Anglican leader calls for an end to Bible study in schools

New Zealand - An Anglican leader is urging state schools to ditch the Bible in Schools programme as he believes it is trying to create a loophole around the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

St Matthew in the City Reverend Clay Nelson has joined the atheist run-Secular Education Network in a bid to get the religious education programme out of the country's primary and secondary schools.

Nelson said the programme is an imposition on the human rights of children as it restricts the freedom of other religions which is protected under the Bill of Rights.

"The biggest reason is the issue of human rights," Nelson told TV ONE's Breakfast.

"We believe in freedom of religion and to have Bibles in public schools is in an imposition on the religious freedom of others. To have religious freedom you have to have freedom from the religion of others."

Parents have the option of taking their children out of religions education classes but Nelson said this can leave children subjected to intimidation.

He said he had spoken to parents whose children, some as young as six-years-old, had been coerced or intimidated by teachers and students.

"Somehow I don't think these are the values we want to teach in a value-orientated class," he said.

Nelson said calls to teach a range of religions in schools was ideal in theory but could quickly become a "political hot potato".

He said he had tried to set up a similar programme to give children a taste of the world's religions in the United States but it was difficult for religious leaders to agree on the curriculum.

The Bibles in Schools programme has been supplied by the Churches Education Commission since 1973.

It says it is appropriate to give particular emphasis to the Christian faith in New Zealand because of its "pervasive influence through our cultural heritage and history, and continuing power and relevance".