Media Release

The NSW Government’s decision to roll-out ethics classes in primary schools next year actively discriminates against children of faith who will not be able to attend both special religious education (SRE) and ethics classes and also risks undermining a system of teaching SRE which has operated effectively for more than a century, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said today.

ACL today expressed deep concern about Cabinet’s decision and urged the Opposition to reverse this decision and safeguard the special place of SRE in NSW schools if it wins office next March.

“If ethics classes are to be taught in NSW schools then they should be rolled out for all children – and be based on a program which conforms to community standards,” ACL NSW Director David Hutt said.

“The Government should not be discriminating against children of faith who will not be able to attend both SRE and ethics but should run the ethics classes with the aid of professionals at a separate time within the general curriculum.”

Mr Hutt said the ACL also has deep reservations about not only how the St James Ethics Centre is going to recruit the large numbers of volunteers needed to run the ethics classes, but also the ability of the volunteers to effectively teach something as philosophically complex as ethics.

“For over 100 years, thousands of volunteers have given of their time to teach SRE in NSW schools each week – with successive governments safeguarding the role of SRE by not allowing other classes to be run in competition with it,” he said.

“It is extremely disappointing to see the NSW Government forgoing that role and we call on the NSW Opposition to reverse their decision if they come to office next year.”