Rationalists lay complaint against Human Rights Commission


A complaint against the Human Rights Commission has been laid by the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists, citing the HRC’s failure to address state sanctioned religious discrimination in primary schools.

Peter Harrison, President of the Rationalists said “It is about time that the Human Rights Commission take a long hard look at how it is dealing with complaints about the indoctrination occurring in state schools.”

School boards in New Zealand can approve evangelical organisations coming into the school to indoctrinate children without the knowledge or permission of parents. According to a 2013 survey about 40% of state primary schools operate some form of Christian Bible Class.

Every year the HRC receives many complaints about religious instruction in school, from children being forced to pick up rubbish if they opt out to parents being bullied and excluded from the school when the opt their children out of religious indoctrination classes.

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While the HRC takes a strong and laudable stand against racism they have not made public statements about freedom of religion.

Harrison said that “the complaint simply requests that the Human Rights Commission live up to its charter, to become energetic, enthusiastic supporters of freedom of belief, to publicly endorse an education system that is safe and welcoming to all children, and to actively take an interest in ensuring schools observe the Human Rights Act and do not discriminate against children on the basis of religion.”


  1. About time.

    Personally I object to the old paradigm of organised religion. It disengages critical thinking while promoting an unhealthy dependence on unneeded external guidance.

    The only moral compass my children need is their own.

    I would add to the complaint that the school surely has a duty of care to the children. Every exposure not sanctioned by parents is a breech of this duty and it is past time that it is acknowledged as such.

    All religious programming in schools sets children up to become financially exploited (through tithing) either immediate, or later in life as at a young age they are unable to determine how exploitative or damaging religion can be.

    Religion has confused sexual identity and imprinted people with guild and shame since it’s inception. This confusion is just another aspect of exploitation of children that must be stopped.

  2. NZ law states that Education is free, secular and compulsory between stated ages with some conditions about children who enroll before 6 yrs.

    The crux of the legislation was laid down in 1877 by politicians who where in the main “pillars of the church”

    The Teachers legal handbook states the position clearly and forbids a teacher to teach religion. Repeating over, writing of and reading are methods of teaching.

    The ten commandments and the lords prayer are strictly forbidden, in any language.
    The Koran is not specifically mentioned but the same principles apply.

    After over a century of NZ reaping her benefits of this historic education act, we see a creeping dishonesty led by so called Christians to whom evangelising and indoctrination of their beliefs is more important than the law and respect for others.

    A corruption of human rights. NZ law and family values being under attack from within a system set up to protect such rights and values.

    No child in a NZ State School should ever be faces with such effrontery.

    If the school is closed to allow ministers or others approved by the BOT to run instruction in a religion within the school premises and aimed at school children, then full notification must be given to the parents and guardians who can raise and objection to prevent their child from being included.

    This is practice was brought in under ” The Nelson System” and is completely unacceptable in our multicultural, multi ethnic country where the law is quite clear and the purpose of the law is plain.

    Every child should have an equal right to regard their schooling as being for them and identify with teachers and staff for that educative process. Being separated from others on religious ground is intolerable.

    It is illegal for a teacher to be asked to take part in these closed religious instruction half hour once week sessions.

    If a teacher volunteer does take part then their doing so has to be approved by the BOT after careful examination of the case and material for instruction.
    Any teacher who does take part isolated himself from a child who does not align with that particular belief system being instructed.

    The “excluded” children are often discriminated against by peer and placed in a cruel position through the fault of a BOT allowing such practices to take place.

    Any teaching of religion i State Schools is an educationally unsound practice fostered by bigots.

    The law and its purposes are quite clear.

  3. Hmm…

    I have a very clear idea of what constitutes coerced religious instruction/action but it IS based in my own culture of western rationalism/humanism.

    Where I get greatly confused is when religious practice gets muddled up with cultural practice and it seems to be happening a lot in our schools.

    A karakia is described as a cultural practice but I have to say all definitions of the word I have seen refer to it as prayer, chant, intoned incantation, charm or spell.

    When a karakia is delivered in the classroom the kids stand in silence (or sit in a silent posture) and at the conclusion are expected to say amene together.

    This is in fact so similar to prayers in the old British C of E based schooling that aside from the language the ambience and intent is heavily religious.

    If it quacks like a duck, smells like a duck and walks like a duck…

    To call it cultural rather than religious is fatuous. Would you be prepared for a white teacher to lead the class in the Lord’s Prayer?

    Of course not because that is religious and there is no place in our classrooms for religious mumbo-jumbo.

    The real problem, as I see it, is deciding where the line between religious practice and cultural practice lies. One is illegal the other is not.

    This could well be why the Human Rights Commission has religiously (Ho! Ho!) steered clear of this issue. Who wants to open a can of worms like this one?

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