It seems that Access Ministries is now firmly in the limelight, having been in lead stories on the TV news and several high profile reports in the Age, of which this is one. The Age article also features a radio interview with Bishop Stephen Hales of Access Ministries, which is quite revealing.
To quickly recap, this latest chapter is the result of a comment in a speech by the CEO of Access Ministries, Evonne Paddison, that:
“What really matters is seizing the God-given opportunity we have to reach kids in schools. Without Jesus, our students are lost”
“we need to go and make disciples”
On face value, these comments mean proselytising (i.e. seeking to convert), which is expressly prohibited by federal and state guidelines.
However, both Hales and Paddison strongly deny that the comments in the speech mean that they are proselytising in the classroom. Listen to the radio interview in the Age article, and hear Hales with some ‘weasel words’, essentially saying “don’t pay attention to what we say, check whether anyone is complaining“. This is a very cynical approach to take by Hales, is it not? In the radio interview, he translated this as:
“We have unique opportunity to … inform about christian values’
This is clearly spin, and back-peddling (which, I must say, although a mixed metaphor, seems to work ok). Amongst some of his more revealing statements, Hales offered the following:
“There is no evidence we are breaching the guidelines”
Yes, and that is the position of every wrong-doer when first apprehended. Wouldn’t a less ‘slippery’ response been simply that ‘we are not breaching the guidelines’?
“would have thought there would be a littany of complaints”
Hello! Do you not read the papers Mr Hales? Do you not see the outrage at governments handing out millions of dollars to your private company to peddle myths?
One of Access Ministries teachers, one Suzanne Hart, said:
“We are not there to preach to them, we are just there to teach them and give them facts”
To which I say, er, what facts? The fact of the bible? and of the existence of heaven and hell? And the fact that you will burn in hell if you don’t believe in god? Those facts? Oh, now I feel better, thanks Suzanne.
Suzanne also teaches about the importance of helping eachother. Excellent. But again I ask, why does religion have a monopoly on teaching such a simple concept? Could not any primary school teacher come up with cute little stories of people helping eachother? In fact, there are probably thousands of early childhood books out there which do just that. (And before you challenge me to name ten, Andrew Bolt, I can’t. But I’m willing to wager that they’re out there).
The most sensible comment in this report is by Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who said:
“Schools should be getting qualified counsellors to properly assess the various needs of students. What are chaplains qualified in?”
Seriously, it’s time for Access Ministries to do the christian thing, and come clean. I have no hesitation in accusing them of peddling lies about their motives. They have been caught out denying the undeniable. But then, they would have to give up all those lovely government millions.
That’s what Jesus would have done.