LENNOX PARENTS CALL FOR PRAYER BAN
By HEATH GILMORE and RENEE REDMOND
DAVID Orlowski is pushing for his child's public school to drop a prayer which has been used for more than two decades.
Mr Orlowski, whose 11 year old daughter attends the Lennox Head Public School, has sparked a massive debate after he complained to principal John Bryen about the prayer.
He said the prayer, which was recited at assembly every Friday morning, had no place in a secular school and he has enlisted 20 families to support his case.
The school, with more than 300 students, has suspended its usage until further notice.
However, the suspension has left Lennox Head Parish Priest Father Michael Nilon and a group of parents dumbfounded.
"It (the prayer) not only satisfies the beliefs of Christian, but Jewish and Muslim faiths as well," he said.
"It refers to God, not the Holy Trinity. Children from families of one of the three major religions of the world would appreciate it," he said.
On Thursday, the school published the results of a survey of parents asked about their support for the prayer.
It showed a majority of 52 per cent wanted to retain the prayer.
Principal John Bryen, who has been at the school for 18 months, was unable to comment on the issue.
NSW Department of Education and Training spokesman Sven Wright said the matter was for the school community to decide.
"The Education Act clearly states even if the school is secular it doesn't mean there can't be any religion," Mr Wright said.
"Under the department policy, General Religious Education is not only limited to curriculum, it includes planned activities of the school.
"The reading of a prayer at a school assembly does not violate the Act or the policy."
However, Mr Orlowski said he understood secular to mean no religion. "I don't believe this should become a vote, the prayer just shouldn't be there," he said.
"I just want my daughter to be able to go to school with no hassles and do regular schoolwork without worrying about religion," he said.
He would be happy for the prayer to be changed to a pledge or promise.
The school's survey found eight per cent wanted a modification to the prayer, and nine per cent said they wanted the prayer removed altogether.
Families who wanted the prayer either in scripture classes or removed accounted for three per cent, while 15 per cent had no strong view.
Parent Chris Smith said she would prefer to see the prayer kept.
"I don't think it would make much difference, but I'd rather it stayed because it's been part of the assembly for so long," she said.
Another parent, Dianne Shea, said she thought the prayer was not needed.
"It's irrelevant to their learning. I don't think religion needs a place in secular schools at all," she said.
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