Back to page

Teach, not preach. Remove religious instruction from our state schools.

on 9 Jul 2019

Jordan asks

Hi there,

I want clarifications on a few issues that I see with wanting to change the law to ensure that there are "no religious songs and prayers in assemblies."

First, and most obviously, in terms of religious songs, what does this mean for New Zealand's national anthem/s - "God Defend New Zealand" or "God Save the Queen"? For many these anthems are New Zealand icons and patriotic songs, for some it will be seen as a religious one. And, if these songs are not intended to be included, is that not somewhat arbitrary?

Secondly, in regards to prayers, does this include karakia? As often when is karakia is translated, it is translated as prayer. Given that karakia preexists colonisation it is fairly anachronistic to identify it as prayer. However, Christian prayers spoken in Te Reo are not uncommon given that Christianity was widely and (for the most part) freely adopted by Maori through the early efforts of missionaries. My point being that as tangata whenua it could be seen as a further act of colonisation against Maori if karakia were banned? But even if it was given an exemption this would be rather arbitrary as karakia can still be Christian in content. How rigorously do you propose that this is policed?

And, on the topic of public prayer, our own Parliament opens with a parliamentary prayer which has been made generic. Are you opposed to 'universal'/inter-religious prayers altogether?

Thanks in advance for answering these questions.

Tanya Jacob

Hi Jordan J

Among other laws, we are hoping the court will rule that the law which permits religious songs and prayers (section 79 of the Education Act 1964) is contrary to the Bill of Rights Act. That would include the National Anthem and God Save the Queen.

It is debatable whether the ruling will get into fine detail like Christian karakia. I will be presenting evidence about how much of this goes on, and it seems to qualify as prayer to me, but that question could get left open.

We could get into more of that kind of detail in submissions to the government if we win. The fine detail could be done by parliament rather than the court.

I'm opposed to the prayers in Parliament as well, but that is not part of this court case.

The original parliamentary votes in 1877 specifically ruled out prayers, Bible readings, partisan religious teaching, and even let parents opt their kids out of history lessons which had a Christian bias in those days.

Tanya Jacob
on 7 Apr 2017

Kate asks

Your article on Spinoff dated 4/4/17 makes it sound like you plan to raise a lawsuit against the HRC or the schools. Have you actually done that? Have you used any of these funds yet and if so, for what?

I'm in total support of your cause, but would like more information about your progress. Thanks! KW

Tanya Jacob

We lodged a claim to the Human Rights Review Tribunal on October 13 2017, asking them to rule that parts of the Education Acts 1964 and 1989 are inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.

We hope to file our evidence early next week.

We've only spent about $1000 so far. That was for court fees and lawyer fees connected with joining Jeff McClintock's case, which has now finished.. We will pay more solicitors fees next week.

Our big costs will be when our case gets to the Tribunal, and we will have to pay our counsel's fees. That coiuld be later this year, or several years away.

If we win our Tribunal case, it will be referred to Parliament to see if they will change these laws. There could be an appeal to the High Court before Parliament gets to deal with it.

We could face some lobbying costs, getting support for it in parliament.

Our timetable with the Tribunal could be set in a month or two. Till then, we are biting our nails.

We will be getting substantial donations from a supportive organisation.

Thanks for asking. I've been so busy chasing evidence and getting legal info that I've neglected to keep this page up to date.

David Hines 7 April 2017

Tanya Jacob

Login to ask a question