One of the things that the Left hates the most is religion. And unfortunately, New South Wales Labor contains a significant faction whose aim is to see scripture classes in NSW public schools removed. As recently as 2017, the party’s left faction sought to do just that at the annual state conference. According to The Guardian:
The proposal’s backers are looking to emulate a move by the Victorian Labor government, which in 2015 removed scripture from the school curriculum, meaning the classes could only occur before or after school, or at lunchtime.
Likewise, Fairness in Religion in Schools, or FIRIS, (pronounced ‘virus’ with an ‘F’) wants to completely expel God from the public square in general and of the state education system in particular. According to their official website:
FIRIS supports the NSW Department of Education’s statement that ‘schools are neutral grounds for rational discourse and objective study’, and that public schools should not be arenas for ‘opposing political views or ideologies’. The Department allows religious organisations to do things other organisations cannot.
Have you ever noticed how the social programs of the anti-religious left are often prefixed with innocuous—but truly Orwellian—sounding phrases such as ‘Safe Schools’, or ‘Respectful Relationships’, or in this case, ‘Fairness in Religion in Schools’. Such motherhood statements are impossible to disagree with. I mean, who wants to be against ‘safety’, or have ‘respect’ for others, or especially of being ‘fair’? In a land, which prides itself on everyone being given a ‘fair-go’, that’s just completely un-Australian!
However, make no mistake, FIRIS’s ultimate goal has nothing to do with ‘fairness’ or ensuring that ‘schools are neutral grounds for rational discourse and objective study’. This is about discriminating against the majority of Australians who identify as being Christian or with some other religious belief. In short, it’s about making sure that your children won’t be instructed in the beliefs and values that you hold dear.
Let’s be clear. Despite what they might say, the strategy FIRIS explicitly seeks the removal of ‘special religious education’ from the NSW state education system. And not just not in NSW, but in every other state as well. As, once again, the FIRIS website states:
WHAT WE WANT
FIRIS wants the Department of Education to collect and make public the data concerning SRE (Special Religious Education).
FIRIS wants SRE in public schools to be an issue at the next state election.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Take your child out of SRE (Scripture) and encourage other parents to do the same. FIRIS has a letter you can use.
Share your stories about SRE or any other activities of a religious nature in your school with FIRIS.
Contact FIRIS for more information and support or if you have any concerns with anything your child is told during SRE or if you are not happy with what religious organisations are doing in your school. FIRIS can help you write a complaint to the principal.
What has precipitated this sustained hostility against the transmission of religious faith and values within our public schools? As recently as 2004 Peter Costello—Australia’s longest serving treasurer—could write in the Sydney Morning Herald as follows:
If the Arab traders that brought Islam to Indonesia had brought Islam to Australia and settled, or spread their faith, among the indigenous population our country today would be vastly different. Our laws, our institutions, our economy would all be vastly different.
But our society was founded by British colonists. And the single most decisive feature that determined the way it developed was the Judeo-Christian-Western tradition.
As a society, we are who we are, because of that heritage.
Now, gone are the days where the SMH would even allow an article like that to be published. Or that Tony Abbott could get away with the statement that the Bible is ‘at the core of our civilisation’. But even when Julia Gillard—herself an avowed atheist—was Prime Minister she likewise affirmed:
Our culture is stepped in Christian traditions… Understanding the Bible is one of the keys to Western culture and if you don’t have the key it can be very, very difficult to unlock.
However, many in the media and politics today seem intent on establishing a ‘Secular Caliphate.’ And under the confused and mindless manta of the “Separation of Church and State,” religion is becoming increasingly forbidden from being expressed in the public square. What’s more, those who express a religious point of view are themselves demonised and portrayed as being either immoral or intellectually inferior to their atheistic counterparts.
Ironically, the practice of religious education in NSW state schools is one of the greatest examples of religious freedom that this country has adopted. Because no one was ever compelled to attend and you could always ‘opt out’ during the half an hour that SRE was being taught each week. Which meant that children got to be instructed and make up their own mind as to what their parents believed – or didn’t, as the case may be.
With the NSW election, just weeks away, it will be interesting to see if Labor believes in freedom of religion as much as they claim. Or whether the Left continues its long, slow march through the institutions…
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.