Teaching Hinduism in NSW public schools is in full swing

By: Madya Lila.

We are now half way through Term 1 and all of our classes have started. We are currently working with seven schools to deliver SRE programs: Burwood Girls, Sydney Boys, Sydney Girls, North Sydney Boys, Macarthur Girls, Evans, Fort Street.

Most of these schools only have SRE programs for Year 7, but two of them (Burwood and Fort Street) combine Years 7-10 into one class. Evans has an interesting SRE program format consisting of one hour per year level per school term. They run a full day seminar once a term where each year level has one hour of SRE instruction.

The feedback we’ve received from the teachers has been positive. Students are enjoying the classes, especially the stories and the Bhagavad Gita study. Because of the young age of many of the students, we also try to include craft and quizzes whenever possible. There are some constraints such as schools not allowing the use of paints in the classroom and sometimes the teachers do not get to spend a full 30 minutes with the students because they arrive late, etc. But all in all, it has been a very positive experience so far.

All of the teachers are really enjoying being able to share a little of their knowledge and passion for Hinduism.

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Aranmore school getting its own Hindu priestly advice to justify Nose Stud fiasco

@arancc #hinduism #nosepiercing @hinducouncilau

A young Hindu year 10 student has been asked not to come to school wearing a Hindu religious symbol, a nose stud, as it is against school policy.

Parents of the girl explained to the school that the nose stud is not a fashion item but a spiritual icon. Hindu Council of Australia has also approached the school and explained that the nose stud is a religious item.

Despite being advised by the Hindu Council of Australia and by the parents, the school is now, it seems, shopping around for a Hindu priest to advise them on the nose stud and its relevance to Hindu/Indian culture.

This is strange.

Hindu Council of Australia is a federation of Hindu temples and Hindu organizations all over Australia. It has members in every state of Australia. Hindu Council of Australia is recognized by state and federal governments to advise it on Hindu issues very much like the government depends on Churches to advise it on Christian religious issues. Hindu Council also advises Australian governments  on Hindu marriage rituals etc.

For a christian school to ignore the advise of a Hindu parent and then the advice of peak Hindu body like Hindu Council of Australia and to embark on its own journey to find a priest to interpret Hinduism for the school when the school stand is well known, is like shopping around for a favorable opinion. It is not appropriate for a religion to start interpreting the doctrine, ritual or practices of another religion. It will not help religious harmony and certainly does not make multicultural Australia very proud.

How would Christians feel if a Hindu school in order to justify its interpretation of Christianity, which is at odd with the Christian Churches, shops around for a Christian priest or a scholar to justify what it wants Christianity to be. Such a thing would not be acceptable and what the school is doing should not be either. We can not accept Aranmore school to determine what is and what is not essential to Hinduism. Off course, Hindus will never try to tell Christians as to what is or is not a Christian practice. It will accept whatever Christians say as final in this matter.

The school has not been open about its policy, if there is one, on allowing religious symbols worn by its non-christian students. The school has not made its stand clear as to what will it do if its shopping exercise does not produce the results it wants. Will it accept the student back or will it still continue to throw the extensive and unpublished rule book at its non-christian students.

There is a need for a uniform policy on how faith based schools would treat students of other faiths in their school. For the sake of a cohesive strong Australia, that all of us want, we should allow students of different cultures, beliefs, backgrounds and faiths to mingle together in schools. We should not create island of faith based schools where students of one particular faiths grow insulated from beliefs that belong to “other”. All faith schools should have an open and not restrictive policy that raises the bar for people of “other” faith to study with them.

Hindu Council of Australia calls upon Catholic Archbishops and Catholic education organizations to

(1) not to interpret what is essential to other faiths and

(2) have school policies that pass the test of encouraging a mix of faiths in their schools rather than uniformity.

Off course, Hindu Council accepts that all faith based schools, including Christian schools, should be free to teach their own interpretation of their faith.

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Hindu Council writes to Archbishop of Perth about Nose Stud

Hindu Council of Australia writes to the Principal of Aranmore Catholic College and Archbishop Perth to recognize Nose Piercing and Bindi as acceptable Hindu religious symbols in Catholic schools.

Hindu Council has expressed its willingness to work with the school and others to resolve the issue resulting from ignorance i.e. lack of knowledge about Hindu icons. It is ready to work with Catholic organizations to help Catholic schools to become more friendly to non-christian students of Hindu faith studying in their schools.

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Hindu Council to take up Nose Piercing restriction with Catholic establishment

By: Surinder Jain.

Hindu Council of Australia has taken up the issue of a Hindu student being kicked out of a Catholic school for a religious nose piercing with Catholic Educational establishment. According to Hindu Council’s multi-faith director, the recent misunderstanding among Catholic schools about Hindu culture and traditions has a potential of affecting the harmony between our communities in Australia and the reputation of Catholic schools among Indians.

Hindu Council believes that it is simply an issue of Catholics being unaware of Hindu traditions and that it can be easily resolved by making Catholic school teachers aware of Hindu sensitivities.
 
Hindu Council of Australia is keen on taking up the general issue of Catholic schools permitting religious symbols of non-christian students in their schools. It is understood that all Catholic schools permit Sikh students to wear turbans and similar exemptions exist for some other religions also. Hindu Council would like to explain that nose piercing is not a fashion or rebellion statement of a teenager but is a deep rooted cultural and religious ritual for girls going through puberty.
 
In Hindu culture, a girl who achieved menarche, or her first period, is feted, and pampered at a ceremony where family and close friends gather and lavish gifts on her. The girl would be bathed in fragrant water after applying oil, turmeric etc. she would be bedecked in fine clothes, flowers and ornaments – and her feet would be washed. This is because Hinduism celebrates, and does not abhor menstruation. The Shakti philosophy upholds it as a gift which is responsible for creation of life. Nose piercing of the girl and placing a metal stud is a ritual that is invariably accompanied. As is true of any cultural or religious tradition, most Hindu parents want to and do observe these rituals very sincerely.
 
Hindu Council of Australia, has asked Catholic establishment to meet a Hindu Council delegation. Hindu Council would like to discuss the issue of Nose Piercing by young girls with the Catholic hierarchy so that the information can be disseminated by them to all catholic schools in Australia.

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Hindu student kicked out of a Catholic school for a religious nose piercing

By: Hindu Human Rights – http://www.hinduhumanrights.info.

Hindu girl in Perth Australia, has been barred from her Catholic school after she had her nose pierced for cultural and religious reasons.

At Aranmore Catholic College, Sanya Singhal, 15, was ordered to remove the tiny new stud in her left nostril or go home. The Year 10 pupil showed teachers a note from her mother and tried to explain the stud could not be removed for 12 months for religious reasons, but was told she could not attend class until she took it out.

Sanya’s mother, Kalyani, said it was a spiritually significant custom in northern India for young girls to have a nose pin inserted to mark their transition to womanhood.

 

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Hindus lobby for Religious Freedom in Australia

By : Surinder Jain.

Hindus represented by Hindu Council of Australia along with representatives of Anglican, Catholic, Islamic and Buddhist faiths are meeting various federal MPs and impressing upon them to protect religious freedom and not to pass a law that can suppress religious freedom as an unintended consequence of anti-discrimination.

The main points being emphasized to law makers are :

  1. There should no ambiguity in law that can lead to unnecessary litigation.
  2. Religious Freedom is in the charter of United Nations to which Australia is a signatory.
  3. Faith based schools should continue to be able to segregate schools and activities (e.g. sports) based on gender.
  4. No religious institute should be restricted from teaching or propagating the teachings of their faith.
  5. No religious institute should be coerced into doing or making its resources available to teach or support any idea that is not in conformity with its faith.
  6. Courts can not interpret faith related matters and that interpretation of scriptures, philosophies and practices should be left to the faith community.
  7. Religious institutes that have been built with the donation of faith members with certain understanding should not be forced to break that understanding in order to confirm with new laws being considered.
  8. Hindus do not have religious schools in Australia yet but other religions who have religious schools have reported that there have been no significant discrimination events in their schools and that the laws should not be made to fix a problem that does not exist.

Since marriage equality vote in Australia giving equal rights to gay marriages, Australian society and politics has been churning with its implications for religious freedom. Can schools be forced to not only accept and respect gay teachers/students and staff (which is already happening and is not an issue) but also to permit propagation of marriage or other views that are contrary to their religious teachings.

Religious freedom collides with anti-discrimination laws in Australia

Both major parties have come out with their views and are aiming for a legislation that in the garb of Anti-Discrimination does not have intended or un-intended effects on religious freedom of Religious schools. A particular focus of the legislation to be discussed in parliament next month is to do with restrictions on faith based schools.

The Prime Minister and his Liberal Party has come out openly in favor of Religious Freedom. 

PM ScoMo fights for religious freedom despite the opposition

Australian Prime Minister – protection of our religious freedoms is synonymous with our identity

The opposition Labor Party is also making its stand clear. According to a Labor Federal MP, Labor has already pledged to end discrimination against students and teachers in religious schools on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The labor party wants to repeal parts of the Sex Discrimination Act giving exemptions to religious schools to discriminate against children. The party also feels that all Australians should have the right to express their faith freely and without fear of discrimination, for all faiths.

 

 

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PM ScoMo fights for religious freedom despite the opposition

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter have released the Ruddock Religious Freedom Review and the government’s response. Although the Ruddock panel said that Australia does not need a religious freedom commissioner, the Prime Minister  has announced his intention to do so. The response also addresses issues like, when can a parent take their children out of studies that conflict with their religious beliefs, treatment of LGBTIQ students in religious schools, framing of a religious discrimination law etc.

The most controversial aspect of the Ruddock review is whether religious schools can discriminate against students, teachers and staff based on their sexual orientation. Most religious groups including Hindu Council, Jewish religious organizations, Islamic organizations and most Christian denominations oppose such restrictions on religious schools.

While the Prime Minister has openly come in support of religious groups, some in the opposition are not so sure and see it as an LGBTIQ rights issue.

We believe that the Prime Minster has struck the right balance between religious freedom and anti-discrimination and that religious schools should not be forced to preach any thing that goes against their teachings. They should not be forced to provide their school and other resources for propagating ideas that are not compatible with their teachings.

You can read about Ruddock review here.

You can read about Hindu Council response to the review here.

You can read more details about the review and comments here.

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Religious freedom collides with anti-discrimination laws in Australia

By: Surinder Jain.

Religious freedom is fundamental to Australian identity said the Australian Prime minister Scott Morrison. And Australians voted in favor of anti-discrimination laws to protect the rights of LGBT only recently. One would think that both are laudable achievements for Australia, but the future of religious freedom does not look so rosy.

A clash between Religious Freedom and Human Rights is brewing up.

Religious freedom right to propagate one’s belief permits Christians, Jews, Muslims and all other religions to run their own schools. Does this freedom means that these schools can admit gay students and have gay teachers imparting religious teachings to children when many believe admitting gay in their schools is against their faith.

This debate is heating up in Australia.

Religious freedom rights for an individual come in various parts. Right to belief is a right to believe in a certain religion and some/all the tenants that come with it. Right to practice a religion is a right to practice your religious rituals and actions coming from the belief. It also includes a right to propagate your beliefs either to your own constituency or to other non-believers.

Human rights on the other hand are also a set of rights for an individual and includes Right to Live, a Right to Freedom, a Right to Express and a number of other rights like anti-discrimination and so on.

Australia and most secular and theocratic countries permit Right to Belief. Australia also permits Right to Practice and a Right to Propagate religion without any state interference. Some theocratic countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia place restrictions on Right to Practice in public and thus not allowing any temple or church unless it has been sanctioned by the government. Many countries in the middle east ban propagation of any religion other than the state sanctioned one.

Communist countries like China place restrictions on all religions. They frown upon all religious beliefs and control them by total control over appointment of clergy and allow only state permitted rituals to be practiced. Communist ideology and whims of the party are given far higher priority than either religious freedom or human rights.

A clash between the rights of one individual to protect their faith and institutions and the right of other individuals to a fair go requires a balancing act. While the Liberal party PM has vowed to protect religious freedom as integral to Australian identity, the opposition Labor party is considering an “appropriate” balance between the two.

When Right to Life clashes with Right to Practice, the human Right to live wins hands down. Thus I can not take away life or liberty of an individual even if I believe that my religious belief requires me to do so. My Right to Propagate my religion by imposing it on others will be OK in ISIS ruled countries but will be rejected in most other countries including Australia.

In a progressive country like Australia, Right to Propagate once religion has been well balanced with the Right to Practice one’s religion. Thus each religion is prohibited from imposing its belief on another religion. If I believe in a religion that does not have a personal God then I can not ask another religion to permit me to enforce my belief as part of their propagation. Thus if a religion does not believe in God, then s/he has no right to join a christian church/school and expect to teach his/her belief to the christian congregation or to students in a christian school. Religious practitioners can not invoke courts of law to enforce their Right to Propagate through the propagation machinery (churches, schools, congregations, Sunday mass, sermons, communications etc.) of other religions except in their own.

This is tampered both ways. No religion can frown upon the beliefs and practices of others as long as they are valid in law. No religion should propagate a belief that belittles the belief of another religion.

We can find the appropriate balance between right to propagation and anti-discrimination using the above well accepted principal. Thus all religions will respect the rights of LGBT and will not frown upon their practices in their religious propagation. At the same time, LGBT do not have an automatic right to use another religions propagation machinery to propagate their beliefs. Thus LGBT should not expect that they will be able to teach their belief in a religious school as much as a Hindu does not expect to have an automatic right give a Hindu sermon in a Christian church.

Number of Religious schools and number of students studying in religious schools is such a minority that it does not restrict the right of LGBT children to study or LGBT teachers to employment. These children have a very wide choice as to which school they go to study.  Teachers of LGBT persuasion are not constrained in applying for jobs to most schools and have a meaningful employment. And off course, there is nothing stopping people passionate about their gender beliefs to start their own special LGBT friendly schools.

Each new religion in Australia has to do the hard effort to establish their own schools, churches, temples and congregations. A newly arrived religion like Hinduism does not expect Christians or Jews to be forced to give up their resources like church or school for the propagation of Hinduism. Similarly, LGBT have to do their own hard yakka in establishing their own schools etc and not expect to get an easy ride on the resources of other religions in the name of anti-discrimination. And the Religions should not frown upon LGBT efforts to establish their own special LGBT friendly schools either.

By : Surinder Jain

 

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Survey of school going children’s parents on SRE

Hindu Council of Australia is conducting an SRE survey of parents who have school going children and live in NSW. Please fill out the form below if you have a school going child in NSW.

Name of the school where your children are studying?


Suburb of the school where your children are studying?


Year in which your children are studying?

Does the school offer Hinduism SRE classes?

YesNoNot Sure

Does your child attend the SRE class?

YesNoNot Sure

If your child does not attend SRE, why?

I dont want my child to attend any SREI want my child to attend but school said NoI dont know that SRE is being taughtThe school never told me about SREMy child does not like SRE classesAlternative to SRE is more attractiveOther

Would you like to be informed when Hinduism SRE is offered at your school?

YesNo

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Australia’s first Hare Krishna schoolies: No sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling or meat

 
Australia’s first all-Hare Krishna Year 12 class is shunning traditional Schoolies Week celebrations in favour of a trip to India, while vowing to forgo sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling and meat.

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