Three years ago the Ministry of Education committed in mediation to prepare guidelines for schools in relation to religious instruction in schools. The Ministry then refused to continue work while human rights litigation was in progress. Recently there has been an about turn with recently released official information request Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins requesting that work on the guidelines should continue.
Hipkins cited the difficulty school boards had in navigating the legislation as a basis for restarting work on the guidelines. Hipkins estimated that the guidelines would be published before the end of the year, once the cabinet had signed off on them and there had been an opportunity for public consultations.
The litigation concerned was that of David Hines and Tanya Jacob, who along with many other complainants had submitted evidence of the harms being done to children as a result of religious instruction being conducted in New Zealand state primary schools. Undertaken without the support of the Human Rights Commission or any kind of Government support these private individuals have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars attempting to force the Government to review the discriminatory sections of the Education Act.
While Hipkins suggested that guidelines would be published he made no commitment that he would consider repeal of the sections of the Education Act which permit religious instruction at school without the informed consent of parents. Late last year the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists laid a complaint with the UN against the Government for failing to observe the Human Rights Act by allowing discriminatory practices to continue.