(Image courtesy The Sydney Morning Herald)
Windsor State School has banned the Connect Religious Instruction (RI) classes following a review by the principal.
The move may have significant ramifications, since the Connect curriculum is widely used for RI in Queensland and New South Wales.
In a letter to parents, principal Matthew Keong explains how the lessons contravene RI policy by attempting to convert children to Christianity.
“Connect’s materials go beyond imparting knowledge of Biblical references, and extend to soliciting children to develop a personal faith in God and Jesus and become a Christian or ‘Kingdom Kid’.”
The review has found the Connect program in breach of the policy that prohibits proselytising, defined as “soliciting a student for a decision to change their religious affiliation”.
“In the teacher’s manuals, the Connect authors remind instructors that most of their audience is not yet Christian, and the whole program appears to be based on that premise of trying to solicit them for a decision to become the kind of Christian prescribed in the materials.”
The Facebook page of Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools (QPSSS) has published various other Connect lessons, highlighting the apparent aim of converting non-Christian schoolchildren.
Kids are invited to become a “Kingdom Kid”, in Connects C2 lower primary lesson:
“Maybe you’re not a Kingdom Kid yet. If you would like to live God’s way and follow Jesus, we can pray a prayer right now. I am going to say the words of the prayer first so you can hear what the prayer is about. If you agree with this prayer, when I pray it the second time in parts, think the words in your head after me. If you don’t want to pray this prayer with me, just sit quietly with your eyes closed so that you are not disrupting those who would like to say it. This is the prayer I will be praying.
Dear God, thank you that Jesus dies on the cross so I could be part of your family. I am sorry for wanting to live my own way, but now I want to live your way. Please forgive me and help me to learn more about you. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer in your head, welcome to God’s family! You’re a Kingdom Kid.”
Connects C2 upper primary lesson emphasizes the choice children need to make:
“The Bible tells us there are two kinds of people; the people who have faith and will live forever with God, and those who say no to Jesus.
We need to decide which type of person we want to be. Will we follow Jesus?”
The program is full of entreaties to join the faith. Connects C1, lesson 1:
“I want you to think about Jesus who is the King and think about whether you would like to be in his Kingdom forever.”
Connects C1, lesson 2:
“In other words, it is only through Jesus that we can be clean before God and be friends with him forever.
I want you to consider what you think about Jesus’ miracle. Do you want to put your faith in Jesus?”
Instructors are encouraged to link children to “church-run children’s and youth activities”.
The offer to “experience the Christian community and learn more about the Christian faith” outside of school, could also breach RI’s policy prohibiting proselytising.
According to the Education Act, State schools must make up to one hour of curriculum time a week available for religious instruction.
The program is optional, requiring written parental approval.
The Connect material is available for purchase online, but is not normally offered to parents prior to enrolment.
According to Alison Courtice of QPSSS, schools are failing to provide parents with sufficient information to satisfy the principle of informed consent.
Mr Keong also expresses concern over a lack of scrutiny over faith based programs.
“It has recently come to my attention, contrary to my previous understanding, none of the programs used in Religious Instruction (RI) provided by any faith groups are approved or endorsed by the Department of Education and Training (DET).”
The Connect material has also been the subject of outrage following its David and Goliath lesson, where students were asked to roleplay a beheading.
DET has previously advised parents with concerns over RI to contact their school principal.
The complete failure to apply even the most rudimentary controls should give parents good reason to worry.