Ombudsman decision on religion in schools report due in a week or two
Update March 3: Encouraging news from the Ombuidsman
Back in October 2021 I complained to the Ombudsman's office that the Ministry of Education was refusing to release a report on ways to get rid of religious instruction in state schools and replace it with neutral education about a wider range of religions.. Late last year the Ombudsman said it would conduct an investigation.. On February 14 they said the expected to be able to update me by the end of the following week.
On February 24 they said the Ministry was still sticking with its position that the report was being withheld because it was under consideration by the Minister (in terms of section 9 (2)(f)(iv) of the Official Information Act) . The Ombndsman's office then asked the Ministry to provide "some further explanation". Sounds hopeful, and it's my guestimate is that they've allowed the Ministry a week or two to reply, as they did in their previous answer to him.
The media is interested
I've sent this update to the media as a diary note - Two major media have expressed keen interest.
Professor Morris (right), who wrote the report, also thinks it's time we saw some action, and is discussing it with the Religious Diversity Centre who raised the issue with the Prime Minister in the first place.
Why is Chris Hipkins deferring this issue?
Professor Morris sent his report to the Ministry of Education in December 2020. The Ministry prepared its report on the issues around October 2021, and Mr Hipkins wrote to me around that time saying it had been delayed by "other priorities".
I presume he was referring to his massive work on the Covid crisis, but I don't believe that's a good reason for deferring a reform of the way religion is treated in schools. The idea was originally presented to the Government as a response to the killing of 51 Muslims in Christchurch. That kind of religious prejudice has not gone away.
I've been supporting this report because I think it's the best chance of getting secular education since the court case launched by Tanya Jacob and me fell through in 2020. We don't yet know what's in the report, so I can't support it carte blanche. But I think all supporters of civil rights should support getting it discussed by the public, as originally intended by Mr Hipkins.
Since our court case was cancelled, I've spent about three thousand dollars on lobbying for secular education. The main items were setting up this website, and software for running polls. I have just completed a survey of state schools on the three kinds of biased Christian programmes they are running
However, the biggest cost on my wish list this year will be a second poll of public opinion once we have Prof Morris's report. I conducted a poll of public views on these topics in 2020, in evidence for the Education and Training Bill, but the options have changed since then. We now have three main kinds of Christian bias in schools; religious instruction has different rules, and we will shortly have some expert answers to consider.
Here's a link to my PayPal account. All donations will go into my WesleysChair account, and will get an automatic receipt if you include your email address.