Varying religious objectives

When I was the chairman of a primary school board, the priests representing the Christian churches which held religious classes at the school collectively withdrew their services. Bluntly, they told the Board that they preferred the parents to bring their children to church. Some of the parents and teachers objected to this decision. At a Parents & Citizens meeting, they argued that the priests must return, since Australia, as they said, is a Christian country. It was apparently their right to have their children exposed to the teachings of Christianity at a State school in a secular nation. Of course, Australia is a country of great expectations; ‘they must provide’ is part of our ethos.

Not in this case. A survey of our (multi-ethnic) parents endorsed the suggestion by the Board that we teach our children about religion, but not to uphold any single faith or sect; that is, to educate. Unlike, say, comparative religion in a high school curriculum, our school would discuss such broad matters as what is religion; how did it arise; why people are inclined to be religious; and so on.

After consulting appropriate academic and church authorities involved in education and religious studies, I drew up an outline of a possible approach. This was based on a framework published by Sussex University of the UK. To my delight, our Schools Authority liked the outline. The parent members of the Board then expanded it and had the teachers finally accept it. The community of parents were so informed. Yet, nothing came of it, reflecting a certain resistance by the teachers. To what? By then, the parents on the Board had gone, as our offspring had moved on.

When I set out this borrowed framework for the way one could look at religions in my first book Destiny Will Out (which will be re-published soon), it passed muster by the eminent reviewers of the book, some of whom had the necessary competence.