Sunday, 7 August 2011

Why religion and politics don't mix

Illustration: Reg Lynch

Last week, Fred Nile, leader of the Christian Democratic Party in Australia wrote this drivel about his campaign to remove the option of ethics classes in New South Wales' schools.

Quick background for those unaware:
  • NSW state (and apparently secular) schools have religious education classes to teach, more times than not, Christian beliefs and the bible.
  • If parents wish for their children not to participate, up until 2010, it was prohibited for the children to receive any instruction while they did not attend scripture. 
  • Due to popular demand, a draft curriculum for an ethics-based class as an alternative to religious education was prepared and trialled in late 2010. 
  • State Premier Barry O'Farrell made an pre-election promise to keep the ethics classes and since then Fred Nile has used his parliament voting powers to threaten to block O'Farrell's legislation moves unless he scraps the classes.

The option of an alternative to scripture in secular schools makes so much sense, I can't see how anyone could oppose it. If anything, in secular public schools, ethics classes should be the norm and religion classes optional, not the other way around. Or even the study of all major religions in an informative and educational way, not in a factual and converting way. Parents have the option of sending their children to religious schooling if they want or attending church in their own time. This should not be the role of the public school system, particularly in a multicultural country such as Australia.

Some quotes from Fred Nile's on the subject:
"I have not sought to blackmail the NSW government. I simply reminded them: before they reject my Ethics Repeal Bill, they should remember they need our votes to pass their controversial industrial relations legislation." - possibly the best definition of blackmail I've ever heard. 
"I agree with the teaching of ethics in NSW schools, colleges and universities, provided it is based on history's greatest teacher of ethics, the Lord Jesus Christ." - excuse me while I vomit into my lap.
Now, this is not an anti-religious post. Fred Nile and everyone else has every right to practice whichever religion they like. However, his role in politics isn't to indoctrinate every child into his chosen faith by banning all other educational options other than scripture. Even representatives within the Catholic and Anglican churches have backed the option of ethics classes.

He has even gone on to say that secular ethics is the philosophy that lead to Nazism and WWII and is therefore 'dangerous' for our children. Wow . . . way to throw the hardest, most irrelevant card on the table for sake of shock value and scare tactics. We all know what you're up to here Fred. You don't want possible converts being 'wasted' in ethics classes when they could be on the path of Christian enlightenment.

I think these actions from Fred Nile demonstrate the need for ethics classes for our young people, so the next generation don't end up just like him.
"So kids, imagine you are a politician who wants to pass an unpopular bill through parliament. What would be the most ethical way to approach the problem? Yes, Johnny?"
"Um,  threaten to withdraw support for another bill until everyone votes for yours?"
"Hmm . . . . " 
Last week, 11 year old Charlie Fine, a public school student, explained his sentiments over the drama in this article and gave some insight into what the ethics classes involve. I encourage everyone to read it.

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