New Zealand's Green Party: "State Schools Should Advance Religious Tolerance"

September 4, 2006

Source: Scoop Independent News

On September 4, 2006 Scoop Independent News reported, "Green MP Keith Locke has concerns that Christian prayers in state school assemblies do not take account of the greater diversity in religious belief that is evident among New Zealanders today. Mr Locke, the Green Party's Human Rights Spokesperson, was responding to the decision to ditch the proposed guidelines for teaching religion in state schools, that would have required parents to give their written consent before their children could take part in religious instruction or events. 'The reality is that fewer New Zealanders now identify with the Christian faith, and are either becoming more diverse in the faith they profess, or are choosing not to profess any faith at all,' Mr Locke says. 'Significant numbers of students come from families that either have no religion, or have another religion. Between 1991 and 2002 there was a threefold increase in the numbers of those professing Islam, while the numbers of New Zealand residents professing the Hindu faith doubled. Simultaneously, there has been a huge increase in those professing no faith at all, a category that encompassed some 30 percent of the 2001 census population... It is demeaning for students from non-Christian families to have to say a Christian prayer that they don't believe in, and they are often reluctant to stand out among their peers by using the "opt-out" exemption provisions in school rules... School assemblies should reflect the sort of tolerant and understanding multi-cultural society that we are trying to build,' Mr Locke says."