversely affect the school’s ability to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive environment.”
Departmental policy defines “evangelising” as “preaching or advocating a cause or religion with the object of making converts to Christianity”. Examples of evangelising cited in the review, as well as two earlier reviews into religious instruction providers, include sharing Christmas cards that refer to Jesus’s birth, creating Christmas tree decorations to give away and making beaded bracelets to give to friends “as a way of sharing the good news about Jesus”.
The clampdown comes despite each of the reviews into the religion lessons aimed at four to 12-year-olds finding no “major inconsistencies” with state legislation or departmental policies, procedures or frameworks.
Neil Foster, who teaches religion and law at Newcastle University, described the development as “deeply concerning” and “possibly illegal”.
Over in the US, I note in Oklahoma, an NGO from a Washington, DC is suing East Central University about its use of Bibles and crosses on its chapel. More info is here. My friend Mary from high school sent me that link yesterday. When I combine that with the news from The Australian, I think there's a serious something happening. People like @LyleShelton , @mpjensen , @KameelMajdali and @johnpauldickson all keep us informed about trends here in Australia. And I think they would agree this is global in its reach.
“The fact is, there are administrative guidelines that go beyond what the law requires,” Associate Professor Foster said. “It’s really overreaching as far as bureaucratic orders go.”
We shall see, of course, but the erosion of freedom of expression at the slightest 'offense' by others is something our legislators and principals will have to consider. And God give them strength of character.