Freedom of Religion or Freedom From It?

Census 2011With the stroke of a pen, the Victorian state government last week scrapped the teaching of religious education that has been in effect for as long as anyone can remember. No consultation and no correspondence entered into…well, at least not mine! A party stalwart sheepishly conceded that freedom of religion has been increasingly and sadly confused with freedom from religion. Now, children are being denied instruction in that religion, and it is mostly Christianity which is the faith that has so strongly underpinned Western society. It remains culturally relevant to all Australians in a nation in which over half of all adults still profess not just to believe in God, but actually to be Christian.

The government tells us that there will be some comparative religion presented by qualified teachers, amidst other replacement offerings. This cheap substitute is tantamount to providing token lessons on drop punt kicking in Physical Education classes by a sports teacher with little or no skills experience in preference to using available local football club representatives. Why spurn committed Christians’ offer to teach about their faith (with some regularity and enthusiasm) which would help students better understand it in making more informed choices about their own beliefs?

We are also told that only twenty per cent of students opted to take Special Religious Instruction classes in recent times. Of course they did, because the government recently forced families to ‘opt in’. What next? Perhaps we will make other valuable activities optional, too. Maybe camping can be optional, or foreign languages. What about music? We wouldn’t want a teacher to influence some poor child with his love of rock n’ roll or jazz, would we? While we’re at it, why not also tell kids they only have to go to school if they opt in, too?!

It is incredible to see how pressure groups and vocal minorities can exert such rapid influence against a majority faith. Their force and fervency has convinced many that their case is somehow logical, when it is so obviously prejudiced on its collective and various fronts.

To shut out the many providers and consumers without any consultation is yet another example of the social conditioning that is happening around us with such vehemence as to seemingly intimidate the masses into silent acquiescence.

It is perhaps simplistic to believe that the ballot box could become an instrument of remedy, when parties and individuals represent so many questionable decisions and practices today. However, the palpable bias that is being repeatedly revealed against Christians today needs more than ever before for a commitment to careful examination of the options and intelligent engagement with them. In a context of increased love, good works and Spirit-led interactions in schools and in the wider community, those proud to practise their faith will again surely demonstrate, as has been seen throughout history, that it always rises strong in the face of every attempt to quash it.


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