What REALLY happens in your child’s Scripture class – and beyond …

Here is a fascinating insight into what is really taught in Scripture (SRE / RI classes) in Australian state schools. Joel Pittman, a former evangelical youth pastor explains how evangelicals have colonised this area, how they frighten your children into giving their lives to Christ and then encourage them to attend youth camps where they can be further indoctrinated.

We have known this is going on for years, but it’s absolutely fascinating to hear Joel talk about it so casually. Joel insists that the way he conducted Scripture classes is typical. This is borne out by an account from a friend of mine. She told me recently that her son – opted out of Scripture but made to sit outside the classroom – heard a friend ask the Scripture teacher if his parents would go to hell because they were divorced. The teacher answered bluntly, “Yes, they would,” and proceeded with a lecture about how ‘these people’ make a covenant under God and then are too lazy to make their marriage work. The child was in tears and my friends son was so horrified he came home and told her what he’d heard.

The video was taken at Skepticamp Sydney.

It’s interesting that someone notes that Scripture classes when WE were young were pretty benign. Joel notes that most of the money comes from the evangelical churches which are ‘cashed up’.

“You’ve got, like, churches groups like Hillsong that are taking $80-$90 million a year and are sending thousands of these people out …” says Joel.

The curriculum, says Joel is decided by the Scripture Board. But, while other moderate churches were involved,  “They didn’t have the money – and whoever has the money, makes the rules,” he says.

Watch it and weep.

Chrys Stevenson

If this is of concern to you, please consider contacting or supporting the Australian Secular Lobby – asl@australiansecularlobby.com or, in Victoria, Fairness in Religion in Schools (FIRIS) – religionsinschool@gmail.com .

You may also like to consider donating towards the legal fees for a second High Court Challenge against federal funding for the National School Chaplaincy program. An explanation of why another challenge is necessary, and some opinions from constitutional experts are linked to on the High Court Challenge website at http://www.highcourtchallenge.com . The chaplaincy challenge is being undertaken, once again, by Ron Williams who is risking his family’s financial future by taking this on. It’s estimated that the cost of this second challenge will approach $400,000.  It’s a staggering sum, but even small contributions are useful if enough people chip in.  Details of how to donate are in the right hand side bar at the High Court Challenge website.

16 thoughts on “What REALLY happens in your child’s Scripture class – and beyond …

  1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    I do have an edited transcript of notes taken by a concerned teacher who was asked to supervise an SRE class in NSW:

    “The classroom teacher remarked that while these kids were normally quite well behaved, they were almost a polar opposite during the scripture class.” Control and interest was only maintained by the Scripture teacher handing out chocolates and lollies to the children – the reason, the teacher speculates, that most of the children chose to attend the class.

    Transcript begins:

    Handed out chocolates first.
    Handed out scrap paper, kids to write nickname and class.
    Then started setting up computer.
    Questions on board to copy down
    * nickname – explain
    * what do your friends think of you?
    * what does your family think of you?
    * how would you describe yourself

    Showed slideshow of famous people, kids to write a single word describing what they think of each person.

    Very poor control of the class – kids screaming out constantly.
    Then asking kids to consider “what we say about others, compared to what god says about us”.

    Started playing ‘celebrity head’ …

    Then said no matter how else others think of us and describe us ‘the only thing that doesn’t change is what god thinks of us’.

    Wrote down numbered list of possible sources of her own opinion of herself – god first, then husband and kids, family, friends, sport. Says she’d be up and down if she relied on other people, so “that’s why I rely on god for my opinion about myself”.

    … Pushed the “whole new way of living” Jesus brought, that it’s important to not worry about what others think, but “to care about what the Creator thinks”.

    Showed a video of a guy rapping about “how great god is” and that all the problems in his life are solved by the presence of god in his life.

    … Finished with choice of watching remainder of movie [Napoleon Dynamite] or playing marshmallow game.”

    No hellfire and brimstone in this one, but is this really what you want your kids missing a half hour of valuable education time for?

  2. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    And, of course there is also this little corker talking about an SRE class in the Illawarra district of NSW:

    “Pray for Year 9 students as they talk about “Life After Life”. Bernie will use confronting material from “Ninety Minutes in Heaven” and “Raised from the Dead”.

    “Continue to pray for year 9 as they discuss “Life After Life”. This week they will hear about an atheist’s death experience of hell.”


  3. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    And let us not forget the words of Evonne Paddison, CEO of Access Ministries which supplies the vast bulk of SRE teachers and chaplains to Victorian schools:

    ”In Australia, we have a God-given open door to children and young people with the Gospel, our federal and state governments allow us to take the Christian faith into our schools and share it. We need to go and make disciples,” she told the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion national conference in Melbourne. ”What really matters is seizing the God-given opportunity we have to reach kids in schools.”

    Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/school-religion-classes-probed-20110512-1ekr9.html#ixzz21Q6AZmLd

  4. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

    And this: “Fundamentalist Christians are hijacking Religious Instruction (RI) classes in Queensland despite education experts saying Creationism and attempts to convert children to Christianity have no place in state schools.

    Students have been told Noah collected dinosaur eggs to bring on the Ark, and Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell.

    Critics are calling for the RI program to be scrapped after claims emerged Christian lay people are feeding children misinformation.”


  5. drew

    I’m glad my kids are in an Anglican private school where they’re safe from the likes of the Hillsong crazies.

  6. Pingback: What really happens in religious education classes? | Open Parachute

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  8. Abbie Noiraude

    Thanks again Chrys for exposing that which really happens in Scripture classes. Good to see some first hand information coming forth like this young chap. Most people of a ‘certain’ age still see RE classes as being benign like in our day. In my day the old minister would trot along and tell stories of his Scottish upbringing ( Presbyterian) and weave morals through his tales. I found the stories interesting as I have always had an interest in Scotland. The ‘push’ to be a ‘christian’ was not there. More a ‘lesson on how to live morally’ if you like.
    But to see and hear how it is now and WHO is giving these classes and their PURPOSE is terrifying.
    I don’t agree with any religious information being given to any child under the age of 16 but I have grown into an intolerant old atheist.

    Thanks again. Good work. Like Doug Steley says; we need video of actual scripture classes taking place especially in Primary Schools.

    1. Julian

      Abbie…you are in danger of joining the crown of wild eyed villagers with their torches when you use phrases like “what really happens in scripture classes” rather than “what can happen sometimes”. Your phraseology suggests that what you viewed is exclusively what happens in each and every case. How many teachers have sex with their students? If there is a report of one and I say “Thankyou for exposing what happens at schools” ummm.. would that be fair?
      Of course not. But having said all that, I quite agree that some instances of well meaning “Scripture” teachers do go a bit overboard. It’s like the science teacher who mocks the poor kid who says he believes God created the world.. not all science teachers behave so poorly, but some do.
      To properly understand the video above, you need to separate it into segments and not join the parts where he is speaking about Church related activities and School activities. You also need to know more about Joel’s life and background before simply believing and accepting what he says. In regard to Hillsong.. I can only say that the best medication for that ‘sickness’ is to read the Bible first and then..and only then make an evaluation of what they do. For my money, the similarities between the Bible and Hillsong’s approach are purely coincidental, and not particularly God honouring. I take St.Pauls view however..

      15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. (Phil 1)

      If some are brought to a genuine faith in Christ through Hillsong..I also rejoice in that.

      If you think that being a Christian is a bad thing ? Then I recommend you read 1 Corinthians 13

      If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

      4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

      COMMENT: If you have a problem with that… I’d love to hear about it.(see my email in another response)

      1. Julian

        Hi Gladly. Not quite a sermon… but a reasoned response to Abbie who use the following hysterical terminology “But to see and hear how it is now and WHO is giving these classes and their PURPOSE is terrifying.” I provided information…. an example of what is at the core of that which she is terrified of.. the ‘reason’ being to allay her fears of what she apparently does not understand.
        If you are serious.. that you want ‘reasoned’ arguments then I can accomodate. Here is one.
        Starting point “Reason”
        Question: Where did this come from ?
        Answer.-1. “Natural law” (?) this is courtesy of the enlightenment philosphers such as Pierre Bayle, Francois Voltaire, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke etc, but most of all from Jean Jacques Rousseau.

        There are 2 dimensions to natural law (“i.e. reason”)
        1/ The mathematical/Physics laws.(Science)
        2/ Morality or social law

        The problem with your stipulation of ‘reason based argument’ is that a number of different people will have a different view of what is ‘reasonable’. I speak here of all people who are secular. How do you accomodate that? Surely you are a tolerant person? The Committee of Public Safety (French Revolution) had an interesting idea.
        a) they derived the concept of “the General Will of the people” from Rousseau (Robispierre was a disciple of his)
        b) they then propagandized and stirred up a Paris ‘mob’ which assisted the Revolutionaries to gain power.
        c) Once installed they argued for ‘conformity’ and justified this by saying that All members of the community must follow the ‘general will’ .. then..”who reflects that ‘general will’ ? aah..the Committe of public safety. Now… loop to “b” above.

        Down the track a bit, the Jacobins (Robispierre’s faction) felt a bit uneasy.. “who?” they asked is a true revolutionary?? they began inquiring as to the ‘mindset’ of people (specially their co revolutionaries) and ended up murdering a truckload “(the reign of terror to protect the revolution)

        All in all they simply replaced the ‘Inquisition’ of the Roman Catholic Church with the Despotism of the Committe of Public safety. Then.. after fighting against the Monarchy… they ended up with…..Napoleon.. a despotic king in everything but name.

        So.. “reasoned argument” Gladly, is quite involved. You should know exactly what ‘reason’ is.. on what it is based and the dangers of declaring ‘your’ version the be all and end all of it.
        John Stuart Mill, in his treatise on Liberty said “If humanity – 1 is of one view, they don’t have the right to impose that view on the 1, just as the 1 does not have the right to impose his view on them, if he had the power.’ (Paraphrase)

        If you want ‘reasoned’ argument, that’s a great idea. But how can you exclude information in an intolerant, narrow minded way? As Mill points out… many opinions of what is ‘reasonable’ have later been declared to be awful by succeeding generations.

        PS.. are you the chap in the video ?

  9. Julian

    I took what was then RE with grade 5 and they were angels. Wonderfully well behaved and interested. Quite a mix ..some anglo’s and some greek.. some others also. All in all… a great experience and to meet later an appreciative parent (greek) was also fulfilling. It’s just that you have to establish respect quickly or it’s lost.
    VALUES BASED EDUCATION is something I wish to promote. The question is “Secular Values” or.. “Revelation based Values” (as in… Religious) I can argue this case for the latter with considerable breadth of educational background in history, philosophy, psychology and theology and welcome anyone who wishes to engage with me on this jdr_mot@bigpond.com
    What do you think of “Social Constructivism” as a basis for teaching children?


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