Oz Buddhist leader complains of Christian biasness in Victorian schools

ANI, Apr 10, 2011

Canberra, Australia -- Buddhist community leader Dr Sue Smith has complained of "Christian bias" in religious education in Victoria, Australia, saying that her group could have expanded to hundreds of schools if it had access to government funding.

The issue led to huge debate after a media report revealed that the Education Department was forcing schools to host Christian religious education with or without their consent, The Age reports.

It took a new turn last week when state Education Minister Martin Dixon granted 200,000 dollars in extra funding to Christian religious education provider 'Access Ministries' to improve its training.

The paper quoted Dr Smith as saying that despite offering Buddhist education in 14 Victorian schools, they were not getting the advantages that are usually being enjoyed by the Christians.

"There is definitely a funding bias ... Ours is funded by volunteers and donations," she said, adding that is they had the resources, "I am confident that we could be in hundreds of schools".

However, Dixon said that he had no intention of reviewing the system despite being condemned for it.

The move sparked anger yesterday from groups representing other religions, who said Dixon had not consulted them.

"We were requesting a meeting with the minister and have not even received a reply," Anna Halaffof of the Religion, Ethics and Education Network Australia, which promotes religious tolerance and respect, said.

Scott Hedges, a parent involved with the "Fairness in Religions in School" grassroots campaign, said that the Christianity taught in his daughter's Hawthorn school was missionary in nature, adding: "The only difference between my daughter's class and an African village to these people is that we have cleaner water and shoes."