Why we should teach religion at schools

WHO will stand up against the recent, sustained attacks on religious teachers and optimal scripture lessons in NSW's government schools?

Religious instruction has become one of the most contentious issues regarding the curriculum content taught to today's students. However, a general policy in many of these schools stipulates that dissenting parents can request their child to be exempt from scripture lessons, and sent elsewhere to do alternative work under a teacher's supervision.

Why, then, are some parents and educational commentators not satisfied with the convenience of this exemption, but are seemingly obsessed with completely eradicating religious teaching from the schools' student timetable.

In fact, the NSW State Electoral District Census for 2011 listed Dubbo as the area with the highest percentage of respondents identifying as Christian. 80.54 per cent of them did so, while only 10.85 per cent of the local population were listed by the census as having no religion.

In other words, the suggestion by opponents of religious education that most people don't want it in government schools is a fabrication.

What we really have is a minority attempting to dictate their discriminatory prejudices onto the majority. In a democratic society such as Australia, this is completely unacceptable. Furthermore, their attitude raises other serious issues than just an individual's spiritual beliefs - or the absence of them.

Opposition to religious education in schools is also a clear example of people demanding the right to be accepted as they are, and a freedom to believe what they please, while refusing to give anyone with an opposite view the same latitude.

Important principles of tolerance and religious freedom we normally take for granted in Australia then come into play, meaning any proposed removal of religious education from government schools should be vigorously rejected.

A major argument of these would-be reformers for the removal of religious education from NSW public schools is the old tax one. They see the debate largely in patriot revolutionary terms, as taxation without any representation. These people pay their taxes to support government schools, but are still without a voice.

They are not being heard, as scripture lessons remain part of the school curriculum. But the parents who are fully at ease with their children receiving religious teaching are also taxpayers.

Therefore, they have the right for their children to benefit by having them taught scripture at school. And the NSW 2011 Census clearly indicates these parents are by far a significant majority around Dubbo.

Fortunately, the NSW Department of Education and Communities has got it exactly right. Convenient opportunities are readily available in government schools for religious instruction of students.

Those who don't share the same beliefs, or for any one of a number of reasons wish to abstain from scripture lessons, have reasonable exemption provisions firmly in place.

Still, it is incumbent on those parents to withdraw their children, without insisting they are also allowed to violate the rights of the parental and student majority.

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