The Churches Education Commission has hit back at claims – and pamphlets – accusing schools of prioritising recruiting for Christianity over teaching.
The Secular Education Network has been outside Christchurch’s Wharenui School today, warning parents about religious lessons there and claiming they are more about recruiting new members than education.
Christian religious instruction in state schools is coordinated by the Churches Education Commission.
Its spokesperson, Tracey Kirkley, said the Bible was the basis of its value-based lessons, and was presented to students in an appropriate manner.
She said the critics were wrong.
“We live in a free country, people can stand outside school gates and do what they like, but who is that going to look for the school, and how is that going to be in terms of thrusting a pamphlet into a parent’s hand as they’re picking their child up from school, which is full of factually incorrect information, I must say.”
The Secular Education Network’s pamphlets show a picture of a little girl simulating choking herself.
The group said this was an illustration of an exercise children are asked to do by those taking the classes as an example of what happens to non-believers.
However, pastor Phil Stedman from the church providing the lessons denied children had ever been asked to do this.
“I have no idea what it’s about, to be honest. We would never in our wildest dreams go anywhere near using a story like that. And I think that is a misrepresentation completely for the sort of thing we would teach.”
Phil Stedman said while he believed in hell, this was not something children were taught about.