1529465668164 - Bible in Schools case fast-tracked to High Court, could be heard later this year

Bible in Schools case fast-tracked to High Court, could be heard later this year

Education

The Human Rights Commission has backed parents right to take a court case to stop religious education in state schools.

The Secular Education Network is opposed to schools allowing Bible studies in state, secular schools.

They argue it promotes Christianity and marginalises any other religion. 

The case was taken to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, but the Human Rights Commission said it believes the High Court is a better place for the issue to be argued. 

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Secular Education Network spokesman David Hines said the organisation wanted to change laws that permitted Bible studies being taught in schools.

He said the programme of Bibles in Schools was inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.

“It’s discriminating in favour of Christianity against other religions.”

“They teach all our values come from Christianity, which annoys people. They teach you have to believe in God to be a good person…they don’t mention Islam in any of their lessons,” he said.

Hines said parents had the right to pull their students out of classes but it segregated the class and could cause bullying.

“They can get labelled as anti-Christian and parents also.”

Hines said SEN was not opposed to teaching religion in schools, but currently it was done by volunteers and most of the time, only Christianity was taught.

He said it needed to be taught by professional teachers and all religious beliefs needed to be covered.

A Human Rights Commission spokesperson confirmed it supported SEN’s application to have its case heard at the High Court.

“The proceedings were originally filed with the Human Rights Review Tribunal in October 2016 and little substantive progress has been made since then,” the spokesperson said.

“The commission believes the case involves important issues of law and that it is in the public interest that these matters be considered and determined by the court as promptly as possible.”

The spokesperson said the commission was acting as an “intervener” in the case as the court would consider human rights principles as well as the relationship between the Education Act and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.