Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Greens on Scripture

After stirring the pot a little with this post a while ago, I thought I'd just point out that it seems that the NSW Greens are not quite so anti-Scripture in schools as they are sometimes made out to be by some right-leaning Christian politicians. Here is a quote from a recent press release:

"The Greens support the right of parents to send their children to scripture lessons and the strong system of values taught in NSW public schools."
For the full release, see here. I stumbled across this while doing some research for a State Election Forum that our church will be hosting with some local candidates on Friday 16th March. More details soon.

19 comments:

Mister Tim said...

What a shockingly sensible policy, given the that not every student will attend scripture classes. I'm stunned.

michael jensen said...

Yes, but you still wouldn't actually VOTE for them, now, would you, any more than you would vote for the Christian Democrats... we want sensible government!

;-)

Mister Tim said...

Well, I don't live in NSW anyway.. but, no.

jeltzz said...

I do wonder what the Greens propose be taught in a secular ethics class. Will it be a philosophical study of ethics, ethics-philosophers, and various theories of ethics? Or is the idea to provide 'values' and 'moral training', which without a viewpoint is, to my mind, bewildering. One can't teach perspectiveless ethics if you're also trying to inculcate morality.

byron said...

we want sensible government!
I'm assuming you haven't been following recent NSW state politics if you think you'll get that from Labor or the Coalition...

Not that the Greens or CDP are going to be forming government anytime soon in any case, therefore a vote for them is not a vote for who runs the state, but makes a statement about how you think whichever side wins (i.e. Labor) should be doing it. Although I do live on the borderline of the two electorates in which the Greens have an outside chance of a lower house seat.

And in terms of their specific proposal about an ethics class, I agree there are major problems and details to be worked out, but the main point is that they are not out to demolish scripture in schools outright (as Fred Nile and others continue to claim. Southern Cross ran a fairly silly article advertising for CDP and trying to scare Christians from voting for the pagan Greens. The only quote directly from a Greens member was about how CDP consistently misrepresent Greens policy, yet the article made no attempt to investigate this claim, or give evidence for Fred's accusations).

One Salient Oversight said...

The Greens will certainly champion certain issues with regards to religon and education. Of course one of their big issues is whether Christian schools should employ practicing homosexuals.

Many Christian schools and groups are naturally up in arms about this agenda of theirs, nevertheless, the Greens actually may have a reasonably good argument!

The fact is that Christian schools in Australia get a massive amount of funding via Federal Government subsidies. Without this money, given to Christian schools by the Australian taxpayer, I would guestimate that at least two thirds would not be able to function.

And if you're receiving money from the world, we're in the world's pocket. Since there is anti-discrimination legislation protecting the rights of gays, it should be logical for them to extend this into other parts of government involvement.

Louisa said...

do you think the very next sentence in their release has any impact on the sentence you have mentioned:

"The Greens support the right of parents to send their children to scripture lessons and the strong system of values taught in NSW public schools. But we do not support the government denying a significant proportion of students in our public school system the opportunity to fill an empty hour a week with a structured lesson of real value.

In Vic we have an 'opt out' system, that is all kids are enrolled in CRE unless their parents ask for them NOT to attend. In the local school where we teach CRE the 'significan proportion' of students are those taking CRE (and we have lower enrolments than most!) I can imagine that if schools were offering an alternative lesson during this time the number attending CRE might drop.

It's good to know the Greens support the principle, I just wonder how their approach might affect the practice?

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Speaking of sensible government, I want to thank PM Ian Howard for running down Sen. Barack Obama and Democrats, generally. Since Americans hate to have anyone tell them for whom to vote (see what happened when the French endorsed John Kerry in '04), Howard's remarks have given even more trouble to the Republicans. If we get rid of them and ya'll get rid of the Torries, maybe the world will be a little better off.

P.S.--I think students should learn Scripture (or not) at home, not at public schools. I'd vote for the Greens(were I an Australian living in New South Wales) just because they have policies I believe are just and ecologically sound--and largely peaceful. I pray the day will soon come when electoral reforms will break apart the 2-party system in the U.S.

Eclipse Now! said...
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Eclipse Now! said...
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Eclipse Now! said...

Sorry about the above... I've had 2 lots of coding problems and have no idea what is going wrong! I preview it and it looks ok, but when I publish it's all wrong.

This my letter that Southern Cross published.

******

I am writing to express my concern over the report, “Fred goes Green for NSW’s Future” (SC, Feb).

My problem lies in the fact that many of the Rev Fred Nile’s statements against the NSW Greens were not documented or sourced.

As a Christian I take some things on that list very seriously indeed. But where is the evidence for these claims?

The reporter should have asked Mr Nile for sources. For example, is banning scripture teaching in public schools a codified, definite policy already drawn up or is it just a potential outcome of an education policy? Will Christian schools specifically have to employ a gay teacher if they apply, or is that just a potential outcome of some vaguer wording in a bill? Are these claims true, or just sound-bytes designed to grab the Christian vote? Readers cannot know without sifting through hours and hours of online policy documents.

I strongly suggest that the Southern Cross ‘Google’ “Why Christians should vote Green” and see if they can interview the author Jim Reiher. As a Christian in the Greens party, he should at least be given the right of reply to many of Mr Nile’s claims.

byron said...

It's good to know the Greens support the principle, I just wonder how their approach might affect the practice?
Louisa - I agree that their policy may affect the practice, but my main point was simply that prominent Christian politicians are unfairly gaining political influence by incorrectly claiming the Greens will ban Scripture. As for the potential effect on practice, I wonder whether many schools will have the expertise available to make an ethics lesson more attractive than Scripture. Although thinking about this some more, I guess it is the parents who choose and so it is about which is more attractive on paper.

byron said...

Michael - I'd also like to see the two party system made a little less rigid than it presently is in Australia (not helped by our Federal voting laws in which you have to give preferences for all candidates - means you are forced to vote for one of the two major parties in most electorates). However, confusingly, our conservative party is not called the Tories (that is the UK), but the Liberal party (it is actually a coalition between the larger Liberals and the smaller Nationals, whose support is primarily rural).

As for learning Scripture at home - I think you'd find that most of us would agree that this ought to be the primary place of learning for children from with Christian parents, however, the opportunity to teach the gospel for an hour a week to a wide range of school children is one that NSW (and Victorian) churches gained back in the late 19thC by handing over control of most of their own schools to the government. This opportunity is not one we are keen to lose quickly.

byron said...

David - good letter, thanks for making it available. I was thinking of writing something similar myself as I found the Southern Cross article very disappointing. I hope they publish it (and follow your advice!).

Joanna said...

Hey Byron,
I'd be really interested to hear more about the forum your church will hold, especially as I have to vote in this electorate this year!

Jonathan said...

At at least one of the primary schools I attended, the conditions on what could be done in class while some children were at Scripture were interpreted to mean games or possibly art and craft. Some kids asked their parents not to go to Scripture, as they didn't want to miss out on the "fun". In schools were core material was studied at that time (against policy), the parents were understandably disinclined to have their children attend Scripture. Some sort of ethics class proposal is possibly a good balance.

Byron, I don't think the compulsory preferences help the major parties to the detriment of minor parties. Not giving preferences has a similar effect to not voting at all, if the candidates you do vote for don't reach the 2 candidate stage, and one of the last 2 candidates is still elected.

If applied in NSW, compulsory preferences could conceivably benefit the Greens in Marrickville, if they manage to pass the Liberals on first preferences. They gained a lot of votes when there was no Lib candidate in the by-election, votes that might go to the Libs and be exhausted under the optional preference system. The idea that is is compulsory to make a first choice, but not a choice where it really counts, seems quite bizarre to me.

byron said...

Jo - I'll post something on it in the next few days once some final details have been confirmed (still waiting on one more candidate to say yes).

Jonathan - Not giving preferences has a similar effect to not voting at all, if the candidates you do vote for don't reach the 2 candidate stage, and one of the last 2 candidates is still elected.
This is true in State elections, where such a vote is still considered formal, but in Federal elections, it is an informal vote to fail to number every box. The problem with voting informally is that your support for your minor party goes unnoticed. If a minor party gains enough votes, not only do they qualify for more campaign funding, the major parties also start to take notice of their issues (e.g. One Nation a few years ago).

If applied in NSW, compulsory preferences could conceivably benefit the Greens in Marrickville
And Balmain, where the Greens vote is even higher. Last election, of the 9,000 or so votes (20%) that went to Liberals in Balmain, about 8,000 were exhausted (didn't indicate a preference for Labor or Greens) and only 1,000 were passed on. Of these, 85% went to Greens. If the rest had had the same distribution, the Greens would have won. the seat.

The idea that is is compulsory to make a first choice, but not a choice where it really counts, seems quite bizarre to me.
As I've indicated above, I don't think the final showdown is the only place that counts. I prefer the NSW system to the Federal system. It allows the possibility of protest votes against the two major parties without having to vote informally and so wasting the potential support of minor parties.

Jonathan said...

Byron, you may be right that the NSW system is in practice better in that sense. I was ignoring the possibility that people would (out of ignorance or stubborness) vote informally. If everyone follows the rules, no minor party loses support.

I wholeheartedly agree that the final showdown is not the only place that counts. A vote for a minor party can be worthwhile even in a system without preferences (like here in Britain). However, I don't really see what is gained by not completing preferences over placing the disliked parties at the end. Even if such a "protest" is worthwhile, it doesn't really make sense unless you would vote informally if those candidates were the only ones. Evidence from things like the Marrickville by-election (this sort of situation is probably the best guide to where the "missing" preferences would go) suggest that most people don't actually do that.

Anyway, both the NSW and federal systems are much better for minor parties than most similar models (anything not involving proportional representation), so to a large extent it is our political culture that preserves the two parties, not just the system. At the moment, I prefer the federal rules, because according to them I can still vote!

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