Queensland Labor acts against Christian schools program but not Safe Schools
The Australian, June 8, 2016
The Queensland government, which refuses to identify schools that have joined the controversial Safe Schools Coalition, has targeted a Christian program after a complaint from a single Brisbane principal.
Education Minister Kate Jones yesterday ordered a review of the syllabus after a complaint was made by Windsor State School principal Matthew Keong.
The Connect religious program, developed by the Anglican Church, is offered to children of parents who have “self-identified” as Christians.
Mr Keong suspended religious instruction after accusing the program of “soliciting” a student to develop a “personal faith in God and Jesus to become a Christian or Kingdom Kid”.
In April, a Fairfax Media columnist attacked the Connect curriculum for the inclusion of a role-playing exercise involving the Old Testament story of David and Goliath, saying it involved “acting out scenes of horrifying violence”.
In response, Connect operator Christian Education Publications said attempts to liken the biblical story with violence were part of a “smear campaign” by atheist lobby groups.
A CEP spokesman yesterday rejected claims its curriculum, widely used in Queensland schools, “proselytises”.
“Parents choose for their children to participate … have self-identified as Christian and expect their child to be taught from a Christian perspective,” he said.
“The issue of proselytising has received serious attention in NSW over the past few years, and we have worked closely with the NSW Department of Education to ensure our content is appropriate for the context.
“Our lessons are developed and regularly reviewed by trained educators and religious leaders, and we are careful to ensure the basic tenets of the Christian faith are taught in an age-appropriate and sensitive manner.”
Queensland opposition education spokeswoman Tracy Davis last night described the crackdown on Christian education as “kneejerk” and called for more transparency from the government in relation to the Safe Schools program. Queensland is the only major state that has refused to identify which of its schools have joined the Safe Schools Coalition, a taxpayer-funded group set up to combat bullying of gay, lesbian, intersex or transgender students.
The program was reviewed by the Turnbull government earlier this year after complaints were made about inappropriate links.
“To launch a wholesale review of religious instruction in state schools in response to a single principal’s complaint is typical of the ‘review rather than do’ Palaszczuk Labor government,” Ms Davis said. “It’s interesting to contrast the Palaszczuk government’s position on the far more controversial Safe Schools education program and its inclusion in state school curriculum, to the knee-jerk position it’s taken on Christian education.”
Ms Jones confirmed the review of the Connect material followed the principal’s complaint and failed to identify any specific concerns she had with the program. “I am concerned content outside the guidelines … may currently be being provided in state schools,’’ she said. “Any materials found to be in breach of the policy will be removed from schools.”