For release: April 14, 2010
The Australian Christian Lobby today called on the NSW Government to urgently clarify conflicting comments from the St James Ethics Centre as to whether ethics class will be offered in competition with Scripture in schools.
A February 8 letter from the Centre's Teresa Russell to parents and carers of year five and six students at a school participating in the NSW Government's up-coming ethics class trial contradicts comments made by the Centre's head, Dr Simon Longstaff, in the media this week.
Despite claims from Dr Longstaff that it was 'misleading' to suggest the new ethics classes would weaken Scripture classes, Ms Russell's letter states: “We now invite participation from Years 5 and 6 students, regardless of whether they currently 'opt out' of Scripture/SRE or not”. (Please see the letter attached).
However, Dr Longstaff told the ABC's PM program last night that the proposed new ethics class "should only be for people who have opted out of scripture".
Furthermore, the letter contradicts Dr Longstaff's comments on The National Times blog this week that “the pool of potential participants will be limited to those who would otherwise be spending time 'twiddling their thumbs'.” (http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/you-cant-teach-ethics-without-referring-to-christianity-20100409-rxai.html?comments=210#comments)
Mr Longstaff told today's Sydney Morning Herald that it was misleading to suggest that there was any desire or intention to weaken religion classes. (http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/bishop-enters-battle-against-secular-ethics-classes-20100413-s7pp.html)
ACL's NSW Director David Hutt said the NSW Government needed to clarify the conflicting statements coming from the St James Ethics centre so parents could be assured that the Government's intent is not to weaken Scripture classes.
“If the Government sees a need for additional ethical content in the curriculum we would welcome that however this syllabus should be available to all students as part of General Religious Education (GRE) and not create the false dichotomy that there might be a choice between Scripture and ethics,” Mr Hutt said.
Media Contact: Lyle Shelton 0448 602 878.