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Old 12-17-2008, 06:18 PM   #1
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Prayer In Public Schools

This nonsense makes me livid
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VICTORIAN state primary school students will soon have an alternative — religious education lessons taught by people who do not believe in God and say there is "no evidence of any supernatural power".

The Humanist Society of Victoria has developed a curriculum, which the State Government accreditation body says it intends to approve, to deliver 30-minute lessons each week of "humanist applied ethics" to primary pupils.

Accredited volunteers will be able to teach their philosophy in the class time designated for religious instruction. As with lessons delivered by faith groups, parents will be able to request that their children do not participate.

Victorian Humanist Society president Stephen Stuart said: "Atheistical parents will be pleased to hear that humanistic courses of ethics will soon be available in some state schools."

But the body that accredits Victoria's 3500 Christian religious instruction volunteers, Access Ministries, says humanism is not a religion and so should not be taught in religious education time.

Access Ministries now teaches in about two-thirds of state primary schools. Other accredited instructors teach Judaism, Buddhism and Baha'i.

The Humanist Society does not consider itself to be a religious organisation and believes ethics have "no necessary connection with religion". Humanists believe people are responsible for their own destiny and reject the notion of a supernatural force or God.

Fundamentalist Christian group the Salt Shakers panned the idea of humanists being given religious education class time.

Research director Jenny Stokes said: "If you go there, where do you stop? What about witchcraft or Satanism?

"If you accredit humanism, then those things would have an equal claim to be taught in schools."

But RMIT professor Desmond Cahill, head of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, the body appointed by the Government to accredit all non-Christian volunteer religious teachers in state primary schools, has praised the humanist curriculum.

He said he could foresee no problem with approving it. "Our view would be that humanist studies are a legitimate world view just as Catholicism, Anglicanism or Islam is, and that none are any more provable than the rest, just as theism or atheism are no more provable than the other."

Professor Cahill also intends to approve a proposal by Muslim leaders to allow volunteers to teach religion in state primary schools.

"I think there's a greater realisation that Australia's emerging as a multi-faith society, which means the acceptance of non-Christian religions … there's an increasing realisation that the notion of religion has expanded to include all kinds of spiritualities and associated world views, including atheist and humanist world views."

Humanist Society education director Harry Gardner said he had designed a course to be taught from prep to year 6 called "Applied Ethical Education — Humanism for Schools". It covers subjects such as the art of living, the environment, philosophy, science and world citizenship. The curriculum is likely to be submitted for approval next year.

Dr Gardner, a former CSIRO research scientist, said his course adopted the "honesty ethic of science (that is, not fudging results)" with the intention that children would be inspired to think for themselves.

"If accredited for use in schools, the Humanist Society of Victoria envisages that the volunteer teachers would develop a comradely relationship to the regular religious instructors in adjacent rooms," he said.

But Access Ministries chief executive Evonne Paddison said while it was not her decision as to who should or should not have access to state schools, she did not think humanism fell under "the relevant legislation to be classified as a faith-based religion in religious instruction in the way that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism" did.

Ms Stokes said humanists could not expect to have it both ways. "It doesn't make sense because they proclaim themselves not to be a religion," she said.

Religious instruction in state schools should be Christian because "basically we are a Christian nation", she said.
Religion in schools to go God-free | theage.com.au

This is what we get for living without guarantees on secularism, you end up having children inculcated with Christianity at the taxpayers expense - in public schools no-less.

The wonderful thing is that that shaker recognises the dilemma, the government cannot favour particular religions over others - if you allow Christian indoctrination then Satanists should be allowed into the classroom, and Muslims, Jews, Pagans etc.

The optional comparative religion class is fine, but giving class-time over to evangelical groups is wrong.
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Old 12-17-2008, 06:30 PM   #2
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Agreed.
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Old 12-17-2008, 07:14 PM   #3
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I see nothing wrong with having humanist classes in schools. Schools should be where students learn, not be indoctrinated on anything, so they could decide for themselves. And the notion that allowing humanism will open the door for witchcraft and Satanism is silly.
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Old 12-17-2008, 07:35 PM   #4
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I can still remember having to sing Jesus Loves Me through primary school, it wasn't malicious nor particularly influential, but something that I think was out of place in a state school.

The Christian lobby is halfway organised and most people don't care one way or another; I doubt the status quo will change any time soon - the proposal of encouraging a mandatory comparative religion class taught in a secular context really seems like a winner to me. Increasing mutual understanding by letting children know what other people believe and not having the government sponsor one particular religion over others - every major group can get a fair hearing in that type of humanities class.

If I ever get into a position of respectability or influence that type of reform is something I would support.
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Old 12-17-2008, 07:47 PM   #5
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Another slice of evidence on the cultural front, apparently bus ads are a little too offensive for the delicate public
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Australia is supposed to be a secular society, but the Atheist Foundation of Australia says the nation's biggest outdoor advertising company has refused to run its advertisements.

One of the humorous messages the foundation hoped to put on the back of buses was, "Sleep in on Sunday mornings".

But the foundation says Australia's biggest outdoor advertising company, APN Outdoor, had a problem with it.

Atheist Foundation president David Nicholls told the Religion Report on ABC Radio National that the contentious slogan was one of a number which had been proposed for the $16,000 advertising campaign.

"We started off with 'Atheism - because there is no credible evidence', we put that to the bus companies, they didn't like that and they said the wording wasn't to their acceptance," he said.

"And then we changed that to 'Celebrate reason' and thought we'd make it a bit comical - 'Sleep in on Sunday mornings'. But they refused that also.

"The end conversation I had was I asked why we were refused and my answer to that was, 'well we have to refer this to our legal department', and chappie hung up," he said.

"Nearly immediately after that he rang back with a message saying listen this is all finished, we're not putting the signs on."

"I'm disappointed but not overly surprised. Religion has a very great hold on societies, even democratic societies, and in fact it has too great a hold in democratic societies."

Advertising abroad
Atheists overseas have had more success.

In the United States for example there is a cheeky advertisement on Washington buses: "Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness' sake."

"In Australia, religion started off having a lot of breaks way back when we were starting our society, and those breaks have continued throughout," Mr Nicholls said.

"Religions are tax exempt, they receive council breaks, they're responsible for a $100 million chaplaincy program, tax payers are paying for religious schools, and 'celebrate reason' is a very appropriate message to be putting forward today."

The World Today sought comment from APN Outdoor's marketing general manager Paul McBeth. But he has not returned our calls.

Mr Nicholls suggests it is a bit much to knock back a slogan questioning God, when a group which does believe in God has been allowed to run its advertising.

"In Adelaide I believe, in the recent past, the APN buses had all across the back of a bus, or some buses, the message 'John 3:16', which is the most famous biblical passage, that God so loved the world that he gave his only son da da da," he said.

"Now atheists find that offensive, and there's lots of atheism in Australia, but we wouldn't prohibit its displaying."

Greg Clarke, the director of the Centre for Public Christianity, says freedom of expression should be favoured as often as possible.

"As long as it's done with a level of civility that means we actually do engage with the issues, rather than just fighting with each other," he said.

Mr Clarke says he is surprised the atheist advertising campaign has been knocked back in a secular society like Australia.

"It probably does indicate that religion and God are a really hot topic at the moment, and so you've got to be careful," he said.

"I actually think that they should be a hot topic, and if you can stop and contemplate God while a bus rushes past then your days all the better for it."
Atheists snubbed in ad knock-back - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Just to be completely clear, I think that it is fine for a private company to refuse atheist advertisements, but this story does hint at some interesting cultural attitudes; it is very easy to be an agnostic or atheist in Australia, people might not care much about religion and secularism, but by the same token they have no problem with the status quo.

And to speak for myself, I don't find it offensive that Christians are allowed to slap biblical quotes around in public, and even if I did then it wouldn't justify any censorship.
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Old 12-17-2008, 07:47 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A_Wanderer View Post
the proposal of encouraging a mandatory comparative religion class taught in a secular context really seems like a winner to me. Increasing mutual understanding by letting children know what other people believe and not having the government sponsor one particular religion over others - every major group can get a fair hearing in that type of humanities class.
I actually agree fully. What I believe should not be foisted upon the impressionable without context or contrasting opinions. In essence, the idea is freedom of religion and separation of church and state as they were intended. I have no idea if one class will make all that much of a difference, and I certainly don't believe that the parents of these kids will be as supportive of this idea as I am, but, inevitably, these kids are going to have to go out in the world and find out for themselves if what they were taught works for them in their daily lives. Might as well give them a head start.
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Old 12-17-2008, 08:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LemonMelon View Post
I actually agree fully. What I believe should not be foisted upon the impressionable without context or contrasting opinions. In essence, the idea is freedom of religion and separation of church and state as they were intended. I have no idea if one class will make all that much of a difference, and I certainly don't believe that the parents of these kids will be as supportive of this idea as I am, but, inevitably, these kids are going to have to go out in the world and find out for themselves if what they were taught works for them in their daily lives. Might as well give them a head start.
I agree as well. Especially when you say it will give them a head start. Personally, I'd like to see people at least know the facts. I've known many people for instance who didn't understand atheism. They couldn't figure why people didn't believe in God. I've heard people try to describe atheism as having some relation to Satanism. People fear what they don't know. Facts can go a long way.
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Old 12-17-2008, 09:02 PM   #8
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AW i was going to post this as well, but glad you did it as you write a lot better then I do. I think its a great idea, and i would fully support that. This year during religious education, out of say 100 kids, 30 went to the christian teaching, 20 to the catholic teaching, 10 to the muslim teaching and 40 left with me to play puzzles and games for an hour! IT would be great if the "left overs" i.e the ones whos parents object to religious teaching could do some wellbeing type of lessons where reason and goodness and morality is taught. In fact you don't need to be all millitant and go 'there is no god, and if you believe youre wrong and stupid' which is what i find some atheists seem to push (and in that light are no different then religious people pushing Christ)

While I don't think religious education has ANYTHING to do with public schools and shouldn't be taught at all (thats why you choose to go to Chruch and Sunday School) i'm not offended by religious images, or quotes or things in public. Around this time there is always going to be things written about Jesus everywhere!

On another front though, private religious schools i think need to be scrutinised to make sure they come up to teaching standards, especially in the science area. If a school is teaching creationism, those students shouldn't get a pass in yr 12 science for it, because they're learning incorrect information. I also don't think theology is a subject at high school and shouldn't be treated like one.
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Old 12-17-2008, 09:30 PM   #9
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If comparative religion (and evolution for that matter) is a mandatory part of the curriculum it undercuts literal religiousity. Children aren't idiots, if you teach them that Muslims believe that Gabriel gave divine revelation to Mohammed or that Mormons believe Joseph Smith was given golden plates by Moroni then they will be more informed, and draw reasonable conclusions - that isn't to say they will inherently be atheists or agnostics, but they probably won't be intolerant fundamentalists. It's obvious why the Jesuits could take a child for seven years and produce the man.

How many kids have realised the infinite regress about who created God? How many were told it was a silly question?

As far as science education goes it is really in trouble; society respects scientists but it is perceived as such a dry and pedantic area, somehow divorced from wonder. A lack of scientific awareness and critical thinking invites exploitation from quacks and divines; going by the money funneled into crystal healing and faith healers its pretty plain to see.

While there is really cool science out there, great popular science books, and plenty of dedicated teachers it just doesn't seem to hold children's interest as they grow up. It is a big problem, and one which Australia, America and Britain will notice as more big discoveries are made in places where science education is held in higher esteem.
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Old 12-17-2008, 09:31 PM   #10
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Personally, though I'm not religious at all (anymore), I find religion and theology to be quite interesting, and I would've liked to have studied it in school, had it been an option.

The clincher is... if you're going to teach about one religion (namely, Christianity), you should teach about ALL of them. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and yes, Athiesm. Though some militant athiests would have your guts for garters if you call it a religion, it sort of fits the profile. Call it 'anti-religion', if you will, but it's still a belief system of sorts, or lack of beliefs, whatever, it's still relevant, and has something of a history. You can teach students about something without trying to convert them to it.

The problem is when the religion right freaks the fuck out at the concept of the poor impressionable children learning about anything other than Jesus. But 'Freedom of Religion' doesn't just mean your religion. Why should yours matter more than mine? What if I want to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

On a related note, there seems to be this belief among the Bible-thumpers in America that students are not allowed to pray or carry bibles in public schools. I heard it over and over again when I was in church, but that's the completely not true. I took my Bible to school with me often, and carried it openly. No one cared. Students organized and held prayer meetings in empty classrooms before school. The only condition was that the teachers/school officials themselves were not allowed to advertise/organize/lead the meetings, but the students could do whatever they wanted.
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Old 12-17-2008, 09:45 PM   #11
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The most personally obnoxious thing is when Christians whine about how prayer and God's Word are forbidden in US public schools. Nevermind that anyone can bring a Bible to school or pray on their own! They think the only "fair" thing is to have the state enforce a monopoly for their religious thought.

Edit- oops, somehow I completely missed DOL saying this!
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Old 12-17-2008, 09:50 PM   #12
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I've got endless problems with religion being taught in schools from kindergarten onward. I agree with you, Amy, it needs to be kept at home or Sunday school or church groups, etc.
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Old 12-17-2008, 10:13 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by DreamOutLoud13 View Post
On a related note, there seems to be this belief among the Bible-thumpers in America that students are not allowed to pray or carry bibles in public schools. I heard it over and over again when I was in church, but that's the completely not true. I took my Bible to school with me often, and carried it openly. No one cared. Students organized and held prayer meetings in empty classrooms before school. The only condition was that the teachers/school officials themselves were not allowed to advertise/organize/lead the meetings, but the students could do whatever they wanted.
And that's exactly how it should be.
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Old 12-18-2008, 08:31 PM   #14
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Pray without ceasing.

~Saint Paul


Yep, try to enforce a law against that.
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Old 12-18-2008, 08:35 PM   #15
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Don't try to impose your compulsion on me, is is wrong to make children join in class prayers in public schools.
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