By 3 News online staff
A prominent church leader has waded into the debate over teaching the Bible in schools, coming down on the side of secularists who want it gone.
A number of Auckland schools have dropped Bible studies classes in the past few years due to the increasing number of students opting out.
Last month it was revealed the Churches Education Commission, which runs classes in around 800 New Zealand schools, had instructed its followers to join school boards so they could have "more influence" on religious teaching, and that schools were an "under-utilised mission field".
Opposing religious instruction in schools is the Secular Education Network, who want it either completely removed, or made factual and non-sectarian.
And Rev Clay Nelson of Auckland church St Matthew-in-the-City says it is "un-Christian" to force their faith on others.
"If we went to another country who accepted us as residents and they told us our children have to be taught another religion we would not feel good about that," he told Auckland Now, adding that Christian teaching in public schools should be "swept into the ash can of history".
St-Matthew-in-the-City is famed for its controversial billboards, which take a more liberal and edgy view of Christianity than is normally associated with the faith.
One featured Joseph and Mary in bed, with the text: 'Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow.' Another showed a shocked Virgin Mary holding a positive pregnancy test – it was vandalised by an outraged Catholic protester, who called it "devil's work".
Public schools are technically secular, but are allowed to "close" for up to one hour a week, 30 hours a year to allow religious instruction. Schools are obliged to cater for students that opt out, and the increasing number who are opting out is stretching school budgets.
The classes are not taught by teachers at the school, but by members of the Churches Education Commission, who say the classes are to teach "values", not convert children to Christianity.
"There's nothing wrong with value classes but it should be part of the curriculum taught by the teacher," says Rev Nelson. "It should not be someone coming from outside who has no accountability."
In 2006 the Labour Government planned to make the classes opt-in rather than opt out, but backtracked following negative public opinion, says Auckland Now.
source: newshub archive