Student privacy compromised by school evangelist

QPSSS is disappointed to see that Queensland state schools continue to fall prey to opportunistic evangelists. Not only are antiquated rules that allow access to students during school hours being exploited, QPSSS has uncovered an example of one state school evangelist posting photos of children in his RI class on the internet, boasting that they have been ‘born again’ thanks to his evangelism.

It is unclear if the appropriate permission to do so was even sought, let alone granted.

QPSSS understands that it was only after it alerted the Department of Education last year to the blog posts of an RI volunteer – a self-proclaimed ‘Missionary in Australia’ from the United States – in which he reported his zealous edeavours that he suspended providing religious instruction at Pacific Pines Primary School and other Gold Coast state schools. He has been an RI volunteer in the area for over a decade.

QPSSS understands he is currently on furlough in America, giving presentations to churches in his capacity as a ‘Missionary to Australia’, and it is unclear when or if he will be returning to his role of religious instruction volunteer in state schools.

Courtesy of a law dating back to 1910, religious evangelists are entitled to access children at state schools to provide them with ‘Religious Instruction’. The content of the instruction is determined by religious leaders and is not subject to DET approval. Volunteer instructors are required to only have a basic level of training, also determined by the religious providers. There is no prohibition on seeking to convert religiously unaffiliated children.

QPSSS is concerned that parents are signing their children up for the class on the assumption that they will receive education about religions rather than doctrinal instruction, and may be unaware of the ‘sin and salvation’ aspect to some of the programs.

In a media statement in 2016, Labor Education Minister Kate Jones made a public commitment to ensuring parents are able to make a fully informed decision regarding their child’s participation in Religious Instruction.

Disappointingly, the Department of Education has since ruled out mandating the provision of comprehensive information to parents about actual program content and the churches and volunteers who deliver it. This remains at the discretion of school principals.

Furthermore, attempts by the Department of Education and the Minister to balance the rights of all students in state schools were met with an orchestrated media blitz, hypocritically claiming infringement of “religious freedom”.

Ultimately, this resulted in capitulation by the Department of Education such that RI volunteers have a green light to encourage RI children to evangelise their non-RI peers.

QPSSS believes the only way the Department of Education can ensure the rights of all children and families in state schools are respected, and comply with its own Religious Diversity policy is to completely remove religious instruction from school hours.

The LNP has recently made the following statement in relation to its policy regarding the Safe Schools program:

“Our schools are no place for agendas and ideologies. We need our classrooms and our schools to be focused on delivering great education outcomes for our children.”

 

Setting aside any debate on the merits or otherwise of that program, we hope that the LNP is sincere in its comments and will, therefore, either initiate, or offer bipartisan support for, amendments to the Education Act to remove the intrusion of religious ideology and agendas in our state schools.

For further details and corroborating evidence, please contact QPSSS at qldpsss@gmail.com

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