Children attending public school in Melbourne are being told that they will go to hell if they do not believe in God. One parent's daughter was upset because she was told that her atheist mother would not go to heaven.
Parents say that the Education Department is discriminating against them because of the way that Christianity is being taught in the schools.
Evonne Paddison, CEO of Access Ministries, told ABC News that these types of things are not what they prescribe the teachers to teach and that the class is supposed to teach the basic morals and tenets of Christianity.
If parents want to withdraw their children from weekly religious instruction classes, they must write to their children's schools. The children are then put in the back of the classroom or in a computer terminal or corridor during the religious instruction time and are given nothing meaningful to do. The children are basically set apart like they have misbehaved. Parents say that it is discrimination on the grounds of religious belief and that it violates the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, which calls for freedom of religion.
Parents are suing, saying that if parents want their children to have religious education, then they should be going to religious schools and not secular schools.
Access Ministries provides 96% of the religious instruction classes in public schools in Victoria. The class is taught at 70% of state schools. Parents are required to opt their children out, rather than parents required to opt their children in to the religious classes.
Some school principals object to the religious education classes, with one saying that only 10% of parents in his school wanted the classes. Access Ministries had threatened to make an example of him and his school and said it would go over he principal's head to make sure their religious program was in the school.
The families involved in the lawsuit hope that the issue will be resolved by next school year. They say that the religious studies are creating an "us vs. them" environment at the school where children who opt-out of the religious class are treated as naughty children. Parents who do not want their children indoctrinated believe that it would be more appropriate to have the Christian study class offered on an opt-in, not opt-out basis. The Education Department has refused to negotiate, so the issue has now gone to the courts.