RELIGIOUS education in state schools should be broadened to incorporate multiple faiths and beliefs, according to Ballarat’s religious leaders.This follows a recent statewide debate surrounding the appropriateness of Christian religious education being conducted in government schools.Ballarat Catholic Bishop Peter Connors said it was important that students obtained an understanding and appreciation of all the major religions.“I can appreciate if people aren’t happy if the opportunity (to conduct RE) is taken to proselytise,” Bishop Connors said.“There are a significant number of people who do practise religion so therefore young people should be given an idea of what their beliefs are.“The majority of people in our particular situation are Christians, nominally at least, but there are a significant number of Jewish followers and Muslims and Buddhists. It is good that young people have some knowledge about these faiths.”In Victoria, primary school students must attend religious education classes unless their parents choose for them to opt out.The issue is of concern among parents in the community who claim religious instruction is discriminatory and has no place in public schools.Ballarat Interfaith Network secretary Judy Robinson said there was no harm in religious education, so long as it was “fairly general”.She said interfaith dialogue with students in primary and secondary schools should be integrated into the school system.“I don’t see any harm in offering religious education, but I don’t see any harm in broadening it,” Ms Robinson said. “I’m open to having children exposed to and being tolerant of everybody.”Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Mary Bluett said although she was not opposed to the idea of religious instruction, it should be inclusive of all beliefs, faiths and understandings.“Our base position is not that religious education shouldn’t be taught at all,” Ms Bluett said. “We strongly support a study of comparative religion, particularly in a cultural context and a lot of schools do that as well as having religious instruction.
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