Many children attending state-run schools in South Africa ‘need religion’ to help them cope with life’s difficulties.
That’s the view of The Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools (Fedsas) which has attacked Hans Pietersen, above, a Stellenbosch man who has launched a lawsuit against six schools which he claims forced Christianity on pupils.
According to this report, Pietersen has taken legal action through an organisation he founded: OGOD, the Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie which promotes proper religious teaching and democracy.
Although he has stated that he is not anti-religious, Fedsas insists that he is an atheist who mocks Religion, and wants the majority to be denied the right to be exposed to religion in schools. Fedsas said many pupils at state schools come from broken homes and that:
Religious coping is the only effective form of coping available to them.
Pietersen’s case, due to be heard before a full bench of the South Gauteng High Court between May 15 and 17, has its roots in an incident that took place nine years ago. A school his triplets attended staged a ”Jesus Week” of activity and he vowed afterwards to campaign against state-funded schools that promote Christianity.
He said that although teachers have a right to believe in the Christian theory of creation, they cannot let this undermine teaching science-based theory on evolution at school.
He believes some schools are suppressing scientific and cultural knowledge and engaging in religious coercion as well as abusing pupils’ Constitutional rights to freedom of belief, privacy, and equality in public schools.
Some of the school practices that he feels are inappropriate include:
• Telling a pupil they will go to hell if they do not believe in God
• Keeping a record of a pupil’s religion
• Promoting one religion over another
• Including religious references in the school song or motto.
Pietersen said he fully expects the case to eventually be heard on appeal in the Constitutional Court, but feels that the issue at stake is important enough for the long haul because some schools have deviated from the original plan regarding religion set out by the late Kader Asmal, a former Minister of Education.
Pietersen regards the promotion of Christianity at school as a ”hangover” from the Christian national education of the apartheid government. He said:
We don’t want people to stop talking about religion. We should never keep knowledge away from children, and that includes knowledge about all religions.
Pupils need to experience and observe their classmates’ religions because one day they will work with people from different religions, but they cannot do this if only one religion is promoted or taught.
The journey to the court has not been easy for Pietersen.
I have been called the anti-Christ, Satan. People wanted to boycott my business. If you stand up for equal rights, people will try to hound you.
Hat tip: Ate Berga