The Sunday Age reports…
“Parents and teachers have called for an urgent overhaul of religious education in schools after year 6 children were given material claiming girls who wear revealing clothes are inviting sexual assault, and homosexuality, masturbation and sex before marriage are sinful.
Students at Torquay College were presented with “Biblezines” as a graduation present at the end of their Christian education program, run by Access Ministries – the government accredited provider of religious instruction in Victorian schools.
The magazines, Refuel 2 and Revolve 2 – which intersperse the text of the New Testament with dating advice, beauty tips and music reviews – warn girls not to go bra-less because “your nipples are much more noticeable and a distraction and temptation for men”, and not to wear tube tops and low-rise jeans because men are “sexually stimulated by what they see”.
“The Bible says not to cause anyone else to sin. Are you putting sexual thoughts about your body into guys’ heads? If you are showing a lot of skin you probably are,” it states.
The material, produced by the News Corp-owned Nelson Bibles, America’s largest Christian publishing house, also “exposes the lie of safe sex”, claiming that condoms condone promiscuity, and urges those who think they are gay never to act on it.
In response to an agony aunt-style question about, “How far can you go before you are no longer pure?”, the document reads: “Let’s put it this way: How much dog poop stirred into your cookie batter does it take to ruin the whole batter.”
Naja Voorhoeve, whose seven-year-old son was given the Biblezine by an older student who received it at the graduation ceremony, said the magazines were offensive.
“I think it’s wrong that anyone should come in and distribute proselytising material, which goes against Department of Education policy. For this to be given out to children by a person who is in a position of authority in their lives, like a religious education teacher, is a travesty.”
It comes after Fairfax Media last week revealed hundreds of Victorian principals in primary schools had stopped weekly religious education classes. In the past two years the number of schools delivering “special religious instruction” fell from 940 to 666.
Access Ministries says it did not approve the Biblezines, or their content, and they were a graduation gift from local churches, which normally donate traditional Bibles.
In a statement, chief executive Evonne Paddison said: “This year there was a huge rush for the Bibles and, for reasons we do not yet understand, it seems as though 15 copies of Refuel 2 were handed out. Students were asked to return them on the day . . . Our agreed curriculum teaches the basic beliefs of the Christian faith and does not stray into areas of sexuality at all. We are extremely disappointed that this has occurred and will continue to investigate how it happened.”
Torquay College principal Pam Kinsman said it was “really concerning” the material had been distributed and she had asked Access Ministries for an explanation and had received an apology. “We have a strong focus on diversity and respect at our school and as soon as the content of the text was brought to my attention, I immediately said that book will never be distributed again to our students,” she said.
An Education Department spokesman said the materials were “totally inappropriate and offensive and have no place in our schools” adding that the department was investigating the matter “alongside the principal”.
Joe Kelly, principal of Cranbourne South Primary School – who last week spoke about how he was so concerned about religious indoctrination he has not allowed Access Ministries into his classrooms since 2012 – said the latest revelations reaffirmed his decision.
“This kind of material is disgraceful and this is why I strongly call upon the Education Department to instigate an immediate review of the practices of special religious instruction [SRI] providers with a view to having SRI taken out of our great public schools,” he said.
“Our young people are going through the most sensitive period of their development – they don’t need to be preached to, they need factual information and a sympathetic ear on the part of caring adults, not people who are going to moralise and judge their behaviour.”