Scripture messages 'hot for kids'

CHILDREN on the Northern Rivers are being filled with fear of fire and brimstone by scripture teachers in public schools.

That's the message from Ballina resident and Macquarie University PhD student Cathy Byrne.

Ms Byrne interviewed 130 teachers, principals, scripture teachers and children aged six to seven across 13 public schools in NSW, including four on the Northern Rivers, as part of her PhD research into public school education.

Although she found many scripture teachers taught values like kindness and compassion, some used fear to instil faith in God.

Ms Byrne said the NSW Education Department was not taking responsibility for what was taught in schools.

“One boy from a North Coast school said he was told if he didn't believe in God he would have to go to the principal's office and something bad would happen. Another said they were told their family would burn in Hell if they didn't read The Bible every day,” she said.

Ms Byrne is also concerned children are being 'indoctrinated' into creationism - the world created by God rather than through evolution.

But the Education Department said parents needed to be proactive if they had any worries.

“We encourage parents with concerns about the religious education their children are receiving to check with their schools, and if they want to opt out of the non-compulsory classes they can do so,” the spokesperson said.

Evans Head Presbyterian Church minister and Evans River K-12 scripture teacher, Paul McKendrick, said he had never heard of kids being told they 'will burn in Hell'.

“My understanding of how scripture is taught in our area is agreed to by ministers across each denomination,” he said.

“We give children a chance to explore Christianity. It's up to them to make up their own minds.”

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